WAS HE CHRISTIAN?
Steiner’s Gnostic Heresies
When, on rare occasions, supporters of Waldorf education openly acknowledge the schools’ religious nature, they attempt to portray Rudolf Steiner’s belief system as essentially Christian. But the "Christian" impulse underlying Waldorf schools is deeply unorthodox. Consider the following statement by Steiner:
“Had Christ not appeared on the earth, had He remained the Sun-God only, humanity on the earth would have fallen into decay.” 
Steiner affirms the great significance of Christ, yet he depicts Christ as a pagan god, the god of the Sun. [See "Sun God".] Steiner's gnostic vision, incorporating such doctrines as reincarnation and karma, strays far from the Bible and mainstream Christian teachings. The creed promulgated by Steiner incorporates large swaths of pagan belief as well as teachings adapted from Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and other religions. As a result, Steiner's message is incompatible with the doctrines of all large, established Christian denominations. 
Let’s consider how closely Steiner’s teachings conform to those of Jesus Christ. Here is a passage from the New Testament:
"And behold, a man came up to him, saying, 'Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?' And he said to him, 'Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.' He said to him, 'Which ones?' And Jesus said, 'You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” 
Compare that with Steiner’s “Christian” attitude:
“Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties [i.e., the 1890s] without an I [i.e., spiritual selfhood], that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon ... They are human beings only in regard to their form ... Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts ... [They] are demons in human form.” 
Imagine, indeed. Steiner's statement is virtually the antithesis of Jesus's directive to love your neighbor as yourself. This difference is even more marked when we infer that Jesus essentially meant we should love all humans — everyone is our "neighbor," we should love everyone as we love ourselves. While Steiner professed Christian virtues, he was also prepared to brand large numbers of people as subhuman — a proposition standing in utter opposition to the call for universal equality, acceptance, and love. Subumans, Steiner said, are supernumerary — they form an unneeded, excess population.
“[I]n our time certain supernumerary people are appearing who have no 'I' [i.e., no true human spirituality] and are therefore not human beings in the full sense of the word." 
We may charitably seek to redeem subhumans, Steiner said; we may show them mercy. But we cannot love them as ourselves — they are fundamentally different from ourselves, fundamentally less.
A useful guide in considering the true import of Christ’s ministry is BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS: Christ's Teachings About Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness, gathered and introduced by Wendell Berry.  In his introduction, Berry writes:
“Christ told us how to survive when He answered the question, Who is my neighbor? In the tenth chapter of Luke He tells the story of a Samaritan who cared for a Jew who had been badly wounded by thieves. As we know from the preceding chapter, in which the Disciples suggest in effect the firebombing of a Samaritan village, the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies. To modernize the story, then, and so to understand Christ’s answer, we may substitute any other pair of enemies: fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Muslim, Palestinian and Israeli, captor and prisoner. The answer: Your neighbor is any sufferer who needs your help.” 
Christ’s message was one of radical love: love extended to everyone. He saw the humanity in everyone. He never conceived of “people who are not human beings,” people who stand outside the circle of humanity. Steiner often asserted the importance of love, yet his preachments take us away from, not toward, the core of Christ’s message. 
Steiner sometimes differentiated his body of teachings, Anthroposophy, from Christianity. But on other occasions, he suggested that his teachings represent "true" Christianity. Thus, for instance, he produced a new, "corrected" holy text, a series of lectures published by his followers as the FIFTH GOSPEL. In these lectures, Steiner gave a revised account of Jesus's life and teachings; in essence, he claimed to correct the four gospels of the New Testament.  He learned the hidden truths about Christ, he claimed, through the use of clairvoyance: He consulted the Akashic Record, a celestial storehouse of knowledge written on ether or starlight. [See "Akasha".]
Steiner's claims and the resulting tenets of Anthroposophy are largely irreconcilable with Christian religious doctrine and practice. We have already spoken of the Anthroposophical belief in subhumans. Consider a related belief: the existence of inferior races. Steiner taught that the peoples of the Earth span a spectrum of evolutionary levels. The most highly evolved are white Europeans; the least evolved are the subhumans. Between these extremes are races of varying levels. [See "Steiner's Racism".] Fortunately, he said, the lower races tend to die out — as humanity evolves, more and more souls become qualified for incarnation in higher racial forms, while fewer and fewer souls populate the inferior races.
