"If these ideas are not true, they should be true.
What we believe shapes the reality.
If we become conscious of these ideas
and hold them, they will become true."
— Dr. Ronald E. Koetzsch
Error in the Air
Late in June, 2009, I began a thread at the waldorf-critics discussion list [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/]. I called it Steiner Static. It consisted of astonishing remarks made by Rudolf Steiner, which I posted with some commentary of my own that I hope is illuminating.
My purpose was to alert parents: Here are the kinds of things Rudolf Steiner asked his followers to believe. Any Waldorf teachers who have studied Steiner and who believe his teachings believe some or all of the following. Is this what you want? Do you feel comfortable receiving guidance from people who believe such things? Do you want those people to "educate" your child?
Here are updated versions of my postings, amplified and corrected. You can follow the thread of my original messages, and the responses, at waldorf-critics. Go to to message 11175 [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/11175] and then trace the subsequent messages marked Re: Steiner Static.
STEINER STATIC is quite long.
This is Part I.
To reach Part II, use this link:
Here are the sections you will find in Parts I and II.
(You can scroll down the pages of Parts I and II
or use these links to jump to sub-pages.)
Part II:OLD MOON, ETC.
You will find a Topic Index at the end of Part II.
— Roger Rawlings
1) [Moon; Saturn] “[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.
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2) [Occultism; Brotherhood] “There is no other means of bringing about a universal human brotherhood than the spreading of occult knowledge through the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1953), p. 143.
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3) [Education: Irrational; Life Before Birth] “You will injure children if you educate them rationally because you will then utilize their will [power] in something they have already completed — namely, life before birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.
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4) [Sun; Moon; Plant Man; Animal Man; Evolution] “If, as he had developed on the Sun, man was called plant man, the man of the Moon can be called animal man ... [T]he Sun man could only elevate himself into a plant by thrusting a portion of his companions down into a coarser mineral realm ... The animal man of the Moon does not yet have firm bones. His skeleton is still cartilaginous. His whole nature is soft, compared to that of today ... His locomotion is not a walking, but rather a leaping, even a floating ... [T]he Moon of that time did not have a thin, airy atmosphere like that of present-day earth, but its envelope was considerably thicker, even denser than the water of today.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 193-194.
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5) [Astrology; Horoscopes] “People who are knowledgeable about these things can ‘read’ the forces that determine a person’s path in his or her physical life; on this basis horoscopes are cast. Each of us is assigned a particular horoscope, in which the forces are revealed that have led us into this life. For example, if in a particular horoscope Mars is above Aries, this means that certain Aries forces cannot pass through Mars but are weakened instead.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND HUMANITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1991), p. 61.
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6) [Temperaments; Reincarnation] “Melancholic children are often dependent on atmospheric conditions ... If I were to go into this question in detail from the standpoint of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy], I would have to show you how the childish temperament is actually connected to karma, how in the child’s temperament something really appears that could be described as the consequence of experiences in previous lives on Earth ... Temperament is connected, to a remarkable degree, with the whole life and soul of a person’s previous incarnations.” — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 60-61.
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7) [Moon Beings; Ghosts] “When human beings cling too strongly to earthly things it may be difficult for them to find their bearings in the sphere of the Moon Beings ... The moon-influences are not really active below the roots of plants ... The moon-influences, rising like mist from this shallow layer, may cause human beings who have to pass after death into the Moon sphere — the soul-world — but are unable to understand the Moon Beings, to be trapped by this shallow stratum of moon-influences and they can actually be seen by sensible-supersensible perception [i.e., clairvoyance] wandering about as ghosts, as spectral shades.” — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONS, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), pp. 150-151.
Steiner is often hard to read. I’ll translate: The Moon sphere — the soul world* — is the realm under the astrological/spiritual influence of the Moon; it is occupied by Moon Beings; the influence of the Moon extends only a short distance below the surface of the Earth; people who can’t understand the Moon Beings may, upon death, get trapped in the shallow parts of the Earth that are under the influence of the Moon; thereafter, these poor dead people will become what are commonly called ghosts.
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8) [Discipline: Tardiness] How to handle tardy students: Steiner said the following to Waldorf teachers: “We lose all control the minute we look away ... it would make us somewhat laughable. Of course, it’s just laziness ... If a child comes late ten minutes, have him or her stand for half an hour ... Let them stand uncomfortably...you can be particularly effective if you allow [sic] them to stand in an uncomfortable place ... We could also buy a number of little sheds....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 109-110.
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9) [Blonds; Intelligence] “If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense ... Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” — Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.
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10) [Phantoms] These are wraiths of nastiness that emerge from the physical bodies of wrongdoers. They are “beings which have been created in the physical body through the effect of lying and slander ... Such beings...now flit and whirr about in our world and belong to a class that we call ‘phantoms.’” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 83-84.
There are a great many meanies of various sorts flitting and whirring around. Keep reading.
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11) [Specters or Ghosts; Etheric Body] Ghosts (aka specters) come to Earth in association with the lowest of our nonphysical bodies (we have three of such bodies, Steiner said). Our accumulated naughtiness causes bits of spiritual beings to chip off, in a manner of speaking, and come to Earth as ghosts: “The accumulation in the etheric body caused through these [wicked] experiences of the soul...brings about detachments from the beings working in the spiritual worlds and these likewise are now to be found in our environment — they are the ‘specters’ or ‘ghosts.’” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 84.
Steiner does not put words like 'ghosts' in quote marks to deny that such beings exist — he is telling us that they do exist. He is simply adding that the common understanding of such stuff is wrong; the correct understanding can be had only by listening to You Know Who.
But Steinerian correctness can be muddling. The explanation for the existence of ghosts Steiner gives here (#11) differs a smidge from what we've seen previously (see #7). That's one reason I politely call these teachings static. More properly, they are bunk.
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12) [Demons; Astral Body] Demons come to Earth through the gumming up of our second nonphysical body, the astral body: “In all that works [evilly] from soul to soul in our world, from the giving of bad advice to all those methods which people employ in order to overwhelm others...[all of this] is expressed in the night in the astral body. The astral body gets these ‘enclosures’ and thereby beings are detached from other worlds and whirr through our world again as elemental beings. They belong to the class of demons.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 85-86.
Elemental beings are "nature spirits" — nonphysical beings that lurk in nature; they are nonphysical but they are not spiritual: They lack true spirit. Evil people may sink to their level. I'll get to this in a future installment.
Our highest nonphysical body is the "I" or spiritual ego; it defines our humanity. Plants and animals have etheric bodies, like us; animals have astral bodies, like us; but only we have "I"s. (Nonhuman people — there are a lot of them walking around, so look out — don't have "I"s. I'll get to this, too. For info on nonphysical bodies, see "Incarnation".)
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13) [Prayers; "Verses"; Deception] “We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 20.
Steiner often coached Waldorf teachers in deceiving outsiders about the true purposes of Waldorf schooling. [See, e.g., "Secrets".]
Here are the "verses before school" Steiner wrote for Waldorf school students. These prayers, seemingly innocuous, are required in most Waldorf schools. They address and thank God, doing so in distinctly Anthroposophical terms. Teaching students such prayers is teaching them — or at least sensitizing them to — Anthroposophy. Anthroposophical concepts in the prayers include a loving spiritual presence on the Sun; the difference between soul and spirit; the special powers of humanity; light within the soul (stemming from higher worlds); the distinction between God (who, Steiner taught, does not fully exist in our polytheistic universe) and the spirit of God; and the like. [For a detailed analysis, see "Prayers".]
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14) [Prayers] “The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day;
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs;
In sunlight shining clear
I reverence, O God,
The strength of humankind,
That thou so graciously
Hast planted in my soul,
That I with all my might
May love to work and learn.
From Thee come light and strength,
To Thee rise love and thanks.”
• ◊ •
15) [Prayers] "I look into the world
In which the Sun shines,
In which the stars sparkle,
In which the stones lie,
The living plants are growing,
The animals are feeling,
In which the soul of man
Gives dwelling for the spirit;
I look into the soul
Which lives within myself.
God’s spirit weaves in light
Of Sun and human soul,
In world of space, without,
In depths of soul, within.
God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee
I turn myself in prayer,
That strength and blessing grow
In me, to learn and work.”
Waldorf schools are religious institutions, although they usually deny this. The religion involved is Anthroposophy. If you want your child to recite Anthroposophical prayers written by Rudolf Steiner — and if you want your child to be lured toward acceptance of Anthroposophy as Truth — then a Waldorf school may be what you are looking for. But if not, not. In either case, please make your decision with your eyes open. Please, for example, consider the Anthroposophical teachings we are looking at here.
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16) [Giants; Druids; Moon-Science] Steiner taught that “elemental beings” or “nature spirits” lurk behind the surface of nature. These nonphysical beings lack true spiritual identities (i.e., they are not truly spiritual), but nonetheless they can grow quite large. Some elemental beings emerge from the roots of plants and some emerge from the leaves of plants: “The Sun-Initiation gave the Druid priest the spiritual impulse, and as a result he had his science of Nature ... His science of Nature being a Moon-science, the Druid priest perceived how the elemental beings can grow and expand into gigantic size. [paragraph break] From this resulted his knowledge of the Jötuns, the giant-beings ... When the kind of elemental beings who lived beneficially in the root-nature, expanded into giants, they became the giants of the frost ... And what worked in the growth of the leaves, this too could grow to giant size. Then it lived as a giant elemental being in the misty storms that swept over the Earth, with all that they contained in certain seasons — with the pollen of the plants, and so forth.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN IN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE, lecture 4, GA 228. Sneeze.
A note on style: Some English translations preserve the tangled and confused quality of Steiner’s prose. Reading this stuff is challenging, even after a kindly guide such as myself has cut out some of the excess verbiage. But the effort of plowing through Steiner's prose is worthwhile if you want to understand the thinking that lies behind Waldorf schools — it is tangled and confused thinking, disconnected from clarity, reason, and reality. For some people, it exerts a mystical appeal. For others, it sounds a loud alarm: Stay away!
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17) [Animals; Evolution] Steiner said that animals evolved from people, not vice versa. In the following version (Steiner was not always consistent), animals left humanity before we became full-fledged flesh-and-blood humans. If the animals had stuck with us longer in pre-Earthly existence, they could have accompanied us to the Earth and become human too: “When we say that certain beings remained at the Bull stage, others at the Lion, others at the Eagle, and so on, what does this mean? It means that if these beings had been able to wait, if they could have developed their full love for the physical world only at a much later time, they would have become human beings. If the lion had not willed to enter into the earthly sphere too early, it would have become a man; the same is true of the other animals that had split off up till then.” — Rudolf Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 8, GA 106.
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18) [Sexes; Evolution] Early on, we weren’t divided into genders. Steiner said. This had its drawbacks but it also had some advantages. ”We shall now describe the state of man before his division into male and female. At that time the body consisted of a soft malleable mass ... This division took place slowly and gradually. Long before its actual occurrence, human beings were already developing in such a way that one individual would be born with more male, another with more female characteristics. Each human being however also possessed the opposite sexual characteristics, so that self-impregnation was possible.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), p. 96.
