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To understand what Waldorf teachers believe, we have to understand the big picture as Rudolf Steiner presented it. So I’d like to begin a series of postings that will, sketchily, explain where we come from, according to Steiner. I’ll begin all the way back at the beginning (as in “In the beginning...”) and then, in future postings — interspersed with others that deal with other topics — I’ll proceed through our main stages of evolution.
If you doubt that Steiner’s theology finds it way into Waldorf classrooms — it does, in many ways. See "Sneaking It In".
So. To begin with. How was the universe created: Did God create it? Somewhat surprisingly, Steiner was vague on this point.
Anthroposophists often criticize the scientific theory of the Big Bang because, as they correctly point out, science cannot (yet) explain why the Big Bang occurred. Thus, science cannot give an ultimate explanation of our ultimate beginnings. Interestingly, however, Steiner’s theory (sorry, undeniable clairvoyant truth) suffers from the same shortcoming. (It also suffers from the drawback that there is absolutely no evidence for Steiner’s view, whereas there are reams of evidence supporting the Big Bang theory — we don’t know why the Bang happened, but we’re pretty dang sure that it did happen. Likewise, we can be pretty dang sure that Steiner's theory is bunk.)
19) [Godhead; Angels; Solar Systems] Let’s start by trying to pin Steiner down on the existence of God. Steiner said that the Christian God, the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holly Ghost) exists, in a way. But he also said that many other gods also exist — the Christian God is real, in a way, but He exists along with a plethora of other gods who are nearer to us and more busy in our affairs. The highest gods under the Trinity have experienced the presence of the Trinity, but perhaps only they have done so. "The Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones come from an earlier solar system. They have been in the vicinity of the highest godhead of all, namely the Trinity." — Synopsis of chapter 5, Rudolf Steiner's THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1928), GA 110.
The capital-T Trinity may be located in the “Crystal Heaven,” which is outside our immediate macrocosm. The Godhead in the “Crystal Heaven” infuses our macrocosm, in the form of creative forces — what Steiner sometimes called the Spirit of God (“Gottesgeist”) — but in others senses the Godhead is far away. The essential exception is the descent of Christ to the Earth — in that Event, a portion of the Godhead became very real for humanity, Steiner taught.
The nature of the Godhead, as conceived in Anthroposophical doctrine, is rather unorthodox. It is somewhat like the Triune God of Christianity, and it is somewhat like other conceptions. (19a) "Beyond the Seraphim we have to see that highest Divinity of which we find mention by almost all nations as the threefold Divinity — as Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, as Father, Word [sic], and Holy Ghost." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 5, GA 110.
This suggests that the Christian vision and the Hindu vision are essentially alike, a proposition that most priests in both religions would be likely to challenge. If the Godhead is described in nebulous terms, as the ground of being, the source of divinity, perhaps tentative agreement can be reached. But if we say, for instance, that God the Father is the same as Brahma, most Christians would likely object. And there is a central issue: Is the Godhead a single God in three persons, or is it a sort of committee of three separate gods (e.g., Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu)? Steiner more or less split the difference. If the members of the Holy Trinity are, in a sense, three aspects of a single God, they nonetheless manifest themselves as three separate gods ruling over three separate portions of the cosmos: (19b) “The highest Ruler of Saturn...appears to us as the Father God, and the highest Ruler of Sun, the Sun-God, as the Christ. Similarly the Ruler of the Moon stage of [evolution] appears to us as the Holy Spirit....” — Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 100.
Anthroposophy is a polytheistic faith. Monotheism, according to Steiner, is wrong. We may be evolving toward a condition in which there will be one God, but we aren't there yet: (19c) “Monotheism or monism can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world, to a comprehensive, complete view of the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 115. [See, e.g., "Polytheism".]
Central in all this is the Anthroposophical belief in evolution. When Steiner said "The Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones come from an earlier solar system" (see Quote 19, above), he meant that they began their evolution before our own solar system came into existence. Steiner taught that we humans first came into being during a period he called Old Saturn. This was the first stage of existence for our entire solar system, which in a spiritual sense revolves around us. [See, e.g., "Center".] We have evolved from the Old Saturn period to our current period, called Present Earth. We will continue evolving to a period called Future Vulcan and beyond. [See, e.g., "Matters of Form", "Future Stages", and "Planets".] Steiner taught that the gods, too, are evolving, but they began their evolution earlier than we began ours — this is why they are higher than us. So, they began evolving before our solar system came into being. Thus, they began their evolution — and in some cases completed it, as it were — in earlier solar systems:
20) [Origins; Questioning] Our solar system undeniably exists, and Steiner said that it emerged thanks to the actions of the gods, who began evolving in previous solar systems. But where and when and how it all began is more than Steiner can explain: He focused on events in our own celestial neighborhood, and he discouraged investigation into ultimate origins. “In a purely intellectual way it is possible, of course, in the case of every given origin, to ask again after its origin ... [But in doing this] we only prolong questioning, as it were, mechanically.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), pp. 126-127.
