Whether Anthroposophy contains superstitions depends on how we define “superstition.”
Guided largely by A DICTIONARY OF SUPERSTITIONS (Oxford University Press, 1992),
I will use this definition:
Superstitions are supernatural beliefs that run contrary to both orthodoxy and reason.
By this definition, many Anthroposophical beliefs and activities
— including those found in Waldorf schools — are superstitious.
[Omens] “It can come to pass for humanity if we interpret in the right sense the omen of Halley's Comet....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE REAPPEARANCE OF CHRIST IN THE ETHERIC (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), lecture 5, GA 118.
What is “it”? Doesn’t matter. Nothing can come to pass on the basis of omens.
Belief in omens is a superstition.
[Divination] “At the present day if we see things as they are, it may be said that although individual persons, if they possess certain powers of intuition and forces of divination, may be so permeated by the words of the Gospels as to form some idea of what took place at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha....” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC AND HUMAN METAMORPHOSES (Kessinger Publishing, 2006), p. 8.
How does this sentence end? Doesn’t matter.
The point is Steiner’s belief in divination (divining the future).
Belief in divination is a superstition, IMO.
[Seances, Mediums] “[A] medium becomes talkative and allows his own organs of speech to articulate spiritual things....” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press 1998), p. 80.
[Magic] “The black magician, therefore, employs Moon forces that still exist on Earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, TRUE AND FALSE PATHS IN SPIRITUAL INITIATION (Kessinger, 2003), p. 149.
Ditto. And ditto for the following:
[Hocus-Pocus] ”The sign of black magic is a pentagram with one point at the bottom, through which magicians attract bad forces from the earth and send them out of the two top horns into the environment by means of their bad will in order to use soul and nature forces for their own egotistical, evil purposes.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM THE CONTENTS OF ESOTERIC CLASSES (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 148.
[Star Forces] “[J]ust as the physical forces of the stars have an influence on the earth, so do their spiritual powers also have an influence on the earth, and above all on the human being.” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999 ), p. 55.
[Star Forces] “[W]hat he is seeing is something that depends on the forces of the stars working together in a specific constellation at a certain spot.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HUMAN DOUBLE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 184.
[Star Forces] “[F]orces come in one form direct from the zodiac.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 38.
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993.]
[Beings in the Mist] “In flowing and running water, in mists dissolving into water, also in the winds and the lightning flashing through the air, in all these, you have to look for the physical body of Angelic beings. “ — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1929), lecture 7, GA 110.
Belief in angels is not a superstition.
But do you think the bodies of invisible beings are revealed in
running water, mists, wind, and lightning?
Steiner passed over, here, from theology to superstition, IMO.
And bear in mind, the beings he said we can find in the mist
are not the spirits mentioned in the Bible.
In Steiner's teachings, the invisible beings include “nature spirits,”
such as nymphs and gnomes.
Here are three clarifying quotes:
It is “possible for occult vision to have an impression of other beings standing immediately behind the veil of nature ... This is especially the case if we devote ourselves to the peculiar play of a body of water tossing in a waterfall and giving clouds of spray, if we yield ourselves to the forming and dissolving of mist and to watery vapour....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 28-29.
Who are these beings? People used to have natural clairvoyance,
which allowed them to “perceive” the beings that hide behind nature:
“Imagine what the people of ancient times perceived, entrancing them, pouring through their heads, till they exclaimed, 'Ah, the nymphs! Ah, the gnomes!” — Rudolf Steiner, ISIS MARY SOPHIA (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 230.
You see, Steiner said that goblins, et al, really exist:
“[G]oblins or gnomes feel themselves to be of quite special importance.” — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), p. 145.
“There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision...goblins, gnomes and so forth.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS, pp. 62-3.
Superstition, in my book.
[Telepathy, Telekinesis and So Forth] “In the premature oncoming of old age man experiences...telepathy, telekinesis and so forth.” — Rudolf Steiner, LECTURES TO TEACHERS (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), p. 27.
“A person may draw the last period of life too much into middle age and, with it, experience abnormal relationships with the external world, manifesting as lower forms of clairvoyance, such as telepathy.” — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY: Body, Soul, and Spirit in Waldorf Education (SteinerBooks, 2003), pp. 57-58.
“The method applied at Dornach [i.e., at the Anthroposophical headquarters] can be designated as “exact clairvoyance” ... Acquiring this kind of exact clairvoyance by a strictly methodical process.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (SteinerBooks, 1995), pp. 205-206.
But all of this is superstition;
telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance
(exact of otherwise) — such things do not exist.
Many of Steiner’s superstitions (IMO) can be found in
fields where he claimed to offer “practical” advice,
such as medicine and agriculture.
Here are a few medical superstitions he promoted:
[Nutritional Nonsense] “[I]t would be incorrect to allow children to eat too much fattening food. If [we] do so, since the fat blocks the spirit-soul [the human combined spirit and soul], the head separates from the spirit-soul and becomes empty.” — Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND, (Steiner Books, 1987), p. 196.
[Disease and the Stars] “We must ask ourselves: In what constellation were we living when, in the nineties, the present influenza epidemic appeared in its benign form? In what cosmic constellation are we living at the present moment? By virtue of what cosmic rhythm does the influenza epidemic of the nineties appear in a more acute form today?” — Rudolf Steiner, FROM SYMPTOM TO REALITY IN MODERN HISTORY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1976), p. 89.
Some of Steiner’s medical teachings are silly;
but some are downright dangerous:
[Treating Cancer] “Mistletoe provides, beyond question, a means which — when given in potencies — should enable us to dispense with the surgical removal of tumours.” — Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Science and Medicine(R. Steiner Pub. Co., 1948), p. 173.