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. But he also said that other trinities also exist. In other words, the Christian God is real, along with a plethora of other gods who are nearer to us and more busy in our affairs. The highest attendants of God 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, 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" 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 focuses on events in our own celestial neighborhood, and he discourages 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 explanation. We still want to know how that previous reality came about. And if the answer is that the 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 part of 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.
But first, let's have a few more helpings of miscellany. If you send children to Waldorf schools, you are handing them into the care of people who believe Rudolf Steiner’s phantasmagoric visions. Not all Waldorf teachers believe all of Steiner's delusions, but a great many do. Here are more examples, in Steiner’s characteristically tortured phrasings:
25) [Gnomes (which are real); and Their Heads] “[T]he beings which we call gnomes and goblins have a physical body, but they do not possess what in man we call the ego ... [T]hey can never be seen even though they have a physical body. They have a physical body only for one who can see through the earth ... [T]hose persons who portray gnomes out of a certain nature-sense [i.e., intuitive or psychic insight] are not unjustified in making their heads [sic: the gnomes’ heads] a special characteristic. All these symbols have their true foundation in reality.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN, lecture 8, GA 102.
Note: “all these symbols”, like all myths, like all fairy tales, are basically true, according to Steiner. They are true clairvoyant visions of the spirit realm. (25a) “Myths...are the memories of the visions people perceived in olden times ... At night they were really surrounded by the world of the Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were...experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198. (25b) “Fairy tales are never thought out [i.e., invented]; they are the final remains of ancient clairvoyance, experienced in dreams by human beings who still had the power ... All the fairy tales in existence are thus the remnants of the original clairvoyance.” — Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.
And gnomes, for one, really exist, not as symbols, but as real creatures lurking in the Earth. Their more revealing name is "goblins": (25c) "There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion — it is as if something were to scatter us. They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-3.
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26) [One Reason Gnomes Crop Up in Waldorf Classrooms] “[G]oblins are in fact the gnomes. So, if one wishes to make someone attentive, one says to him: Pay heed like a gnome. A gnome is really an attentive being. If one could place a gnome as an object lesson on a front desk in every school classroom, where all could see it, it would be a splendid example for the children to imitate.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 8, GA 230.
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27) [Dragons] Steiner said we humans used to live on the Moon, aka the Old Moon. Describing how humans on the Old Moon inhaled and exhaled heat, Steiner said: “Figures such as the Archangel Michael with the fire-breathing dragon under his feet, or St. George, fighting with the dragon, are pictures reminiscent of those conditions [on Old Moon]. The fire breather of Old Moon, the ancient Dragon, is a figure that once actually existed.” — Rudolf Steiner, ROSICRUCIAN ESOTERICISM (Anthroposophic Press, 1978) lecture 7, GA 109.
Again: Steiner said all this stuff is real, although he often interpreted symbols, myths, etc., in his own special way. He spoke of goblins and dragons, etc., as symbols, but he also described them as actual beings who actually exist(ed). Thus, for instance, Steiner identified real dragons as fire-breathing dinosaurs: (26a):
“A teacher: ‘But there are still the fire breathers.’
“Dr. Steiner: 'Yes, those beasts, they did breathe fire, the Archaeopteryx, for example.'
“A teacher: ‘You mean that animals whose bones we see today in museums...breathed fire?’
“Dr. Steiner: 'Yes, all of the dinosaurs belong to the end of the Tertiary Period. Those found in the Jura [i.e., Jurassic] are actually their descendants. What I am referring to are the dinosaurs from the beginning of the Tertiary Period.'” — FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 26.
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28) [Certainly Magicians and Suchlike] Among the real beings we must worry about are black or gray magicians: “[T]hose whose intentions toward humanity are not good, in other words those who are black of grey magicians [are busily at work] to present certain groups of people with the secret of how to dominate great masses ... [S]uch domination can be put into the hands of some few individuals ... Certain circles in this materialistic age are striving to paralyse [sic] and make impossible all of humanity’s spiritual development....” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90.
• ◊ •
29) [What Us Is Up To] Working pretty much in league with the black magicians are Americans, who plan to ruin everything for everyone, especially good ol' (white) Europeans: “[I]t is America’s endeavor to mechanize everything, to push everything into the realm of pure naturalism, thus gradually extinguishing Europe’s culture altogether.” — Rudolf Steiner SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 70.
• ◊ •
30) [What the US Is Up To] Americans (aka, citizens of the USA) are going about their dastardly purposes in dastardly ways: (30) "It will be an American secret to use the earth’s magnetism in its duality, the northern and southern magnetism, in order to send controlling forces across the whole earth....” — Rudolf Steiner SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 188.
I still haven't figure out how us 'Mericuns are gonna do these things, but I'm workin' on it.
Today’s installment will be dominated by a single quote. It's a stunner — and more than a bit wearisome. So grab a cup of joe and hunker down.
Are Waldorf schools religious institutions? Well, they are bathed in religious feelings, and Waldorf teachers have the “office” of priests.
To follow what follows, you need to know that, according to Steiner, young children live in a naturally religious, prayerful soul-state because they arrived on Earth so recently from the divine realm. Until age seven, children are essentially asleep within their elemental religious condition. Then, around age seven or so (about when the baby teeth fall out), each growing child manifests a second element of itself, its etheric body. (This is a set of forces associated with the soul: formative life forces. The incarnation of the etheric body is the child's second birth.) The process of incarnation is tricky. Fortunately, priestly Waldorf teachers can help.
The quotation, below, is tough going. But give it a shot. I will quote Steiner without interruption, then I will offer a paraphrase, trying to express Steiner's meaning more clearly. I will also add a few comments of my own.
31) [Waldorf Priests]: “The child is surrendered to the environment and lives in the external world in reverent, prayerful devotion ... The life of the child is 'religious,' but religious in a way that refers to the things of nature ... If we observe the struggle unfolding in the child before us — within this fundamental, natural religious element — if we observe the struggle between the hereditary forces and what the individual’s forces develop as the second human being through the power brought from pre-earthly life, then, as teachers, we also develop a religious mood. But, whereas the child with a physical body develops the religious mood of the believer, the teacher, in gazing at the wonders that occur between birth and the change of teeth, develops a ‘priestly’ religious attitude. The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life — not with a sacrificial victim to be led to death, but with the offering of human nature itself, to be awakened to life. Our task is to ferry into earthly life the aspect of the child that came from the divine spiritual world. This, with the child’s own forces, forms a second organism from the being that came to us from the divine spiritual life. [paragraph break] Pondering such things awakens something in us like a priestly attitude in education. Until this priestly feeling for the first years of childhood has become a part of education as a whole, education will not find the conditions that bring it to life. If we merely try to understand the requirements of education intellectually, or try to rationally design a method of education based on external observations of a child’s nature, at best we accomplish a quarter education. A complete educational method cannot be formulated by the intellect alone, but must flow from the whole human nature — not merely from the part that observes externally in a rational way, but the whole that deeply and inwardly experiences the secrets of the universe.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 23-24.
Here is a paraphrase:
Children descending from the spirit worlds surrender themselves to earthly life where they live in natural piety. The life of the child is essentially religious. Children bring spiritual forces into this life from the spirit worlds, forces that enable them to incarnate their etheric bodies — in effect, the children will be born a second time. But children also receive hereditary traits from their parents, and these clash with the children's divine, inner forces. Witnessing this struggle between divine influences and hereditary influences inspires religious awe in Waldorf teachers, who undertake the priestly task of helping children to incarnate properly. The "task" of a Waldorf teacher is to bring into earthly life the spiritual essence that children bring from the higher worlds.
Thinking about such things inspires the priestly work of Waldorf teachers. Until all of education is suffused with priestly feeling, it will be incomplete; it will not come alive. If we only use our intellects to create a "rational" kind of education based on what we can see of students on the outside, schooling will be only 25% of what it should be. We need to consider all elements of our students' natures; we need to look within our students, seeing the parts that respond to the secrets of the universe.
The most important thing to notice, here, is that Steiner describes Waldorf education in religious terms. Waldorf schools are religious institutions in which the faculty consider themselves to be priests. And the task that they set themselves has very little to do with teaching the students any ordinary subjects; the task is to assist spiritual beings, children, to incarnate in the earthly realm. This is a spiritual undertaking based on beliefs that you, as a parent, may or may not share. Do you, for instance, believe in etheric bodies?
Steiner's statement inspires many questions. Here's one more: Why does Steiner say that rationally designed education would be only 25% complete ("a quarter education")? The answer is that such education deals only with the physical human being, the physical body. In Anthroposophical belief, children incarnate four bodies: the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies. [See "Incarnation".] Only by focusing on all four bodies can education be 100%. A "rational" education would be incomplete; indeed, it would hurt children, because it would send them back to their lives before birth instead of helping to incarnate fully here on Earth: (31a): “You will injure children if you educate them rationally because you will then utilize their will [power] in something they have already completed — namely, life before birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61.
Another question: How can Waldorf teachers see inside their students? How do they comprehend the "secrets of the universe"? The answer is clairvoyance. Steiner said that Waldorf teachers really should develop clairvoyance or, at a minimum, take the guidance of people who have clairvoyant powers — people such as himself: (31b): "Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientiﬁc investigation concerning the human being [i.e., the clairvoyant "findings" that constitute Anthroposophy]. And each Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul...." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 224-225.
Each Waldorf teacher does this, note. Note just a few. Each one. "[E]ach Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul."
Waldorf education depends absolutely on the existence of clairvoyance. If clairvoyance doesn't exist (and it doesn't), then there is no basis for Waldorf education. [See "Clairvoyance", "Fooling (Ourselves)", and "Why? Oh Why?".]
To look into a few of the other questions implicit in Steiner's statement, let's move along to some other quotations:
32) [Teeth] Note that, in the long quotation we have just seen, Steiner refers to an event he calls "the change of teeth." This event — also sometimes called "second dentition" — is afforded great importance in Waldorf schools. The reason? Loss of baby teeth and their replacement by adult teeth are taken as a signal that the etheric body has incarnated. This is, in Waldorf belief, the child's second birth. “When the child approaches the seventh year and the baby teeth are gradually being replaced, the covering of the etheric body loosens and becomes free [i.e., it is freed; it is incarnated], as the physical body did at physical birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION: An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 89.
33) [Taking Charge] We also should notice the relative roles of parents and teachers, in Steiner's discussion of childhood. Teachers become the children's priests, and one of their objectives is to help children over come the genetic influences they receive from their parents. Teachers thus rise in importance, in their students' lives, while the importance of parents wanes.
Steiner made similar points many times. The more Waldorf teacher can wean children from their parents, the better. Indeed, Steiner said to Waldorf teachers, "[I]t might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one's care soon after birth." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.
Parents can foul up children in many ways, Steiner taught. In addition to giving bequeathing hereditary influences that must be overcome, parents are like to mislead children, filling their heads with falsehoods. As Steiner said to Waldorf teachers: "You will have to take over children [sic] for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. — Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16. So it really would be better for Waldorf teachers to "take over" as soon as possible. [For more on the Waldorf view of children's parents, see, e.g., "Faculty Meetings".]
