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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 other postings 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 — think again. It does, in many ways. [See, e.g., "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, his 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.
Steiner indicated that the capital-T Trinity may be located in the “Crystal Heaven,” which is outside our immediate macrocosm. The Trinity or, perhaps, the Godhead, infuses our macrocosm: It sends creative forces down to us. But in others senses, the Trinity or Godhead is far, far away.
A complication: Note quotation #19 speaks of "the highest godhead." If we take this literally (which perhaps we should not), it confuses things. If there are multiple godheads, some higher than others, then perhaps there is no one and only capital-G Godhead; there may be only a bunch of small-g godheads, perhaps quite a few of them. In any event, Steiner said that there is no one and only God; there are multiple gods, quite a lot of them.
Let's approach these deep mysteries in measured steps. The nature of the highest divinity, as conceived in Anthroposophical doctrine, is rather unorthodox. It is somewhat like the Triune God of Christianity, and it is somewhat like other conceptions:
This suggests that the Christian vision and the Hindu vision are essentially alike, a proposition that many priests in both religions would be likely to challenge. If we say, for instance, that God the Father is the same as Brahma, a majority of Christian leaders would likely object. And if we equate Vishnu, for instance, with the Holy Ghost, a majority of Hindu leaders would likely balk. But beyond that, there is a central issue: Is there a single highest divinity, perhaps a God (in three persons)? Or is the highest divinity perhaps a sort of committee, a collective consisting of three separate gods (e.g., Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu)? Steiner indicated that the Trinity actually consists of three separate gods:
The gods "appear" to us as aspects of a single God, but appearances can deceive.
We need to bore in on the meaning of "the highest divinity." There is a difference between the idea of the Godhead and the idea of God. The former, "Godhead," is a hazy conception, built on the idea that the divine is a mystery beyond mysteries; if there is a God, He/She is infinitely beyond our comprehension; we can know nothing about Him/Her (including whether S/he exists). The Godhead is conceived in the most nebulous terms; it is the fountainhead of divinity, the ultimate Source; it is the essence of God, but it is it is not, in any clear sense, God; it is an eternal mystery. The latter idea, "God," is a more specific and clear conception. Most people who pray to God think they have at least some notion of whom they are praying to. Anthroposophy leans in the former direction, toward mystery and uncertainty. If there is a God, S/he is extremely far away and extremely unknowable. So unknowable, indeed, that we can't really be sure S/he exists. And, in a sense, S/he doesn't exist, Steiner indicated. Anthroposophy is a polytheistic faith. Monotheism (belief that there is just one God) is wrong, according to Steiner. We may be evolving toward a condition in which there will be just one God, but we aren't there yet:
Central in all this is the Anthroposophical belief in evolution. When Steiner indicated that the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones come from earlier solar systems, he meant that they (and, indeed, all the other gods) began their evolution before our own solar system was created. Steiner taught that we humans first came into existence during a period he called Old Saturn. Despite being named for a single planet, Old Saturn was the first stage of existence for our entire solar system. And our entire solar system — as it was at the beginning and as it has been ever since— exists for our sake, Steiner said. We are the center of this creation, the focus of the gods' attention. [See, e.g., "The 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 then we will evolve beyond that. [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.
20) [Origins; Questioning] Our solar system undeniably exists, but where and when and how everything (the whole cosmos, the entire universe) began, was more than Steiner could explain: He focused on events in our own celestial neighborhood, and he discouraged investigation into ultimate origins.
Steiner’s point is that if we say our reality results from 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.
And here's a key point: If we can't know the ultimate origin of things, this means we can't know the Godhead (the ultimate origin of things). The ultimate origin, the Godhead, is an eternal, unsolvable Mystery.
Not to belabor the point, but the ultimate Cause is beyond us, and we should not try to figure it out:
21) [Unknown Cause; Logos]
Steiner called himself a scientist, but this statement his utterly unscientific. If a scientist hasn't found an answer, s/he keeps looking. (Scientisits are still looking for the cause of the Big Bang; Steiner tells his followers to stop looking for the "Cause of the Creation of the Universe.”) Importantly, in addition to being unscientific, 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.)
Jahve is not the Lord God Almighty — he’s just one of the many gods. He's the one who went with the Moon while his colleagues remained with the Sun. (What do you make of this account?)
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.
So, beyond our solar system and beyond even the zodiac there are, or were, other "Beings." The Beings (ancient gods) in those places enabled the "new Beings" (younger gods) 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. They send their influences down to earth from the stars. 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 story 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: Old Saturn, Old Sun, and Old Moon. Only after passing through those three periods did humans began life on the present-day 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.
This is just another way of saying that our reality developed out of previous realities in which other beings (the gods) evolved.
In Anthroposophy, the existence of God or the Godhead is essentially an article of faith. The practice of Anthroposophy entails, among many other religious observances, prayers addressed to God or God's Spirit (Gottesgeist) — in essence, the Godhead. Although Anthroposophists, following Steiner's lead, refer to Anthroposophy as "spiritual science," it is not scientific; it is a faith; it is, in all its elaborations, a religion — one that is dark, filled with mystery, and hedged with uncertainty. Accepting Steiner's teachings means accepting the religion he conceived and expounded.
P.S. About godheads, plural. Can there be more than one? Steiner indicated the possibility, although perhaps only tangentially. The ancient Persians recognized two godheads, Steiner taught.
In Anthroposophy, Ormuzd is Christ, the Sun God, and Ahriman a dreadful demon, one of Christ's opponents, as it were. That Ahriman might be a godhead is, from an Anthroposophical perspective, a horrifying thought, unless a way can be found to justify or defang Ahriman — and Steiner sought, in a sense, to do this. Steiner said that if Christ holds Ahriman at bay, balanced against that other demon, Lucifer, then the temptations of these demons can become useful gifts for humanity. [See "Was He Christian?", "Ahriman", and "Lucifer".]
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.
Use this link to go to "Steiner Static".
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related to this page:
also see "History, the Past"
and "History, the Future"
abnormal : what's normal and what isn'tepochs : great and not so greatgoing up : creation and scienceOld Moon, etc. : loonyOld Saturn : starting outOld Sun : dim lightoriginsPresent Earth : here nowtenth hierarchy : us, upward bound