“[T]he lower races had fewer and fewer descendants, while the higher races had more and more.” 
"Lower races," "higher races." This is not the language of Christian love. Steiner offers the comforting thought (comforting from Steiner's perspective, anyway) that the lower races are dying out while the higher races expand and prosper. Humanity in general is evolving upward, to higher levels, Steiner said. But an invidious, unchristian judgment lies at the center of Steiner's account. Some individuals are inferior. Some entire races as inferior. This is not the language of Christian love.
Many of Steiner's teachings must repel people of good will, whatever their religious views. But for Christians in particular, these teachings should be especially problematic. Indeed, from an orthodox Christian perspective, much of what Steiner taught must be deemed heretical. In discussing mankind's ultimate evolution, for instance, Steiner asserted the following:
“[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” 
The notion that we might, in any sense, evolve to become God the Father must strike most Christians as sacrilege. But Steiner was quite prepared to go his own way, insisting on the primacy of his personal revelation. Note how, in this instance, he implicitly differentiated his teachings from those of Christianity as it is usually comprehended (“what is called in Christianity...”). Only his own teachings, Steiner claimed, represent the truth about Christ.
Perhaps the most extraordinary of Steiner's heresies concerns the identities of Christ and the other members of the triune God worshipped in Christianity. As we have already seen, Steiner said that Christ is the Sun God. Anthroposophy is a polytheistic faith; the universe, as described by Steiner, is vibrant with a multitude of gods. [See "Polytheism".] In a somewhat nebulous sense, Steiner taught, the Godhead presides above the universe. But the Godhead is not the monotheistic God worshipped by Christians. [See "God".] According to Steiner, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost may be understood to be three aspects of a single divine essence; but they are also three separate gods presiding over three separate celestial spheres or periods.
“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 Earth [i.e., Old Moon: a previous stage of evolution] appears to us as the Holy Spirit....” 
Thus, Steiner rejects Christian monotheism (he tells us that the cosmos is populated by many gods) and he specifically rejects the Christian conception of God (he tells us that the triune God is actually a council of three separate gods). Such heretical concepts are woven throughout Steiner's teachings and practices. Thus, for instance, Steiner used various alternative versions of the Lord's Prayer, the model prayer Jesus taught to his followers. Matthew 6:9-13 gives the version usually recited in churches; Luke 11:2-4 gives the same prayer in somewhat shorter form. The versions Steiner used have little or no basis in Biblical texts. The most extreme version used by Steiner is this:
This, Steiner said, is the prayer that underlies the Lord's Prayer (or the "Our Father") as found in the Bible; this is the "cosmic Our Father" that Jesus learned from pagans to whom he turned for spiritual instruction.
"What he heard [from the pagan savants] was a kind of cosmic Our Father which says what the inner destiny [i.e., karma] of man must be ... It was later reversed to become the earthly Our Father." 
Actually, the reversal runs in the other direction: This "cosmic Our Father" is a reverse image of the prayer quoted in the Bible. The cosmic Our Father runs backward (beginning with "Amen") and it addresses multiple gods ("you Fathers in the heavens"), not the One God of Christianity ("Our Father, which art in Heaven"). Steiner gave this account of the cosmic prayer:
"Those were approximately the words Jesus of Nazareth heard in pagan lands — the secret of the earthly human being as it was presented in ancient sacred teachings. They hold deep secrets of human evolution." 
Multiple deviations from mainstream Christian belief are folded into Steiner's account. Not only does Steiner's account alter the text of the Lord's Prayer as quoted in the Bible, but Steiner speaks of Jesus gaining sacred wisdom from pagan holymen instead of directly from his Father, God , and Steiner introduces concepts alien to the Bible such as destiny or karma, and evolution.  Most crucially, the cosmic prayer is polytheistic. The "Fathers in the heavens" can be conceived either as the entire company of gods postulated in Steiner's Anthroposophy, or they may be seen as the three gods Steiner identified as the "highest Ruler of Saturn," "the Sun-God", and "the Ruler of the Moon stage." The cosmic prayer is not addressed to the monotheistic God of Christian belief.