I promised to discuss Old Saturn, and I will. But first, let's take another wide-ranging tour of miscellaneous Waldorf beliefs.
34) [Centaurs; Homer; Clairvoyance] “It is said that Homer was a blind seer, but that means that he was clairvoyant. He could look back into the Akashic Record. Homer, the blind seer, was much more seeing in the spiritual sense than were the other Greeks. Thus, the centaur was once an actual human form. When man looked like this, the moon had not yet withdrawn [i.e., the Moon was still part of the Earth]. The moon force was still in the earth, and in man was still what had formed itself during the sun period [i.e., Old Sun], the shining pineal gland, which he bore like a lantern on his head.” — Rudolf Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 7, GA 106.
The crucial point here is that Steiner believed in clairvoyance, and so do his followers. Indeed, clairvoyance is the key to everything in the Waldorf universe. If clairvoyance doesn't exist (and it doesn't), there is no basis for the Waldorf system. [See "Clairvoyance", "Exactly", and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]
As for quotation 34: Blind, clairvoyant Homer could consult the Akashic Record, which is a celestial storehouse of almost unlimited knowledge, accessible only through clairvoyance. [See "Akasha".] As for the centaurs Homer described, they really existed in the period before the Moon “separated.” Human centaurs prowled the Earth in those ancient days, when the Moon’s forces were still incorporated within the Earth and we still had shining pineal glands beaming from our foreheads. Those were the days, my friend.
As for Old Sun, we will get to it after we discuss Old Saturn.
• ◊ •
35) [Atoms; Demons] “[A]toms are really tiny little caricatures of demons, and our learned scholars would not speak about them as they do unless people had grown accustomed, in education, to putting everything together out of its parts.” — Rudolf Steiner, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 161. Note Steiner's sarcasm, O ye "learned scholars." (You're the same people Steiner sometimes described as "scientific simpletons" and "so-called educated people in the universities." Dumbbells, in other words. [See "Steiner's 'Science'".)
Steiner acknowledged that atoms exist, except when he didn’t. [See "Atoms".] He disputed the “atomic theory” both because atoms aren’t really real (they are empty bubbles) and because he didn’t like the idea that things consist of smaller things that consist of still smaller things. He didn’t understand how large things can be built up of small things — or if he understood, he just plain didn’t like it. The atomic theory is deadly, materialistic thinking, he said.
As for demons: They are multitudinous, dreadful, and very real, Steiner taught. [See, e.g., "Evil Ones".]
• ◊ •
36) [Evolution & Vulcan] “These are the seven stages of evolution of our system: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan [these are the stages of evolution we will discuss: Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, and so on]. In the Vulcan development [i.e., the Future Vulcan stage], all those Beings who have evolved out of the small beginnings of the Saturn existence [Old Saturn], will be spiritualised in the highest degree, they will have grown not only as far as the Sun, but even higher than the Sun. Vulcan is more than Sun, and with this it has reached the maturity of sacrifice, the maturity necessary to self disintegration [sic]. [paragraph break] The course of evolution is this [Steiner here describes evolution in general, as it occurs in all solar systems, not just in ours]: a Sun, which from the beginning is included in such a [planetary or solar] system, has at first to throw off its planets, being too weak to develop further without excluding them. It grows strong, absorbs its planets again, and grows into a Vulcan. Then the whole is dissolved, and from the Vulcan globe is formed a hollow globe which is something like the circles of Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, etc. [i.e., the spiritual regions occupied by these gods]. The Sun will thus dissolve in space, sacrifice itself, send forth its Being into the Universe, and through this will itself become a circle of Beings like the Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, which will then advance towards new creation.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 5, GA 110.
Thumbnail: We first came into existence during an evolutionary period that Steiner called Old Saturn. We evolved next to a period he called Old Sun, and then to a period he called Old Moon. We now live during Present Earth. In the future, we will evolve through periods Steiner called Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. These periods should not be confused with the planets of the same names, although Steiner's own words often seem to blur the difference. [See, e.g., "Planets".] Quite often, when he spoke of things happening "on" Saturn, for instance, he meant things that happened during Old Saturn. To figure out what he meant, you generally need to consider the context of each statement.
The statement we have here (#36) is a concise summary of evolution as Steiner saw/foresaw it. This is how things happen in all solar systems, according to Steiner. If Steiner' summary is unclear to you, perhaps the discussions we will have, coming up, will help to clarify things. The most important takeaway, however, is that we are seeing, here, what Steiner's followers — including many Waldorf teachers — believe. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Stages".] If these beliefs seem weird, inscrutable, or obviously wrong to you — you may have just learned something important about Waldorf schools and the thinking behind them.
• ◊ •
37) [Earth, Sun, Moon] Contrary to the findings of modern science, Steiner taught that the Earth, Sun, and Moon — and, indeed, all the other members of the solar system — were once a single body. Gradually the various parts separated from one another. ”The earth was still one with the sun ... [T]he sun and then the moon separated from the earth!” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BEING OF MAN AND HIS FUTURE EVOLUTION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), p. 111. The Sun and then the Moon left the Earth (almost as if a hen were laying eggs) during our present stage of evolution, Present Earth.
Accepting Anthroposophy almost always means rejecting modern science, modern scholarship, and indeed most modern knowledge of any sort.
• ◊ •
38) [Moon, Old Moon] “The moon separated from the sun ... If we imagine old Moon before the separation....” — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE, EARTH, AND MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), p. 70. The Moon is not the same as Old Moon, any more than Saturn is the same as Old Saturn. The Moon is a physical object in the sky; Old Moon was a period in evolution. One is a place, one is a time. This difference is easy enough, in the abstract. Nonetheless, keeping such things straight when reading Steiner is difficult. Steiner himself seemed to lose track of his teachings, sometimes. This creates a problem. In trying to make sense of Steiner, there is a temptation to work things out in your own mind so that they make more sense than Steiner's teachings actually reflect. Resist this temptation. Try to see Steiner's meaning objectively. Take Steiner's teachings for what they are worth, no more, no less. Thus, for instance, when Steiner contradicts himself, don't ignore the contradiction — notice it, then move on. (He contradicted himself a lot. See, e.g., "Deception".)
• ◊ •
39) [Materialistic Thinking and the Jews] Steiner pinned everything on clairvoyance, and he deplored the atheistic thinking of modern times. Dreadfully, he ascribed evil, atheistic thinking to one source in particular: Jews. The ancient Jews, he said, resisted any knowledge higher than an infant or embryo possesses. The infantile thinking found in the Old Testament, he said, led straight to the evils of the modern world: “[T]he ancient Jewish people...did not wish to learn anything in addition to what the human being brings with him as a capacity because of the fact that he was an embryo ... Old Testament thinking [led to] the atheistic science of the modern age.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), pp. 28-33.
There are deplorable strains of racism and anti-Semitism in Steiner's teachings. His followers today are usually more liberal-minded than he was on such issues, yet they have very rarely actually repudiated his anti-Semitic and racist views. Anyone interested in Waldorf education should certainly look into this question. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Racism" and "RS on Jews".]
True-believing Waldorf school teachers think that they and their students used to live "on Saturn" — or, more exactly, during the Old Saturn stage of evolution. That’s what their mentor, Rudolf Steiner, taught.
Here’s the story. The Creation occurred, in some fashion, as we have seen. [See the section titled "Origins", above.] It produced a vague, ethereal solar system in which everything was intermingled — everything that would eventually separate out as individual entities and objects was, at that stage, united as a single insubstantial, semi-spiritual mass. This first phase of our evolution (which was also the first stage of the evolution of our entire solar system) is called Old Saturn. The solar system was then, for the first time, physically manifest, but only in a very preliminary way. Steiner taught that the solar system blinks in and out of existence, manifesting and then re-manifesting in successive states, beginning in a delicate, virtually impalpable state and then becoming progressively denser, more physical, and more individualized in later manifestations. The first blink was Old Saturn, which would be followed by a second blink called Old Moon, then a third called Old Sun, and then our current blink — the phase of evolution in which we currently exist — called Present Earth. Following Present Earth, we will proceed to additional stages, but the movement toward physicality will be reversed. We are currently about as densely physical as we can be — meaning we are about as far removed from the spirit realm as we would ever want to be. In our future evolution (the stages will be Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Venus), we will rise again toward spirituality, but in far higher, more perfect form than in our distant past. [See, e.g., "Matters of Form".]
The planets we see in the sky now (Saturn and the rest) should not be confused with the phases of evolution that bear the same or similar names (Old Saturn and the rest. Although, of course, they are related. The Saturn that we see overhead is a physical planet; it exists here and now, in the present solar system (i.e., it exists in the stage called Present Earth). Old Saturn was an evolutionary stage long ago. The powers of the gods of Saturn infused Old Saturn — hence the name — and the planet Saturn in our sky now exists under these deities and powers — indeed the planet Saturn is a sort of remnant or miniature reincarnation of Old Saturn. Nonetheless, Saturn and Old Saturn can be distinguished (even through Steiner's language often muddies the difference): one is a planet here-and-now, the other is a period of time long, long ago. (Steiner's use of language is indeed a problem. He wrote and spoke as a mystic, using mystical — and one might suspect intentionally mystifying — terminology. Thus, he often referred to Old Saturn, Old Moon, etc., as "planets," and he sometimes called them as Saturn, Moon, etc., and he even sometimes spoke of life "on" them when he meant during them... Keeping your bearings as you read Steiner can be a challenge. But buck up. It can be done.)
OK. Back to Old Saturn, our first stage of evolution. Old Saturn was a phase where everything was quite undifferentiated, being essentially just warmth. Steiner considered warmth to be a sort of physical substance, but he stressed that "warmth" during Old Saturn was different from "warmth" now during Present Earth. During Old Saturn, we were brought into semi-separate, semi-physical, lukewarm existence in the form of “eggs of warmth.” We got that way under the benign authority of gods of various ranks (Dominions, Mights, and so on). These gods were evolving, like us, only they were much farther along, and they elevated themselves further by helping us. The angels/gods called Spirits of Personality (or Archai or Zeitgeists) were especially important in getting us going during or on Old Saturn:
40) [Us as Eggs] “What is the power that rules in the Spirits of Personality [gods three levels higher than humanity] on [sic] ancient Saturn? It is no other than that which we know in modern man as the power of thought. For in reality, the Spirits of Personality did nothing else on ancient Saturn but exercise the power of their thoughts ... [T]he Spirits of Personality were powerful magicians. They formed those eggs of warmth [i.e., us] on Saturn by the force of their thoughts ... It is perfectly comprehensible that an entity who is really human should take on form from his surroundings (for the eggs that were formed there were constructed out of the surroundings [i.e., substance] of Saturn) and those eggs were bewitched, or chained to a further existence [i.e., the eggs became destined to continue their existence in future, higher incarnations].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 4, GA 110.