There’s less danger but far more silliness
in the “wisdom” Steiner offered to farmers and gardeners:
[Animal Astrology] “From the snout towards the heart, the Saturn, Jupiter and Mars influences are at work; in the heart itself the Sun, and behind the heart, towards the tail, the Venus, Mercury and Moon influences ... [T]he Sun-influence goes as far as the heart and stops short just before the heart. For the head and the blood-forming process, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are at work. Then, from the heart backward, the Moon influence is supported by the Mercury and Venus forces. If therefore you turn the animal in this way and stand it on its head, with the head stuck into the Earth and the hinder parts upward — you have the position which the 'agricultural individuality' has invisibly.” — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 40-41.
[Moon Forces] “What do we know of the Moon in ordinary life? We know that it receives the rays of the Sun upon its surface and throws them back again on to the earth. We see the rays of the Sun reflected — we catch them with our eyes — and the Earth, too, of course, receives these rays from the Moon. It is the rays of the Sun which are thus reflected, but of course the Moon permeates them with its own forces. They come to the Earth as lunar forces, and so they have done ever since the Moon separated from the Earth ... When it is new Moon, the country does not enjoy the benefit of the Moon-influences ... [W]e should attain important results if we only tried to see what progress we could make by using the Moon, let us say, in sowing ... So the old Indians used to do until the nineteenth century. They also sowed according to the phases of the Moon ... [W]e shall get the strongest of weeds if we let the kind Moon work down upon them ... The weeds will then reproduce themselves and increase greatly ... We must contrive to check the full influence of the Moon upon the weeds ... Then we shall set a limit to the propagation of the weeds; they will be unable to reproduce themselves.” — Ibid., pp. 109-110.
Controlling weeds through knowledge of Moon forces.
Now why didn't I think of that?
[Mousy] “[C]atch a fairly young mouse and skin it, so as to get the skin. There you have the skin of a fairly young mouse ... [Y]ou must obtain this skin of the field-mouse at a time when Venus is in the sign of Scorpio ... [Y]ou must do something quite definite with the mouse-skin. At the time when Venus is in Scorpio, you obtain the skin of the mouse and burn it. Carefully collect the ash and the other constituents that remain over from the burning. It will not be much, but if you have a number of mice, it is enough. You can easily get enough ... Take the pepper you get in this way, and sprinkle it over your fields ... Provided it has been led through the fire at the high conjunction of Venus and Scorpio, you will find this an excellent remedy. Henceforth, your mice will avoid the field.” — Ibid., pp. 113.
Of course, this would not work if Venus were not in Scorpio.
[Venus Forces] “Influences of the Venus beings live in all the plants and naturally also in the animal kingdom. The influences may come on the one hand from the good, gentle, mild Venus beings, or on the other hand, from the wild beings who have been described to you as greedy for plunder and engaged in conflict with each other. According as the one or the other kind work upon our animals and plants, so are virtues or vices built into man's body when the flesh of these animals or the food obtained from these plants are transformed into the chyle [a milky fluid in the body involved in digestion].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 1, GA 102.
[Dandy Advice] “Gather the little yellow heads of the dandelion and let them fade a little. Press them together, sew them up in a bovine mesentery [internal cow tissue], and lay them in the earth throughout the winter.
“In springtime you take the balls out, and you can keep them now until you need them. They are now thoroughly saturated with cosmic influences. The substance you get out of them can once again be added to the dung, and in a similar way. It will give the soil the faculty to attract just as much silicic acid from the atmosphere and from the Cosmos as the plants need, to make them really sentient to all that is at work in their environment.” — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE, p. 99.
[Horns and Stuff] “The cow has horns in order to send into itself the astral-ethereal formative powers, which, pressing inward, are meant to penetrate right into the digestive organism ... We take manure, such as we have available. We stuff it into the horn of a cow, and bury the horn a certain depth into the earth — say about 18 in. to 2 ft. 6 in., provided the soil below is not too clayey or too sandy. (We can choose a good soil for the purpose. It should not be too sandy). You see, by burying the horn with its filling of manure, we preserve in the horn the forces it was accustomed to exert within the cow itself, namely the property of raying back whatever is life-giving and astral. Through the fact that it is outwardly surrounded by the earth, all the radiations that tend to etherealise and astralise are poured into the inner hollow of the horn. And the manure inside the horn is inwardly quickened with these forces, which thus gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving.
“...[Y]ou let the horn spend the summer in the earth and in the late autumn dig it out and keep its contents till the following spring.
“So you dig out what has been exposed to the summery life within the earth, and now you treat it in a similar way. Only in this case you need far smaller quantities. You can take a fragment the size of a pea, or maybe only the size of a pin's head, and distribute it by stirring it up well in a bucket of water. Here again, you will have to stir it for an hour, and you can now use it to sprinkle the plants externally. It will prove most beneficial with vegetables and the like." — AGRICULTURE COURSE, pp. 72-75.
Steiner gave this instruction on how to stir the manure-tinged water:
“Stir quickly, at the very edge of the pail, so that a crater is formed reaching very nearly to the bottom of the pail, and the entire contents are rapidly rotating. Then quickly reverse the direction, so that it now seethes round in the opposite direction.
“Do this for an hour and you will get a thorough penetration. Think, how little work it involves. The burden of work will really not be very great. Moreover, I can well image that — at any rate in the early stages — the otherwise idle members of a farming household will take pleasure in stirring the manure in this way. Get the sons and daughters of the house to do it and it will no doubt be wonderfully done.” — Ibid., pp. 74-75.
Call it magic, call it superstition, call it nonsense:
But this is Steiner’s agricultural wisdom in a pinhead.
- Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings