SUN AT MIDNIGHT
Rudolf Steiner is largely unknown except within the circle of his devoted followers. One consequence is that almost everything written about Steiner and his teachings comes from within that circle. Much of it amounts to uncritical celebration. Finding balanced, reliable works about Steiner is difficult.
Geoffrey Ahern has helped fill the void with his book SUN AT MIDNIGHT (James Clark & Co., 2009). Ahern, a Fellow of the Center for Leadership Studies, Exeter University (in the U.K.), has carefully researched the Steiner movement, which centers on Anthroposophy — the cult-like religion Steiner created — and Waldorf schools, educational institutions that have proliferated around the world, working subtly to spread the Anthroposophical faith.
SUN AT MIDNIGHT is too short. At 279 pages, it cannot fully explore the work of a man who published many books and delivered thousands upon thousands of lectures on a stunningly wide array of subjects. Nonetheless, Ahern's book is extremely informative — indeed, it is fascinating. Anyone who is attracted to Anthroposophy, Waldorf schools (also called Steiner schools), biodynamic agriculture, Anthroposophical medicine, or any of the other offshoots of Steiner's thinking, should read it.
The brevity of the book has one great advantage: SUN AT MIDNIGHT is inviting and accessible in ways that a massive tome would not be. The writing is clear and concise, if somewhat dry. Most readers may find that they need to pause often, struggling with the strange concepts in and around Steiner's occult belief system. But because the book is short, it is unintimidating.
Ahern makes a few minor errors, as virtually anyone will who attempts to summarize Steiner's vast, occult, murky, and sometimes self-contradictory canon. And there are a few errors I consider major. In his evident effort to be fair-minded, Ahern bends over backwards too far sometimes, minimizing such troubling matters as the racism that is deeply imbedded in Anthroposophy. He is also, in my opinion, too ready to take Steiner at his word, thus failing to adequately investigate the possibility that Steiner was a fraud who claimed powers ("exact clairvoyance") that do not and cannot exist. Startlingly, the book's extensive index contains no entry for clairvoyance, although the entire body of Steiner's occult teachings rests on his professed clairvoyant abilities. Take away clairvoyance, and Anthroposophy crashes to the ground. [And we almost certainly can dismiss claims of clairvoyance: They are bogus. See "Clairvoyance".]*
Still, by and large, Ahern is an excellent guide. SUN AT MIDNIGHT has chapters that outline Steiner's life, the history of Anthroposophy, and the organizational structure of Anthroposophy. Most major tenets of the faith are examined, and they are reviewed in the context of Western religious, gnostic, and occult traditions. Helpful tables at the end of the book summarize some of Steiner's key doctrines.
There is no chapter devoted to Waldorf schools, but references to the schools appear throughout the book, and these are easily found thanks to the index. Likewise, particular subjects important to an understanding of the Waldorf curriculum — such as eurythmy — are detailed in the index.
In all, SUN AT MIDNIGHT is nearly indispensable reading for anyone who wants a balanced, informative, and sensible (albeit incomplete) examination of Rudolf Steiner and his brainchildren.
— Roger Rawlings
* This omission was later adjusted in an extended index posted online: http://www.sun-at-midnight.com/contents.page?indexterm=clairvoyance#index.
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