The Spirits of Personality advanced their own evolution by ministering to us during Old Saturn — selflessness and kindness always reap spiritual rewards. "On" Saturn, we were not yet human, by a long stretch of the imagination. In fact, the term “human” can be quite confusing. According to Steiner, being human is not a matter of lineage or species; it is a matter of spiritual evolution — beings at a certain stage of their development are “human.” Thus, for instance, the gods called Spirits of Personality began their own evolution three incarnations prior to Old Saturn. That incarnation, of course, occurred outside our solar system, which first came into existence during Old Saturn. So, the Spirits of Personality began evolving in a different solar system from ours, in a time before time any we have known. By the time we first came into existence, the Spirits of Personality were in the fourth phase of their own evolution — they were "human" during Old Saturn. We ourselves, being mere eggs of warmth during Old Saturn, would not become "human" until our own fourth phase of evolution — Present Earth. The whole point of evolution, according to Steiner, is to evolve to higher and higher forms of consciousness.
Our own consciousness "on" Saturn was extremely dull, whereas the various gods above us possessed higher forms of consciousness (the higher a god's rank, the higher that god's consciousness). On or during Old Saturn we were essentially comatose:
41) [Us, Awfully Dim] (The following is difficult. I will try to help via footnotes.) “The human being himself can make no use of his luminosity on Saturn.* The luminosity of his sensory germs could not express anything in itself, but through it other more exalted beings are given the possibility to reveal themselves to the life of Saturn.** ... These are exalted beings ... [T]hey now radiate something of their nature out of ‘free will.’*** ... These Sons of Twilight develop in the ancestor of man a kind of understanding, of which however, in his dull consciousness, he himself cannot yet make use.**** ... Man has now reached the point where he can work unconsciously on his own material body.***** Through his activity in the utter dullness of Saturn existence, man produces the first germinal predisposition to the true ‘spirit man.’******.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959 ), chapter 14, GA 11.
* We were “the human being” (although we were not yet human). We had a sort of potential spiritual/mental light within ourselves, but we couldn’t make use of it “on Saturn.” We were too unevolved. (Don't be thrown by Steiner's use of the present tense. He often did this, perhaps for narrative effect. He was speaking of things long, long ago.)
** We had seeds of illumination within us, which eventually would enable us to perceive and affect phenomena outside ourselves, but "on" Saturn we couldn't use these seeds ourselves. Instead, our seeds enabled higher beings to reveal themselves — and act — within the developing life of Old Saturn.
*** The gods helping us did it by their own free choice, which elevated them in their own spiritual evolution. They imparted some of their divine essence into Old Saturn.
**** Among our helpers were “Sons of Twilight” — gods one rank above humanity. They “developed” a “kind of understanding” within us, i.e., within the eggs of warmth. Steiner here refers to us as the ancestors of men — he means us as we were during Old Saturn, when we were still far from becoming human. The eggs of warmth, having been enchanted, would reincarnate as higher beings during Old Sun, and higher yet during Old Moon, and even higher yet during Present Earth — when they would become us as we know ourselves now, as human beings.
The understanding the Sons of Twilight gave us was important — it was our first stage of consciousness — but it was so low and dull that we could make no use of it ourselves, during Old Saturn.
***** Despite being so dim, we could start, unconsciously, developing our physical bodies. ("Physical" is another relative term, however. We would not develop physical bodies as we now know them until Present Earth.)
****** Dimly, dimly, we started to evolve toward our own true spiritual identity, although it was still far, far off. All we could work up, on Saturn, was a germ of a predisposition toward attaining our eventual ‘spirit.’ (“Spirit man” has a specific meaning in Theosophy and, by extension, Anthroposophy: It is atma, which can be considered the god within.)
So, we started our journey. Things went along, and time itself began: The solar clock started to tick, as it were. Also, Saturn rotated — which caused separations, which would ultimately create openings for Lucifer and Ahriman to get at us. So, there was trouble ahead.
When things during Old Saturn went as far toward materialization as possible under the prevailing conditions of dimness, everything reversed course, disintegrated, and became wholly nonphysical again. Then, after everything had disappeared, there was a period of rest called a pralaya (like much of the terminology used by Theosophists and Steiner, this is a Hindu term — it means, approximately, melting away):
42) [Time Out] “No condition of Pralaya could have arisen for Saturn through [the actions of] the Spirits of Personality alone. Higher spirits [i.e., higher gods] had to come into action in order to dissolve Saturn so that a Pralaya, or state of transition, of disappearance and of sleep might take place. Higher spirits, the Thrones [gods seven levels above humanity]...had to dissolve all this, so that, as the life of Saturn reached its end, the following process was carried out. The Spirits of Personality had attained self-consciousness [i.e., they had become "human"], had breathed in again a part of the warmth, had realised the Self as the centre of their being [i.e., they gained their "I's"], and left behind them a lower kingdom [i.e., they evolved higher, leaving behind their previously lowest layers]. Now entered the kingdom of the Thrones and dissolved that which had been left behind, and Saturn entered into a sort of planetary night.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 3, GA 110.
So, we lapsed into sleep and absence, along with all of the solar system. The Thrones (aka Spirits of Will) kindly made this possible. The Spirits of Personality, having been very kind to us in their own special way, graduated to the next stage of their own evolution.
I will now take a pralaya myself. The next episode or two of Steiner Static will go elsewhere. But before long I’ll swing back to Steiner’s cosmic history, and I’ll tell you about life on “Old Sun.”
In leaving, I’d just ask you to meditate on this: Waldorf school students are taught by people who think they see good, solid sense in Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. They think that the history we are reviewing is the true story of our existence.
THE MORAL VIEW
Steiner taught that human evolution can occur only if some people are separated out and left behind — perhaps to be saved later, or perhaps not.
43) [Separation] “Evolution is possible only by means of differentiation and separation ... In order for special qualities to develop in human evolution, certain groups of human beings must be separated off for a time." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 25. "For a time" suggests some hope — maybe the ones left behind can be rescued later. In general, Steiner said this is what happens. But he also taught that some people sink so low that they cease to be human. Their plight is dreadful.
The process of separation began, preliminarily, as far back as Old Saturn. But for now, let's consider more recent times and the stories we have told ourselves about ourselves
44) [Decadence] “A wonderful legend describes to us the state of development of the soul. The soul is in a different line of evolution than the body of the human being. The difference between soul and racial development can be seen if we look into the past. Souls were incarnated many times in the Atlantean race [i.e., the race living in Atlantis — yes, Atlantis]; all of you were Atlanteans at that time [i.e., in previous incarnations]. The souls worked themselves out of that situation and the remaining human bodies belonged to the races that had become decadent and were falling into decline [i.e., upwardly evolving people left behind their bodies from lower levels of existence]. The souls left the bodies of the [lower] races and rose up to higher races. Human bodies afflicted with fundamental evil will not have souls within them that are striving to rise above their present state to a higher one [i.e., the lower bodies left behind will be populated only by lower souls who do not try to evolve upward].” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 49-50. This is no mere legend to Steiner. It's what he taught. Good souls rise out of the bodies of lower races and reincarnate in the bodies of higher races. Bad souls either get stuck at one stage of evolution or they move downward. Fundamental evil is incurable, generally. Humans who sink too low become demonic beings or subordinate nature spirits (beings who have no real spiritual essence). These humans cease to be human; they become literally subhuman.*
45) ["Morality"] “Souls previously incarnated in quite subordinate races, raised themselves to a higher level and could incarnate in the bodily descendants of the leaders in Europe [i.e., good souls rose up and became white people] ... This was the reason that the lower races had fewer and fewer descendants, while the higher races had more and more [i.e., as good souls moved upward to higher racial forms, there were fewer souls left in lower racial forms].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 30. Note the title of the book in which this quotation appears. We are glimpsing Steiner's concept of morality and its foundation — its "spiritual" foundation. Can you spot any morally questionable concepts in it?
46) [Demons of Decay and Asiatic Hordes] Even Europe has sometimes been overrun by evil. “[W]ith the dying out of the worst parts of the ancient population of which I have been speaking, the whole region gradually became filled with demonic beings that represented the products of the decay of what had died out [i.e., the worst parts of humanity either evolve upward or they descend to subhuman status; in either case, openings are created for demonic beings to fill the vacated portions of mankind's environment]. The whole of Europe and also Asia Minor were thus filled with the spiritual products of decay out of the worst parts of the population. These demons of decay...endured a long time ... Their influence can best be seen at the time of the Great Migrations, when large masses of people, including Attila [the Hun] and his hordes, came over from Asia and caused great terror among the people in Europe. This terror made the population susceptible to the influences of the demonic beings ... As a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia, there gradually developed what manifested during the Middle Ages as the epidemic of leprosy.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 31. In this passage, Steiner combines racism, quack medicine, and demonology. The demonic beings are ex-humans, products of decay, essentially subhuman byproducts of human evolution. They were the Asiatic hordes, the yellow menace — and their malign effects manifested as leprosy. [For more of Steiner's racial views, see, e.g., "Races". For his medical teachings, see "Steiner's Quackery".]
Belief in the existence of subhumans is appalling, yet it is part and parcel of Steiner's worst doctrines:
47) [Subhumans; Supernumerary] “[I]n our time certain supernumerary people are appearing who have no 'I' [i.e., no true spiritual ego] and are therefore not human beings in the full sense of the word." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND THE WORK OF THE PRIEST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 180. Supernumerary people — unneeded, excess, inhuman, subhuman. One is reminded of a line from Dickens: "'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'" But Dickens was giving us a sweet Christmas tale. Steiner was offering us something very different:
48) [Subhumans; Demons in Human Form] “[C]ases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... [They] are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon ... [T]here are people who are not human beings.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650. If you are considering a Waldorf school for your children, you can at least take comfort from this: In the same passage, Steiner explains that Waldorf schools are designed for children who are real humans, not demonic subhumans: "We cannot...create a school for demons." Thank goodness.
While Steiner's doctrines offer the hope that most humans will evolve upward, they also contain the appalling idea that some people move downward, toward subhuman degradation. Moreover, some people walking the Earth today are already subhuman. There are good humans and demons in disguise, just as there are high races and low races, and good souls and fundamentally evil souls.
All of man's inhumanity to man is implicit in such thinking. And such thinking forms part of the ideology underlying Waldorf education.
* People who descend in this way no longer reincarnate, so they no longer evolve from life to life — they enter an undying, subhuman state. Ahriman and his cohorts hope to drag all humans down to such a hellish condition. “[S]ubhuman entities are subject to the rule of powers I always refer to as ahrimanic. These ahrimanic powers with their diverse sub-spirits — including sprite- and goblin-like beings who dwell in the elements of earth and water — have set themselves a [specific] task ... [These] beings, who have their fortress directly under the earth’s surface, exert influences that rise into our metabolism ... [They] battle to harden us and make us resemble them ... If someone has fallen prey during his lifetime to the ahrimanic powers...these beings can ‘harvest’ this after his death to create a whole population, a subhuman populace of the earth, which does indeed already exist ... And if we ask what such ahrimanic beings intend with this subhuman populace, it is this: to draw this kind of instinctual nature from a human being and make it into a being of earth and water. And beings of earth and water do now actually populate the strata directly below the earth's surface. There they dwell. People who can use spiritual vision to observe mines know such entities very well: they exist there, having been torn from a human being at the moment of his death. And there waits Ahriman, there wait the ahrimanic powers for a person's karma, caused by instincts, drives and passions, to lead him down into an incarnation where he takes special pleasure in such a being, and therefore finds in a particular life on earth that he does not wish to return to the world of spirit. Having left his physical body...he will seek instead to be embodied in a kind of subsensible being of this kind, to remain united with the earth: no longer to die but choosing to remain united with the earth as a subsensible entity ... [A]hrimanic beings...[seek] to entice so many people into their race that eventually the earth will be populated entirely by subhuman ahrimanic entities of this kind.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRIT AS SCULPTOR OF THE HUMAN ORGANISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2014), pp. 108-109.