Steiner's cosmology is, from a mainstream Western perspective, startling.  The universe Steiner described bears little relationship to either the universe of science or the universe of the Bible. The consequences for the Anthroposophical conception of Christ are profound.
Steiner taught that the Sun is (or was) the physical representation of Christ’s physical presence:
“It is...important that the deeds of Christ Jesus are always seen in relation to the physical sun, which is the external expression of the spiritual world that is received at the point where Christ’s physical body is walking around. When Christ Jesus heals, for instance, it is the sun force that heals. However, the sun must be in the right place in the heavens: ‘That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.’ It is important to indicate that this healing power can flow down only when the external sun has set but still works spiritually.” 
The Moon, according to Steiner, is the residence of Jehovah (otherwise known as Jahveh or Yahweh):
“You know that the Old Testament peoples honored Yahweh. This devotion was aimed at a real being. And this being has a connection with what reveals itself in the physical world as the Moon. Of course it is only an imagistic way of talking, but it does have a reality too, if we say that Yahweh resides on the Moon. Everything connected with Yahweh is connected to the Moon.” 
To make sense of this, you need to understand that Steiner said Jehovah is the god of the Jews but not the one true God of all creation. According to Steiner, the monotheism exemplified by Judaism is false.
“Monotheism...can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world.” 
Thus, the god of the Jews is just one of many gods; in fact, Steiner taught, Jehovah is a rather lowly god who has reigned over his people from the Moon:
“From the Moon, Jahveh reigned over the heart and soul of the Jewish people ... [O]nly when man views the universe in this way can he have any true conception of the function of the Moon.” 
Another significant fact about the solar system, in Steiner's account, is that humans moved to various planets long ago:
“[D]uring the Lemurian epoch of earth-evolution [i.e., long ago] only very few human beings [remained] on the earth itself ... [T]he majority of souls withdrew from the earth to other planets, continuing their life on Mars, Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, and so forth.” 
“Human” is a tricky term, as used by Steiner. As we have seen, Steiner taught that some people are not really human; some beings who seem to be human are actually demons in disguise.
“[A] number of people are going around who...have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.” 
On the other hand, some beings who were once human have moved on:
“[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 ... This is only one of the 'cities' in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many....” 
To be "human," in Steiner's teachings, means standing at a certain evolutionary level. Anyone below this level is subhuman; anyone above it is superhuman. [See "Supermen".]
One highly advanced individual who moved from the Earth to another planet is Buddha, Steiner taught:
◊ “Buddha, the Prince of Peace, went to Mars — the planet of war and conflict — to execute his mission there. The souls on Mars were warlike, torn with strife. Thus Buddha performed a deed of sacrifice similar to the deed performed in the Mystery of Golgotha by the Bearer of the Essence of Divine Love. To dwell on Mars as Buddha was a deed of sacrifice offered to the Cosmos. He was as it were the lamb offered up in sacrifice on Mars and to accept this environment of strife was for him a kind of crucifixion.” 
◊ “The Buddha wandered away from earthly affairs to the realm of Mars. Until then Mars had been the chosen center of forces designated by the Greeks as fearfully warlike ... The Buddha Mystery [i.e., the hidden meaning of Buddha's ministry] on Mars did not take the same course as the Christ Mystery on earth, but Buddha, the Prince of Peace, who, during his last earthly life had spread peace and love wherever he went, was transferred to the belligerent realm of Mars. The fact that a being who is fully permeated by forces of peace and love was transferred to a realm of strife and disharmony may in a sense be regarded as a crucifixion.” 
This passage leads us to the core of Steiner’s heresies. He considered the “Christ-event” — that is, the incarnation of the Sun god, Christ, in the body of a human, Jesus — a hugely important occurrence in universal history.  Steiner taught that the Christ-event introduced the “Christ impulse” into human affairs. Through this impulse, we can emulate Christ and evolve toward spiritual perfection. Christ was preceded by other spiritual mentors, such as Buddha, and their work can be compared to His. But they represented prior evolutionary stages — He represents a far higher stage, a stage that is still very far from completion. We will fulfill the Christ impulse only in the extremely distant future, when we ourselves will become high gods. 