Steiner’s point is that if we say that our reality was created by a previous reality (i.e., our solar system exists because of the actions of beings from earlier solar systems), this merely pushes back the ultimate origin. We still want to know how each previous reality came about. And if the answer is that each previous reality was created by a still earlier reality, then we will want to know how that earlier reality came about. And so on. You get the idea. Unless we can identify an actual beginning of everything, we will simply be caught in an infinite regress of explanations that don’t really explain anything. The Bible has an explanation: God is eternal, He always existed, and at a particular point he created the universe. Steiner doesn’t offer any such clear-cut explanation.
21) [Unknown Cause; Logos] “If we have a clock, a mechanical instrument, we can know in advance how it will behave ... [I]n a sense this also applies, as, for instance, in the case of an eclipse of the Sun which can be calculated ... [But the] higher we ascend in the kingdoms of Nature, the less we are able to say what a being will do in a certain situation ... We must accept the creation of the World as a free act of the Logos [the divine or occult Word]. We must not question the Why and Wherefore. All those who have true insight have never spoken of a Cause of the Creation of the Universe.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS AT THE PERIPHERY, compiled by R.S.W. Bobbette, entry for Nov. 10, 1904.
Steiner called himself a scientist, but this statement his utterly unscientific. If a scientist hasn't found an answer, s/he keeps looking. Importantly, Steiner's statement also departs from Biblical teachings. The Bible doesn't explain God's reasons, but it give a clear, certain account: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). For the Father, Steiner substitutes "Logos" — the living Word of God — and he reframes the act of divine command as an inexplicable act of "freedom." Steiner raises doubts and leaves them unexamined. He is untrue to both science and the Bible.
22) [Jehovah; Elohim] According to Steiner, the Biblical God, Jehovah, did not create the universe. Jehovah (or Jahve) is not the One True God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. He is just one of a band of gods called the Elohim. (To grasp the following, you also need to know that the Moon was once unified with the Sun, according to Steiner.) “[The] further evolution of man has only been possible because one of the Elohim, Jahve, accompanied the separation of the Moon — while the other six spirits remained in the Sun — and because Jahve cooperated with His six colleagues....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 99. Jahve is not the Lord God Almighty — he’s just one of the many gods.
23) [Crystal Heaven; Zodiac] As we have seen, according to Steiner our own evolution comes as a result of prior evolutions, involving other beings, elsewhere. The point deserves elaboration. “That which happened in the beginnings of our evolution, before the Saturn development [i.e., before Old Saturn], we must place outside, beyond the Zodiac. Primeval wisdom called it the Crystal Heaven, and in that crystal heaven were deposed [sic: deposited?] all the deeds of the Beings of a former evolution. They formed, so to speak, the foundation on which the new Beings began to create.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1929), lecture 10, GA 110.
So, beyond our solar system and even the Zodiac there are, or were, others. The beings in those places enabled the "new Beings" to get busy in our neck of the universe, prodding us to evolve. Where did the "Beings of a former evolution" come from? Don't ask. Infinite regress. But note that the gods from other solar systems live "beyond the Zodiac." In Anthroposophical belief, the gods that most often involve themselves with us live in or under the zodiac. Astrology is central to the Anthroposophical belief system. [See, e.g., "Astrology", "Star Power", and "Waldorf Astrology".]
24) [Bible; Creation] Steiner delivered a number of lectures explaining the “real” meaning of the Book of Genesis (it’s not what you were told in synagogue, church, or mosque). One essential difference between Steiner’s version and the Bible’s version: Steiner said that the Creation in Genesis does not refer to the beginning of everything, but merely to the beginning of the Earth. He taught that humans evolved through periods he associated with Saturn, the Sun, and the Moon before beginning life on the Earth — and, crucially, the Earth came into existence only when we were ready for it. Thus, Steiner claimed that the story of Creation told in Genesis merely picks up on a story that began much further back in time and space. All that happens in Genesis is a continuation of previous universal evolution, reworking it in a new form. “In fact all that is narrated in the Bible of the six or seven ‘days’ of creation is a reawakening of previous conditions, not in the same but in a new form.” — Rudolf Steiner, GENESIS: SECRETS OF THE BIBLE STORY OF CREATION (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1959), lecture 3, GA 122. This is just another way of saying that our reality developed out of previous realities in which other beings (the gods) evolved.
In a future episode of Steiner Static, I will pick up the story of creation by describing the first stage of our evolution: which happened during Old Saturn.
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