If you send your children to a Waldorf school, some of their teachers may be quite wonderful individuals. But among those teachers there are likely be deeply committed followers of the occult creed known as Anthroposophy. For this reason, your children may be drawn toward a dark universe of confused, wishful irrationality — which Anthroposophists think is a place of light and love.
Trying to have a meeting of the minds with Anthroposophists is often difficult, and sometimes it is impossible. Unless you happen to share some of their doctrines, you will likely find that true-believing Waldorf teachers occupy a very different mental space from your own. Their conception of clear thinking, truth, and even morality may have few points in common with yours.
In trying to understand the Waldorf ideology, it is always best to consult Rudolf Steiner — not because he said things clearly, but because he is the source Waldorf teachers themselves consult. Here is the complete version of a passage I excerpted in a previous episode of Steiner Static. The passage is not easy to grasp, and it deals with a nastier subject than Steiner often addressed. But in various ways it is a good example of the kind of thinking and language you may confront if you try to discuss something with an Anthroposophist.
Concerning the gradual withering away of "lower races" and the enlargement of "higher races," Steiner said the following:
[46 Demons of Decay and Asiatic Hordes, Redux] “This is a very specific process, which we must understand. The souls develop further, but the bodies die out. That is why we must distinguish so carefully between soul evolution and racial evolution. The souls reappear in bodies belonging to higher races, while the bodies of the lower races die out. Such a process does not occur however without having effects of its own. When something like this occurs over large regions, when something disappears, as it were, it does not disappear into nothing, but rather disperses and is then present in a different form. You will understand what I mean if you consider that with the dying out of the worst parts of the ancient population of which I have been speaking, the whole region gradually became filled with demonic beings that represented the products of the decay of what had died out. The whole of Europe and also Asia Minor were thus filled with the spiritual products of decay from the dying out of the worst parts of the population. The demons of decay, which were contained in the spiritual atmosphere, as it were, endured for a long time and later exerted an influence in such a way that they permeated people's feelings. Their influence can best be seen at the time of the Great Migrations, when large masses of people, including Attila and his hordes, came over from Asia and caused great terror among the people in Europe. This terror made the population susceptible to the influences of the demonic beings that still persisted from earlier times. As a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia, there gradually developed what manifested during the Middle Ages as the epidemic of leprosy. This disease was nothing other than the consequence of the conditions of fear and terror that the people experienced at this time. But these conditions could have had this effect only with people who had been exposed to the demonic forces from the past.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), pp. 30-31.
To most rational adults, a passage like that is reprehensible both for its racist content and for its foolishness. What planet is Steiner describing? What universe does he inhabit? It isn’t our Earth, situated in the real galaxy we call the Milky Way. It is an imaginary, alternate reality — it is fantasy, and in this instance, a fantasy of a distinctly nasty sort.
If you can, put aside your revulsion at Steiner’s racism and focus simply on the quality of his “reasoning” and rhetoric. To susceptible individuals — gullible spiritualists, mainly — such thinking and language are mesmerizing. But notice how slippery and vague they are. Notice how the sentences often stretch out and wander. Notice the hypnotic repetitions ("products of decay," "products of decay," "demons of decay," "demonic beings," "demonic beings," "demonic forces," "hordes," hordes," "terror," "terror," "terror," "fear and terror"). Notice the weasel words ("as it were", "as it were"). Notice how the words occasionally refer to something knowable in the real world, anchoring the spiel, but then launch out into extraordinary fantasies. Notice the lack of evidence and careful argument — Steiner’s words are wholly unsupported; no evidence is offered to support anything. Yet notice the underlying assurance that cosmic secrets are being revealed — the assurance that Steiner and his devotees, the wise spiritual seekers, are privy to cosmic insights denied to other, less enlightened, less evolved sorts like you and me.
Huge whoppers can be more persuasive than small, simple lies that we can immediately see through. Big lies stun — their very audacity can be compelling. Wow! I never knew that! Amazing! And when the lies are worked out in great detail, apparently piecing together many disparate parts, we may think that a coherent structure has been created. For some people, in other words, Steiner’s thoughts and language can be beguiling. How do they strike you?
Here's how they strike me: Steiner was a fraud. He pretended to be such a deeply insightful, clairvoyant sage that ordinary language could hardly contain his meaning. So he offered us a version of the mystic doublethink and double-talk that self-appointed spiritual guides usually serve up. He was considerably less obscure than his mentor, the Theosophist Helena Blavatsky, but this is like saying that the midnight sky is brighter than the depths of a coal mine. It’s true, but it doesn’t make much difference. Steiner didn’t want to convince anyone, rationally; he wanted to overwhelm everyone with a verbal avalanche of strange conceptions clothed in bamboozling circumlocutions: far-out, spacey cant.
Logic, rationality, sweet reason — these were not Steiner’s strong suit. His lectures ramble disjointedly (the later ones more so than the earlier ones — he moved in the wrong direction as he aged). Maybe we should excuse the confusions in his lectures — after all, Steiner often spoke more or less extemporaneously. But Steiner’s books, which he presumably worked on carefully, also meander and hop (again, the later ones worse than the earlier ones). Steiner typically failed to begin with the premises needed to support his statements — he left those for later, or he skipped them altogether. He wandered around, raising topics briefly and dropping them, making strange linkages without much explanation, doubling back on himself, and then launching out in new directions. If you want to learn about any given topic he raised, you will probably need to consult several different Steiner texts, trying to piece together what Anthroposophists refer to as “indications” — Steiner rarely gave fully explanations in any one place. (Two partial exceptions: Steiner's earlier work tends to be more organized and coherent than his later; and Steiner occasionally lectured working men, whom he patronized by using what was — for him — simple language. In these cases, he is easier to follow — but he is also presenting less than his most "mature" thinking.)
One result of all this is that conscientious parents who try to read Steiner’s work in order to understand the thinking behind Waldorf schools often stagger away none the wiser. Reading Steiner is a chore — generally an unrewarding one. He was clearly quite smart, and he could spin a heck of a yarn, but he was rarely clear and he was almost never reasonable. You see, Steiner didn’t place much value on logic or intellect. He said that real knowledge comes from clairvoyance, which is not centered in the physical brain but in invisible, disembodied “organs of clairvoyance." Logic and intellect, he said, are damaging; they kill the spirit. I deal with this subject in my essay “Steiner’s Illogic” and elsewhere, so I won’t rake it over here. The point to focus on, here, is that the thinking behind Waldorf schools is deeply irrational and occult. [See, e.g., "Occultism", "Thinking", and "Steiner's Specific".]
I took quote #46, above, from the book THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY. Steiner began the first lecture in the book by mentioning his motive for discussing morality: "a certain impulse of mine, about which we may be able to speak further." [p. 3.] But as a footnote by the editors says, "During these lectures Steiner does not, in fact, explicitly speak further about his impulse for discussing the topic of morality." [p. 73.] This is par for Steiner’s course. He promised a lot, but he rarely if ever delivered. In this small instance, not much is lost. But overall, in Steiner's teachings as a whole, a great deal can be lost: reality, and our grasp of it, and the ability to see and think clearly. Waldorf teachers rarely relate Steiner's specific doctrines to their students, but they often steer students toward Steiner's way of thinking. Any educational program that leads children in such a direction has the potential to inflict terrible harm.
A final point: Consider what quote #46 tells us about the Anthroposophical conception of morality. Steiner’s statement, with its references to higher and lower races and Asian hordes, is itself immoral — deeply so. No spiritual truths can emerge from a system that contains such concepts. Steiner made his statement in 1912. SteinerBooks unapologetically republished the lecture containing it in 1995. Thoughts of the kind we see in this statement remain current in Anthroposophical circles.
One of Steiner's early books is THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, first published in 1894. In most of his teachings, Steiner stresses the value and significance of human freedom, yet the concept sits uneasily in the context of occultism. People are constrained in multiple ways, according to Steiner, not least by the consequences of their own actions, producing karma. If our original actions, establishing our early karma, were free, then the subsequent constraints put on us by karma would have been freely chosen, as it were. But Steiner said that we attained the possibility of freedom not at the beginning of our evolution but rather late, as a result of Lucifer's actions. (49) “Freedom is the result of the Luciferian influence.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Kessinger Publishing, 1998: reproduction of 1922 edition), pp. 229-230.
We became potentially free, Steiner said, because Lucifer worked to lure us from the proper course of our evolution. Thus, he gave us the option of choosing how to proceed — as we should, or as we shouldn't. That is, we can freely choose to make a grievous error that will possibly ruin us for all eternity, or we can freely decline to make this grievous error. If we decline, then we freely choose to stay on the right path (which we were on, anyway).
Philosophers have long debated the concept of free will. If we are biologically or otherwise determined by forces or conditions in the physical realm, we do not have free will. Likewise, if we live under the control of spiritual beings (such as an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God), we are not free. Yet we prize freedom, and our concept of justice, to give one example, depends on it. We are responsible for our own actions, and thus logically liable to punishment, only if we freely choose to act as we do. If forces beyond or control compel our actions, they and not we are responsible.
It's a conundrum. Steiner's doctrines are caught in this difficulty, perhaps no more than many other philosophies, but certainly no less. And his solution is not quite convincing. For instance, he said (50) ”The spirit...must not stand as a slave-driver over the soul, dominating it with laws and commandments; the soul must rather learn to follow these laws and duties out of its own free inclination. The student must not feel duty to be an oppressive power to which he unwillingly submits, but rather something which he performs out of love.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 96. By "spirit" he meant the human essence that represents the divine spiritual realm; by "soul" he meant the nonphysical human identity that alters during the process of reincarnation.
The nub of Steiner's position is that we must learn to willingly, freely accept spiritual laws and commandments. He said that, spiritually, this makes all the difference. Perhaps. Yet if we were already on the right path, and if we live in a universe of spiritual laws and commandments, veering from the right path and/or violating spiritual laws and commandments would be, at a minimum, foolish. And, if the laws and commandments are truly what these words indicate — i.e., inescapable cosmic requirements — then we cannot veer unless the laws and commandments somehow provide for this, in which case we remain under the laws and commandments even when we seem to depart from them.