Note how little of this resembles orthodox Christianity, which is based on belief in Christ as one of three Persons of God.  Implicitly, in the teachings we are considering here, Steiner rejected mainstream Christian belief — he sought hidden knowledge of the spiritual realm, secret knowledge, “mystery” knowledge. It is in precisely this way that his religious teachings are gnostic: They aim at the acquisition of occult spiritual knowledge.  According to Steiner, acquiring such knowledge enables us to achieve salvation through our own efforts — a basic misconception according to orthodox Christianity, which teaches that salvation is provided by the Savior, who did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. 
A set of doctrines that entails people who are not human, and spiritual evolution, and planetary migrations, and reincarnation, and a Buddha crucifixion on Mars, and people becoming God the Father, and salvation through the acquisition of secret knowledge — this is not Christianity as most Christians, and most Christian churches, understand the term. It is a set of gnostic heresies.
Anyone who feels drawn to the spirituality so evident in Waldorf schools should clearly understand the focus of that spirituality. Christians in particular should realize what Rudolf Steiner's followers believe. They revere Christ, yes. But they think Christ’s real identity is something you won’t hear mentioned in many churches. Christ was the highest of the gods who live on the Sun, Anthroposophists believe, and he descended from the Sun to unite his destiny with that of the human beings of the Earth.
“[A]t a certain point in the earth’s evolution, a sublime Sun being, the Christ, did not remain on the Sun but came down from the Sun to the Earth and became a Being of the Earth in the body of a man, thus uniting His own cosmic destiny with the destiny of earthly humanity.” 
There are many, many gods in the Steiner religion. The Sun God is one; he is very important; but other gods (Zeus, Thor, Mars) also exist; they are real. According to Steiner, a crucial difference between Christ and most other gods is that Christ, the Sun being, came down to the physical Earth, whereas most of the others did not.
“Now what is the most essential characteristic quality of the Christ so far as our cycle of evolution is concerned? To consider all those divine spiritual beings to which men of ancient times looked up to as the upper gods behind the tapestry of the sense world, as the rulers and lords of the spheres and functions of the universe, is to realise that their characteristic quality is that they do not descend so far as the physical plane; they only become visible to the consciousness of the seer [i.e., the clairvoyant], which transcends the physical plane and is able to see on the etheric [i.e., spiritual] plane. There Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Wotan, Odin, Thor, who are all real beings, became visible. It was characteristic of those beings not to descend so far as the physical plane ... In the divine spiritual worlds this ability was possessed by the Christ alone.” 
Christ is no more real than Zeus or Thor, according to Steiner, but Christ left the Sun to come to Earth.  He united his destiny with ours. This is the key "fact" around which the Steiner religion revolves.
According to Steiner, Christ will not save humanity in the way Christians usually anticipate. Christ is not the Redeemer, except in a special sense, Steiner taught. Rather, Christ is our Prototype — he is the model we should follow so that we may evolve properly:
"Christ shows himself...as the great human Prototype and Example, united with the Earth's true evolution."  [See "Prototype".]
Perhaps even more shocking to most Christians is this: Steiner said that by following our Prototype, we humans will ourselves become gods. We will form the "tenth hierarchy," supplementing the nine ranks of gods that loom above us today. We will thus save ourselves through our own efforts. As one of Steiner's more prolific followers has explained,
"It is part of the divine plan that [man] shall work out his salvation, that he shall evolve through his own efforts. In the course of aeons man will become the Tenth Hierarchy in his own right, because he will have earned it.”  [See "The Tenth Hierarchy".]
Christ did not save us; we will save ourselves. We will earn our ascension to apotheosis.
Such teachings fundamentally diverge from the New Testament's account of Christ, his role as Redeemer, and the very process of redemption. Such theachings are, in fact, incompatible with the most crucial, mainstream Christian doctrines.