It's a conundrum. In quotation 50, for instance, Steiner does not say that we can escape the laws and commandments, only that we should accept them freely, out of love. Is this just a variation of the old notion that we must learn to love our servitude, perhaps singing in our chains? Steiner doesn't mean it in this way, yet accepting cosmic necessity is the inherent requirement in his occult conception of freedom. (His earlier, more humanistic ideas, in early editions of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, are less constricted — but Steiner turned to occultism, and the gods' divine cosmic plan became paramount. Later editions of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM bend in the direction of such occult concepts.) Steiner's emphasis is on our subjective response to the laws and commandments, not on the laws and commandments themselves. We should follow the gods' plan of our own free will — but we should follow it (and our use of our free will was part of the gods' plan, so in acting "freely" as the gods want, we obey the gods).
Freedom is important in Steiner's doctrines; indeed, it is necessary for our ultimate evolution. But the concept of necessary freedom, or a freely accepted necessity, is self-contradicting. Steiner was not unique in tripping over this difficulty, but he did trip, and as a result his evolutionary scheme is badly weakened. Certainly the concept of free inquiry stands at odds with his indication that (51) "every criticism, every adverse judgment passed, disperses the powers of the soul for the attainment of higher knowledge." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 11. This is a prescription for obedience, not freedom: put aside your critical intelligence; don't think, venerate — and obey.
In Steiner's occult teachings, we really have only one choice, and it isn't much of a choice: We can walk the white path to divinity or slip down the black path to destruction. Now, let me think. Which path do I prefer? I know! I'll take the black path! And the result? (51a): "The purified world will develop above and beyond thee, and thou shalt be excluded from it. Thus thou wouldst tread the black path, while the others from whom thou didst sever thyself tread the white path." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1994), p. 152. Some choice.
For more on freedom as conceived by Steiner and pursued in Waldorf schools, see "Freedom".
Let’s continue with the story of our evolution. If you’ll recall, Steiner said that we were created somewhat mysteriously, not by the conscious act of a single God — or, anyway, not as far as we or Steiner or anyone can say. We emerged into a vague, very mildly physical (i.e., "warm") existence on/at/during Old Saturn. Then we and the solar system went away for a pralaya — what we might call a siesta or breather.
That is how Steiner usually described our beginnings, anyway. He wasn't always consistent. But let's push on. The next chapter occurred at/during/on Old Sun. We reemerged from absence into a slightly more physically realized existence than we had known during Old Saturn: We and the solar system entered a second incarnation, called Old Sun. Taking up solar existence, we became “air” instead of “warmth,” and work began on our etheric bodies. Our development was pushed along by the Dominions and other gods. We didn’t develop all that much, however. The purpose of evolution is to rise to higher and higher states of consciousness, eventually attaining divine consciousness rivaling or even exceeding that of the gods. But the first stages were extremely sluggish. During Old Saturn, we were effectively comatose. During Old Sun, we rose to the equivalent of deep, unconscious sleep.
52) [Sleep, Sleep] “Man now passes [i.e., passed] through his second stage of consciousness on the Sun [i.e., during Old Sun]. It resembles that into which today man sinks during a calm and dreamless sleep. This condition, which interrupts man's state of wakefulness today, is a remainder, as it were, a memory of the time of the Sun development [i.e., dreamless sleep today is a version of our consciousness during Old Sun]. One can also compare it with that dull state of consciousness in which the world of plants exists today. As a matter of fact, in the plant [i.e., any plant, such as a rutabaga] one must see a sleeping being.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), p. 175.
The "Sun" that we lived "on," way back when, was not yet a star; it was a "planet" (technically, a "planetary condition"), although a very tenuous one. It was a ball of Sun-stuff extending all the way out to the present orbit of Jupiter. This, according to Steiner, meant that the Sun filled the entire solar system. (Steiner excluded Uranus and Neptune from the solar system, for occult reasons.) Indeed, like the other conditions of consciousness past and future, Old Sun was an evolutionary stage of the entire solar system. Everything that exists today in the solar system, including ourselves, existed then as a single semi-physical mass or amalgam. Nothing had yet split off to become a separate body — there were no planets, no Earth, no Moon. There was the Old Sun, there were gods (who traced their beginnings to other solar systems and thus were not precisely in or of our solar system), and there was us — in our semi-physical, airy, undifferentiated solar condition. [See Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Company, 1928), lecture 5, GA 110.]
53) [Being Helped] Here’s how things went for us on the Sun. First, we recapitulated our previous existence on Saturn. (According to both Theosophy and Anthroposophy, evolution entails an almost infinite number of recapitulations: Each time we take a step forward, we have to repeat — in new, higher form — all the steps we took before.) In the process, many spiritual beings — gods — worked on us, as they and other gods would continue to do at later stages of our evolution. “What can be observed during the first Sun cycle [i.e., the first phase of the Old Sun period]...is the labor of the 'Spirits of Wisdom' (Dominions or Kyriotetes in Christian esoteric doctrine [gods six levels above humanity]). They have [i.e., had] intervened in the development of man around the middle of the first Saturn cycle [i.e., during the middle phase of Old Saturn] ... [They] now continue their labor during the first half of the first Sun cycle by repeating in successive stages the wise arrangement of the physical body [i.e., these gods worked further on developing our physical bodies (which we would not receive for a long time yet), building upon the design previously laid out]. A little later this labor is joined by that of the 'Spirits of Motion' (Dynamis in Christianity, Mahat in theosophical literature [gods five levels above humanity]). Thereby that period of the Saturn cycle is repeated during which the human body received the capacity of motion.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959 ), chapter 15, GA 11.
Steiner goes on to list other spiritual beings who contributed to our solar progress, including Archai (gods three levels above us) and archangels (gods two levels above us). Bear in mind that on the Sun, we were not yet really human. We were more like plants, actually (I’ll develop this development further, below). Just as the Archai (Spirits of Personality) passed through their human stage while we were on Saturn, the archangels (Fire-Spirits) were human during our Sun period. One remarkable fact about this: The behavior of the "human" archangels on Old Sun, like the behavior of the "human" Archai on Old Saturn, is not at all what we Earth humans, today, are capable of. Steiner’s conception of what it means to be human was quite elastic. At root, he meant that an entity becomes "human" when it develops its "I" — its spark of divinity, its spiritual individuality.
The Old Sun spun or rotated (just as Old Saturn did, only more so). This spinning created separations of the basic spirit/matter of the Sun into higher and lower spirit/matter stuff. Among the condensing stuff was the stuff that would eventually become our physical selves today. The overall schema is that during our evolution we grew more and more densely physical until the present day. We are now about as dense as we will ever be (unless we are evil, get denser yet, and fall into the Eighth Sphere). In the near future, we will begin becoming more and more spiritual again. (This is Steiner’s solution to a conundrum: Why does the universe that we see around us bear no relationship whatsoever to the universe Steiner described? And why are we, and all other living things, and all other inanimate things, and all observable processes and patterns, so completely different from what Steiner described? Well, children, it just so happens that we live in a period when the truth of Steiner’s doctrines is hidden, because ours is such a very densely physical period. But in your past incarnations, you could have seen that Steiner was right; and you’ll see this again in future incarnations. So hang on — all will be revealed, in time. This will, sadly, take a long, long time, however: Steiner taught that we reincarnate once every 2,166 years, give or take a few. So, if you have doubts about Steiner's doctrines now, in twenty or so centuries from now, proofs of Steiner's correctness will begin to blossom all around you.)
"On" Saturn we were essentially minerals, as it were, and "on" the Sun we were essentially plant, so to speak. "On" our next go-round, the Old Moon, we will be animals, sort of. And then, during our fourth condition of consciousness, "on" Earth, we will finally become human. (I have put "on" in quotation marks to remind us that Steiner was talking about events happening during various phases of evolution. He himself often spoke of things happening "on" or even "in" various "planets," when what he meant (usually) was events happening during planetary conditions, which he also called conditions of consciousness: the mega-stages of our evolution. Keeping all these things straight takes a bit of work. If you find yourself confused at any point, checking various terms (Sun, Old Sun, planet, planetary stages...) in the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia may help. You might also consult "Planets".)
54) [Mineral Level] “[I]n Saturn [i.e., during Old Saturn], man's physical body had been formed [i.e., conceived]. The latter was completely lifeless at that time [i.e., we did not yet inhabit such bodies]. Such a lifeless body is called mineral by mystery science [i.e., “spiritual science” — in essence, Anthroposophy]. One can therefore also say that on Saturn man was mineral, or he passed through the mineral realm. This human mineral did not have the form of a present-day mineral. Minerals as they are at present, did not yet exist at that time [nothing now is what it was then, for the reason I explained above].” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959 ), chapter 15, GA 11.
55) [Competition] Steiner proceeded to explain that, "on" the Sun, we shed from our essence the substances that would later become present-day minerals. Our evolution entails many such sheddings; we climb upward by tossing overboard bits of ourselves. These bits become members of lowly kingdoms of various sorts. Thus, there is something rather invidious about our story, although Steiner doesn’t see it that way; rather, it is just how things work in the wide cosmos. We advance by pushing other beings (coming from within ourselves or otherwise) lower: “It can be seen that man ascends into a higher realm by thrusting a part of his companions down into a lower. We shall see this process repeating itself many times in the subsequent stages of development. It corresponds to a fundamental law of development." — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959 ), chapter 15, GA 11.*
56) [Overview] Steiner helpfully provided a summary of our Sun/plant period. See what you think:
◊ The "Sun" is the "planet" "on" which develops the second human condition of consciousness, that of dreamless sleep. The physical human body rises to a kind of plant existence through the incorporation of an ether body into it.
◊ This development passes through seven subsidiary stages (smaller cycles or “rounds”).
◊ In the first of these cycles the stages of development of Saturn are repeated [or recapitulated], with respect to the physical body, in a somewhat altered form.
◊ At the end of the first cycle begins the pouring out of [i.e., the development of] the ether body by the “Spirits of Wisdom.”
◊ In the middle of the second cycle, the work of the “Spirits of Motion” on this body begins.
◊ In the middle of the third cycle. the action of the “Spirits of Form” on the ether body has its beginning.
◊ From the middle of the fourth cycle onward, this body receives selfhood through the “Spirits of Personality” [gods three levels above humanity].
◊ In the meantime, the physical body has advanced so far through the action of the forces which have been working on it since earlier periods that from the fourth cycle onward the “Spirits of Fire” [gods two levels above us] can elevate themselves to humanity through it [i.e., these gods — also called archangels — reach their “human” phase during Old Sun].
◊ In the middle of the fifth cycle, the “Spirits of Fire"... take over the work on the ether body. The “Sons of Twilight” [gods on level above humanity] are active in the physical body at this time.
◊ Around the middle of the sixth cycle. the work on the ether body is transferred to the “Sons of Twilight,” Man himself now works on the physical body [bearing in mind that we are not yet human and we do not yet inhabit the physical body we will have on Earth].
◊ In the course of the seventh cycle, the animated monad has come into existence. [Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959), chapter 15, GA 11.] The animated monad is atma-buddhi, the germ of our later spiritual essence. More generally, a monad is a self-enclosed being. We become monads when we, in our souls, carry our individuality through life and lives. [See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, INITIATION, ETERNITY, AND THE PASSING MOMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1980), p 44.] The sum of all monads is Monad, the macrocosmic human, Christ. [See Rudolf Steiner, CORRESPONDENCE AND DOCUMENTS 1901-1925 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), p. 83.]
Our life "on" was followed by another pralaya — we and the solar system once again dropped out of existence for a while in order to recuperate. In a future episode, we’ll move along to our next major evolutionary period, Old Moon.
* 57) [More Competition] This is the struggle for existence, Steinerstyle. Anthroposophists often overlook the violence and strife in Steiner’s doctrines. But these are present and undeniable. In our own time, for example, the whites will soon need to overcome nonwhites in order to clear the stage for future human evolution: “[T]hese things cannot happen in the world without the most violent struggle. White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human being [i.e., colored mankind is at a lower stage than whites; they have not incorporated spirit into their physical bodies]. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas. And world history will consist of those events that will lead to these battles between white and colored mankind until the great fight between white and colored mankind has been brought about. Future events are frequently reflected in previous events. You see, we stand before something so colossal that, if we regard it through the diverse perceptions of spiritual science, we will in the future recognize it as a necessary occurrence.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE GEISTIGEN HINTERGRÜNDE DES ERSTEN WELTKRIEGES (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1974), GA 174b, p. 38.
The connection between planetary conditions such as Old Sun and the present-day members of our solar system can seem less than crystal-clear. Steiner liked to keep things vague; he liked to speak and write mystically, as he presumably thought an occult master should. In some instances, the present orbs (the planets we see overhead, including the Sun and Moon) are evolutionary descendants of their ancient namesakes (Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon). In other cases, today's planets are predecessors of their future namesakes (Future Jupiter, Future Venus, Future Vulcan) But some planets existing now — Mars, Mercury — have no such namesakes, past or future. They trace their lineages elsewhere/elsewhen. As for Uranus and Neptune, Steiner denied that they are really members of our solar system. Thus, he had little to say about them as orbs existing today, and there are no Uranian or Neptunian planetary conditions in our evolution.
Even if we set all that aside and just consider the planets in our sky as they exist now, there is nothing simple about them, as Steiner defined these things. Here are a few indications. [For more, see "Planets", "Planetary Humans", and "Planetary Spirits".]
58) [Luciferland] Venus, for instance, is a husk tossed off by Lucifer. “Lucifer himself takes part in Earth evolution with the perpetual longing within himself for his true home, for the star [sic] Venus ... [W]hat Lucifer casts off as a husk...as the physical body is cast off by the human soul at death, shines down from heaven as Venus.” — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 77.
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59) [Marsworld, Moonville] Mars is an inhabited planet. Steiner said that Mars is a warlike place, yet he said that some Martians are “beneficent beings who, compared even with the mildest human nature, are yet much, much milder — in their speech too, very mild and gentle. The speech of these beings has not that aridity of human language ... [T]hey inhabit Mars and are in fact the main population — as certain human races are the principal population on our earth ... [Where] love and kindliness prevail, where humanitarianism is unfolded, there you find the mild, gentle Mars beings present [i.e., the influences of Martians extend down to us] ... [T]he preponderance of moon beings or Mars beings...circling through a man gives his lymph its special character [i.e., inhabitants of Mars and the Moon actually enter our bodily constitutions]. If more moon beings circulate through his body he is a man who inclines more easily to wrong-doing [sic], irritation, and anger, if more Mars beings, then he is a man who is more inclined to gentleness, kindliness, mildness.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS, lecture 10, GA 354.
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60) [Vulcan In the Sky, By and By] Steiner generally affirmed the occultist belief that our solar system includes a hidden planet: Vulcan. Some astrologers contend that Vulcan is actually Mercury, but others say that Vulcan is a separate planet, orbiting the Sun more closely than Mercury itself does. Astronomers have never seen Vulcan, and they point out that there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of Vulcan, but occultists counter than of course Vulcan hasn't been seen: It hides behind Mercury, or behind the Sun, or it is lost in the glare of the Sun. In any case, Vulcan is quite real. Moreover, according to Steiner, Vulcan's namesake — Future Vulcan — will become our final evolutionary stage (unless other, hidden stages follow it).
By any measure, Vulcan is a fascinating place. According to Steiner, humans dispersed to the various planets at one stage in our history, and some went to Vulcan. Later the people who went to planet Vulcan returned to planet Earth. And native Vulcan beings (nonhuman occupants of Vulcan) have come to planet Earth as well. "You will remember the passage in the book OCCULT SCIENCE [i.e., Steiner's book of this title] dealing with the time when the human souls ascended to the planets and afterwards descended once more to earth-existence. I spoke of how the Mars-men, the Jupiter-men and the others descended again to earth. Now an event of great significance came to pass at the end of the seventies of last century [i.e., the 1870s]. It is an event that can be described only in the light of facts which are revealed to us in the spiritual world [i.e., only spiritual facts (revealed through clairvoyance) can explain it]. Whereas in the days of old Atlantis human beings came down to the earth from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and so on — that is to say, beings of soul were drawn into the realm of earth-existence* — since the end of the seventies of last century, other Beings — not of the human order — have been descending to the earth for the purposes of their further development. From cosmic realms beyond the earth they come down to the earth and enter into a definite relationship with human beings. Since the eighties of the nineteenth century, super-earthly Beings have been seeking to enter the sphere of earth-existence. Just as the Vulcan-men were the last to come down to the earth so now Vulcan Beings are actually coming into the realm of earthly existence ... [This is a serious matter:] Super-earthly Beings are already here, and the fact that we are able to have a connected body of Spiritual Science at all today is due to the circumstance that Beings from beyond the earth are bringing the messages from the spiritual world down into earth-existence (! Spiritual science, i.e., Anthroposophy, exists because Vulcan Beings and other super-beings are bringing us messages!] ... Today people may consider it comparatively harmless to elaborate only those automatic, lifeless thoughts which arise in connection with the mineral world and the mineral nature of plant, animal and man [i.e., people today see no harm in confining themselves to the dreary, dead thinking produced by that physical organ, the brain]. Materialists revel in such thoughts which are — well — thoughts and nothing more. But try to imagine what will happen if men go on unfolding no other kinds of thoughts until the time is reached in the eighth millennium for the moon-existence to unite again with the earth [Steiner said that the Moon will return and merge with the Earth]. These Beings of whom I have spoken will gradually come down to the earth. Vulcan Beings, ‘Supermen’ of Vulcan, ‘Supermen’ of Venus, of Mercury, of the Sun, will unite with this earth-existence. But if human beings persist in nothing but opposition to them, earth-existence will pass over into chaos in the course of the next few thousand years." — Rudolf Steiner, "A Picture of Earth-Evolution in the Future" (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1960), GA 204. For more on Vulcan, see "Vulcan". For more on thinking — dead and living — see "Thinking".]
* As usual, Steiner was being mystical and potentially confusing, here. If we take his interjected explanation ("that is to say...") to mean that human souls went to the soul regions controlled by planetary forces (the "spheres" of the various planets) before resuming life in the spiritual "realm of earth existence," then we may think he did not mean that humans went from Earth to other planets. But actually, he did. Each physical planet, in his teachings, is also a spiritual realm — because everything physical is essentially spiritual. But the planets do exist as physical locations, in the solar system here and now, and they existed in all of the earlier phases of the Present Earth stage of evolution (albeit they existed then in different form than they embody today). Indeed, the physical existence of the planets is necessary for the existence of the "spheres" of the planets as described by Steiner. In Steiner's teachings, a planet's "sphere" is the region of the solar system inside that planet's orbit: this is the region of the solar system under the spiritual/astrological influence of that planet. [See "Higher Worlds".] So, traveling in any sense from Earth to a planet or to the sphere of that planet means, in a basic sense, going to the part of the solar system occupied or controlled by that planet — as a spiritual entity but also as a physical entity. (All of this is complicated by Steiner's self-contradictions about planetary orbits. Sometimes he said that planets orbit the Sun, sometimes he said they don't. [See "Deception".] But either way, he meant planets that have physical existence in the solar system.) In short, going to soul regions controlled by planetary forces (planetary “spheres”) means going to the planets as spiritual, astrological, but also physical presences in our solar system. Going "to the planets" means much the same. "[W]hen the human souls ascended to the planets,” they were going to locations in our solar system — spiritual/astrological/physical locations.
• ◊ •
60a) [Planets, As It Were] Steiner tried to clear such matters up, thus:
"In the fourth and sixth chapters of this book it was described how the World to which Man belongs, and Man himself, evolve through the successive states called ‘Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan.’ Some indication was also given of how human evolution is related to the existing heavenly bodies other than the Earth — Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, for example. They too are of course evolving, and in their present stage of evolution the physical part of them is perceptible to our senses in the forms known to physical Astronomy as ‘Saturn’, ‘Jupiter’, ‘Mars’ and the rest.
"Seen in the light of spiritual science, the present Saturn is a kind of reincarnation of Old Saturn. It came into existence because, before the Sun had separated from the Earth, Beings were there who would not have been able to leave with the Sun. They were so much imbued with Saturnian characteristics that they could not live where Solar properties above all were to be developed. So too the present Jupiter arose because Beings were there with characteristics which cosmic evolution as a whole will be unfolding in the future Jupiter and not till then. Mars on the other hand is a heavenly body inhabited by Beings whose evolution on Old Moon was such that they could not have benefited from any further progress upon Earth. Mars is a reincarnation of Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for Beings who are ahead of earthly evolution in that they have developed certain earthly qualities in a higher form than is possible upon the Earth herself. Likewise the present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future Venus state.
"Such are the reasons for naming the past and future stages of World-evolution after the heavenly bodies — their present representatives, as it were, in the Cosmos." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 328-329.
Let's return, briefly, to the original, miscellaneous format for Steiner Static. And let's start with a replay. It is hard to believe that Steiner said many of the things that he said. It is especially hard to believe that he considered some people subhuman, and made no bones about it. Yet he did:
47) [Subhumans] “[I]n our time certain supernumerary [excess, unneeded] people are appearing who have no 'I' [spiritual ego] and are therefore not human beings in the full sense of the word.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND THE WORK OF THE PRIEST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 180.
Note that Steiner made this very charitable remark when discussing his concept of religion. In the same discussion, he added:
61a) [Subhumans, cont.] “[P]eople who have healthy souls suffer as a consequence of those who go about as human locusts.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND THE WORK OF THE PRIEST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 181.
Elsewhere, he said the following about the benighted modern people (who, he said, are not really "human people"):
61b) [Subhumans, cont.] “When we today — permeated even a little with anthroposophical consciousness — take a walk in the streets, we no longer see human people; rather we see moles that move about in the smallest of circles....” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 92.
61c) [Subhumans, cont.] Walking the streets, Steiner did not see "human people." But he taught that subhumans should be treated kindly, since they may not all be irremediably evil. Some “might be retarded souls who have come back from another planet to which almost the whole of humanity once went....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2008), p. 182.