In addition to giving us a revised portrait of Christ (the Sun God who descended to Earth, incarnating in the body of a human being, Jesus), Steiner gave us a radically revised portrait of Jesus. He taught, indeed, that there were two Jesuses who combined in order to become the vessel for the Sun God's incarnation:
◊ “[T]wo Jesus children were born. One was descended from the so-called Nathan line of the House of David, the other from the Solomon line. These two children grew up side by side. In the body of the Solomon child lived the soul of Zarathustra. In the twelfth year of the child's life this soul passed over into the other Jesus child and lived in that body until its thirtieth year ... And then, only from the thirtieth year onward, there lived in this body the Being Whom we call the Christ, Who remained on earth altogether for three years.” 
◊ “[N]ot one but two Jesus-children were born ... The important thing is to understand clearly what kind of beings these two children were. Occult investigation [i.e., use of clairvoyance] shows that the individuality [i.e., soul] who was in the Solomon Jesus-child was none other than Zarathustra ... Buddha forces permeated the astral body of the Nathan Jesus-child.” 
The accumulation of gnostic, occult, heretical teachings becomes overwhelming. In Steiner's hands, Christian theology is shattered, leaving few if any recognizable Christian teachings. Instead we have polytheism, the Sun God, karma, reincarnation, evolution, clairvoyance, two Jesuses, Zarathustra, Buddha, the Tenth Hierarchy, astral bodies, Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Wotan, Odin, Thor... You will search in vain for these in the Bible.
So, I’ll repeat my question. Was Steiner Christian?
The answer should by now be evident.
— Roger Rawlings
According to Steiner, this is the occult symbol for Christ.
“Christ was always the representative of the sun, namely, the intelligence of the Sun ... The sign of the intelligence of the Sun is the following ... This is, at the same time, the occult sign of the lamb. The lamb receives the book with the seven seals ... The seven corners of the sign are called 'horns.' But what do the 'eyes' mean?
“In occult schools the signs of the seven planets are written next to the seven eyes. The seven eyes signify nothing other than the seven planets, while the names of the planets designate the spirits incarnated in them as their intelligence. 'Saturn' is the name of the soul of Saturn. The names of the planets come from the spirits of the seven planets found around the earth. These have an influence on human life. The lamb, Christ, contains all seven. Christ is the alpha and the omega; the seven planets are related to him like members to an entire body. The entwining of the lines of the sign portray in a wonderful way the interaction between the seven planets. From Saturn one rises to the Sun, from there down to the Moon, then on to Mars, Mercury, and so forth. The same thing is expressed in the names of the seven days of the week: Saturday, Saturn; Sunday, the Sun; Monday, the Moon; Tuesday, Mardi, Mars; Wednesday, Mercredi, Mercury; Thursday, Jeudi, Jupiter; Friday, Vendredi, Venus. Christ is the regent of all these world spheres; their actions constitute only part of his being; he unites them all. In Rosicrucian schools a lamb is often drawn as a sign for the intelligence of the Sun.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 19-21.
“[T]here are also other individualities — other beings — who have not gone through various incarnations as have the other human beings in the course of human evolution ... [I]t can happen that such a being appears; if we test it clairvoyantly in regard to the soul, we cannot say, as we can of other human beings, that we trace it back in time and discover it in a previously fleshly incarnation, then trace it farther back and find it again in another incarnation, and so on ... Such a spiritual being who descends in this way into a human body in order to intervene in evolution as a human being is called an ‘avatar’ in the East ... To repeat — an avatar being can enter a human body just once or several times in succession; but when it does, it is then something different from any other human individuality.
“The greatest avatar being who has lived on earth, as you can gather from the spirit of our lectures here, is the Christ — the Being whom we designated as the Christ, and who took possession of the body of Jesus of Nazareth when he was thirty years of age.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL ECONOMY (Anthroposophic Press, 1986) lecture 2, GA 109.
"It should...be understood that anthroposophy is not a 'Christian' teaching in the sense that it favors Christianity above other competing religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, or Shintoism." — Anthroposophist Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND THE WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 175-176.