"Supernumerary people ... Human locusts ... Moles ... Retarded souls." But enough of that. I feel an obligation to inform parents: If you send a child to a Steiner school, you should understand what Rudolf Steiner taught. Some of his teachings are quite awful. But of course some are less objectionable, at least on moral grounds. So let's push on:
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62) [They’re Alive!] Our thoughts create spiritual beings who live, for real, in the spirit realm — or so Steiner said. Consider the plays of Shakespeare, for instance. Shakespeare's thoughts and writings created real beings who live on, up above. And we can create more such beings if we stage Shakespeare's plays properly. (Bear in mind, Steiner meant all of this quite literally.) “When you make Shakespearean characters living [i.e., “bring them to life”]...you can raise them into the supersensible world where they remain living. Of course, they do not do in the higher worlds what they do on the physical plane, but they remain alive, nevertheless, and they act there.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 336. Let’s hope Caliban behaves himself.
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63) [Pachyderm Peculiarity] “When death approaches — this is the peculiar thing with pachyderms — these animals feel this particularly strongly ... Their instinct then makes them go into caves. People tend not to look for them in those earth caves. If they were to look for them there they would find more dead elephants in the regions where elephants are. They are not found in the open.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM ELEPHANTS TO EINSTEIN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.
Steiner accepted the myth that elephants have special graveyards, and he added the nice twist that the graveyards are inside caves. But there's a good reason why people don't generally look for elephant bones inside caves. Can you guess what it is?
As for the whole idea of elephant graveyards, the benighted ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA says "Evidence does not substantiate the existence of so-called 'elephant graveyards,' where elephants supposedly gather to die." — "elephant." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 27 Jan. 2009. But what does the BRITANNICA know? Very possibly staffed by human locusts, that institution wouldn't recognize a living occult truth if it fell out of the sky onto their heads (i.e., out of the "supersensible world" where Caliban is romping around, or possibly out of Vulcan).
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Let's linger over Steiner’s supremely silly statement about elephant graveyards. Our natural inclination on reading such piffle is to shake our heads, laugh, and move on. But that would be a mistake. There’s a lot to be learned from Steiner’s silliness — the elephant quote gives us Steiner’s method in a nutshell.
Steiner almost never met a legend, superstition, old wives’ take, myth, fantasy, or fairy tale that he didn’t like. This was his material, the stuff he took seriously (as opposed to real information, of the sort that science and rational scholarship produce). Thus, he said that ghosts exist; Atlantis existed; bulls hate red; black magicians are busily at work; there is a universal ether; there are goblins in the ground; there are fairies in the air; we can communicate with the dead; astrology is for real; and so forth and so on. [See "Steiner's Blunders".]
Anthroposophy is Steiner’s Theory of Everything [see "Everything"], although he said it is not a theory, it is the Truth. If ever you are tempted to believe him, ask yourself whether you are prepared to join an expedition looking for elephant bones in caves.
Think about the caves Steiner mentioned, the ones where he said elephants go to die. Steiner accepted huge quantities of nonsense and misinformation, but he typically altered it, putting his own interpretation on it so that it fit into his overall design. Anthroposophists find this enormously persuasive. This is the “inner logic” of Anthroposophy: See? Everything fits! Elephants, ghosts, Atlantis, bulls, magic, the dead, the stars ... Steiner’s vision encompasses them all!
Well, yes and no. Yes, he pieced everything together in a huge superstructure of unsubstantiated invention. But no, this doesn’t make any of it sensible. Elephants don’t have graveyards, in caves or anywhere else. Goblins don’t exist. Horoscopes don’t work. Etc. Piecing fantasies together doesn’t make the fantasies true.
And notice how Steiner did the piecing. In order to make each piece fit, he got out his scissors and Magic Markers — he cut and colored, changing each piece out of recognition. King Arthur was a high pre-Anthroposophical initiate. Jehovah is an demiurge who lives on the Moon. Jesus is the Sun God. Goblins are physical beings, but they happen to be invisible. Buddha went to Mars, at the behest of Christian Rosenkreutz. The canals on Mars are actually wind patterns. And so on. And so on. And so on.
This, ladies and gents, is Anthroposophy. Anyone who wants to believe it is free to do so. And anyone who wants to send their kids to a school that stands upon such thinking is free to do so. But if you must send children to a Waldorf school, please do it with your eyes open. At the Waldorf school I attended, our little school library had multiple books about UFOs, dragons, and other fantasies — presented as truth. I was taught that different races embody different stages of human development. I was taught that animals evolved from humans. I was taught that science is unreliable and technology is evil. I was told, and assigned, innumerable myths and legends (especially Steiner’s favorites: Norse myths). I was required to recite prayers written by Rudolf Steiner. I was required to do forms of dance, and create types of paintings, intended to connect me to the spirit realm. I was directed to use my imagination, not logic; intuition, not research. And so on. And so on. And so on.
My teachers, you see, believed Steiner. In retrospect, I am stunned to realize this, but so it was: I was “educated” by people who believed Steiner and his pieced-together, cut-and-colored fantasies.
Send your kids to a Waldorf school, by all means, if you must. But, please, do it with your eyes open.
By the way, Steiner did not originate all of the inventions we find in his teachings. He read and drew upon many, many books. Bad books, mainly; silly books. Books espousing occultism, esotericism, gnosticism, and the like. He was especially influenced by Helena Blavatsky's THE SECRET DOCTRINE, which he considered one of the great works of all time.
To see how Steiner reconfigured Christianity to suit his design, see "Was He Christian?" To glimpse the ties between Steiner's teachings and Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism, and Theosophy, see "Gnosis", "Rosy Cross", and "Basics".
Sometimes I step back, breathe deeply, and dismiss Steiner from my mind for a while. The result inevitably is that I'm shocked and amazed when I return — Anthroposophists believe what? Waldorf teachers do what? Renewing this sense of shock can be productive. Steiner made many, many bizarrely loony statements, and some people sign aboard. "Sounds good to me," they say. "Yes indeed, I'll buy that." Wow.
Here are some more examples.
64) [How People Become Lowly Nature Spirits] Imagine a human who becomes too fully involved in the things of the physical world. The Earth and its meritorious occupants will keep evolving toward spirituality and away from physical existence, but this delinquent won’t evolve upward with the good people and planet. So, eventually, after everyone else has risen to a higher level, he will find himself stranded, unable to keep reincarnating because there will be no more lowly, physical bodies remaining for him to incarnate into. Thus, he will cease to be human at all but will return as a subordinate nature spirit — that is, a subhuman wretch trapped inside the forces of the physical universe. He and other, similar wretches will later show up during humanity's next condition of consciousness, Future Jupiter, making selfish, destructive demands for love. “The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They must cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution ... Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch...as subordinate nature-spirits. In fact the human race will furnish a whole number of such new nature-spirits ... [T]here will appear upon [Future] Jupiter the destructive forces of love from beings who have remained behind. Into the midst of the general tapestry of the Jupiter existence will be set the hideous forms of the retarded beings with egoistic demands for love....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 70. [For more on nature spirits, see "Neutered Nature".]
This is certainly a serious problem. Those retarded Jovians with their egoistic demands for love are gonna be a trial for the rest of us, no doubt about it.
Nature spirits have no true spiritual essence — they are nonphysical and invisible, like real spirits, but they are inferior beings. [See "Neutered Nature".] The main types of nature spirits are sylphs, undines, fire-beings, and gnomes. Some of these seem quite nice — sylphs, for instance, fly around through the air like little winged pixies. But other nature spirits are more clearly problematic. Gnomes, for instance, are also known as goblins. Steiner had a lot to say about goblins, much of it fairly surprising, Did you know, for instance, that the Moon will eventually meld with the Earth? (Science says not, but Steiner said so.) Goblins are eager for this to happen, because then they will have access to lunar forces that will enable them to destroy the Earth as a physical globe:
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65) [Goblins and the Moon] “[A]t the present time the moon is continually approaching nearer ... Each year the moon is actually nearer the earth ... And to this coming nearer of the moon the attentiveness of these goblins is quite specially directed ... They await with intense expectation the epoch when the moon will again unite with the earth...for they will then use the moon substance gradually to disperse the earth, as far as its outer substance is concerned, into the universe. Its substance must pass away ... [W]hen one looks at this process from the aspect of the gnomes, one gains a...picture how our earth would appear if all the water were taken away from it ... [O]ne receives the impression that this is really the united gnome-world of the old Moon. The predecessors of our Earth-gnomes, the Moon-gnomes, gathered together their Moon-experiences and from them fashioned this structure, this firm structure of the solid fabric of the Earth, so that our solid Earth-structure actually arose from the experiences of the gnomes of the old Moon.” — Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970), lecture 9, GA 230.
The Moon goblins created the rocky, waterless structure of the Earth. But now the Earth goblins want to disperse the Earth. A word of reassurance: Don’t worry about it. According to astronomers, the Moon is actually drawing farther away from the Earth, and it has been doing so for millennia. Our point here is just to note how bizarre some of Steiner's teachings are. Gnomes created the physical Earth (thank you), and eventually they will disassemble it (thank you — humans at that stage won't need it any more). Gnomes are good guys, in a sense. But not so very good. They are, at best, amoral: (65a — replaying 25c): “There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion — it is as if something were to scatter us. They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.
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66) [True Dreams] Moving right along...
How did Steiner "know" all the astonishing things that he "knew"? And how can we acquire such "knowledge"? Steiner said that his main tool was clairvoyance. He claimed to possess very high powers of clairvoyance — he called his abilities "exact clairvoyance" (meaning his clairvoyant "findings" are essentially unquestionable, since they are so precise). [See, e.g., "Clairvoyance" and "Exactly".] He preached that others can develop similar powers, by following his instructions. [See "Knowing the Worlds".] He outlined some of the necessary exercises and methods in a book that has been published under such titles as KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT and HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. In this text, he explains that other sources of supernal wisdom will blossom once we make sufficient progress. Dreams, for instance, will become coherent and accurate: We will be able to accept our dreams as true reports from the great beyond:
"[C]hanges...occur in our dream life when we undertake the ascent to higher knowledge. Our dreams lose their meaningless, disorderly, and disconnected character and begin to form an increasingly regular, lawful, and coherent world. As we evolve further, this new dream-born world not only becomes the equal of outer sensory reality with regard to inner truth, but also reveals facts depicting, in the full sense of the word, a higher reality." — Rudolf Steiner, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS (Anthroposophic Press, 1994), p. 163.
Steiner's system is, in reality, a methodology of self-deception. People who believe their dreams are dangers to themselves and to others; they no longer see the dividing line between reality and fantasy. Think of a Waldorf school teacher who dreams about your child and then, starting the next day, bases assignments and other activities on this dream. Think about that awhile.
(Other components of Steiner's system include astrology, numerology, and even phrenology. It would be nice, perhaps, if some of these things worked — if the universe were a magical place of wondrous powers that we can learn to control. But although we may want the universe to be that way, it isn't. The real universe is quite wonderful, but not in ways that boil down to fantasy and delusion. Yet all of us, in various ways, wish for magic and marvels. To probe into this a bit, see, e.g., "Fooling (Ourselves)" and "Why? Oh Why?".)
This is the end of Part I of STEINER STATIC.
To reach Part II, please use this link:
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 7. IN THEIR OWN WORDS ◊◊◊