Tuesday, May 18, 2010

About anthroposophy

I've been sharing a lot of links to various lectures by Rudolf Steiner. These have been mostly appreciated by readers already familiar with the general background of Rudolf Steiner's works. Others may find this material extremely challenging without such preparation, regardless of how attractive and intriguing some of these lectures may be. There are, after all, more than six thousand shorthand transcripts of these lectures, but Rudolf Steiner never got the time to edit more than a handful of them for print, so they contain many errors, and the lecturer was frustrated by the necessity to authorize their distribution in these unedited conditions.

So it can be very difficult for some people to get a proper grasp of "anthroposophically oriented spiritual science," which is as complex as biology, chemistry, astrophysics or any other science, probably more so. And most people are simply not motivated to make the effort. Man has developed his intellect to an impressive degree, and through this instrument all our sciences and technologies have come into existence. The practical achievements have been astounding, albeit also destructive because of the high priority placed upon weapons technology, the science of killing our fellow man. But most people see absolutely no point in applying this wonderful intellect to spiritual endeavors and investigations. If there is any such thing as Spirit, people reason, give me that old time religion, because if it was good enough for Granddad, it's good enough for me. And what eventually becomes of this stupendous laziness with regard to the innermost, intimate aspects of our very existence, is little or nothing short of what the American public is being served by power hungry sinister ministers, namely the Christian Taliban, the Christian mafia, and imbecile tea parties obsessed with militarizing the planet while clinging to apocalyptic superstitions.

The intellect as a prime tool of cognition

Thus by refusing to use our divine intellect in the manner that higher powers, or progressive deities, have intended, we allow forces hostile to the welfare of humanity to drive our thinking deeper and deeper into subnature, into an abyss where there is no feeling and no free will, but only ice cold intellect through and through.

There are others, of course, who surmise that the ultimate origin of our existence is to be found in lifeless matter, an inorganic chemical soup or an electric explosion. In other words, life is supposed to come from non-life. This is contrary to everything we observe in nature, where life-forms are always traceable to other life-forms. Life proceeds from life, always and without exception, whether it's a single living cell, a seed, an embryo, or an amoeba. Young ones, including human children, are born from parents, not from inorganic minerals or chemicals. The flaw in our logic has nothing to do with any theory of biological evolution itself, and certainly not that of Charles Darwin. The flaw occurs when pure abstract speculation goes far beyond evolutionary theory and insists upon solving that which various documentaries on BBC, Discovery etc. call "the ultimate question," when they not only try to answer riddles that are inaccessible to materialistic, natural-scientific research, but insist upon this ultimate illogic through the power of persuasion based upon appeal to authority, namely "scientists" in general: The high priests of our age.

Atheism and religion

In the present scenario, however, atheism is positively preferable to religion. By religion I mean every kind of blind faith that is chained to authority and compels total obedience to theological dogma or some old book. The age of religion is drawing to a close; the last remnants of atavistic wisdom in religious traditions faded around the middle of the 20th century, i.e. about sixty years ago. Check it out; that's when the churches lost their last vestiges of political authority.

So what is left of religion today is sinking deeper and deeper into decadence and superstition. I'm talking about orthodox, traditional monotheistic religions here, not Buddhism, which is the only widespread spiritual tradition with a great potential for the future, because it has no theistic theological dogma, no books to be obeyed, and no authority. It's grounded in humanism, just like atheism and anthroposophy.

Anthroposophy is often regarded as religious, and although this categorization is justified to the extent that the overwhelming majority of its students base considerable parts of their worldview upon faith and trust in the movement's founder, it is misleading and untruthful to label it a religion.

Two introductions to anthroposophy

But enough of semantics. There are two major approaches, or gates, to anthroposophy. Each of these is linked to one of Rudolf Steiner's major written books. The first of these, which is perhaps the easiest for most people who feel drawn to this kind of material, is Theosophy, An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man (GA 9; Written 1904)

The second approach is for the hard-nosed philosophical and scientific thinker, the critical, analytical mind, namely The Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4; written 1894, initially translated as Philosophy of Spiritual Activity as recommended by the author).

This book has absolutely no supernatural content whatsoever; it provides the philosophical and epistemological foundation for everything Steiner gave out through his lectures later: Humanism, empiricism, and monism, with Charles Darwin's natural science as point of departure. This is the most important of all Steiner's works. 30 years later, when asked which of his works would be best remembered by posterity, Rudolf Steiner answered without a moment's hesitation: "The Philosophy of Freedom will survive all my other works."

The Philosophy of Freedom, often referred to as the PoF for brevity, is quite a heavy digest, however, and may need several re-reads, at least some of the chapters. For this approach, I would recommend first reading Wahrheit und Wissenschaft, Vorspeil zu einer Philosophie der Freiheit, translated as Truth and Knowledge and Truth and Science (because "Wissenschaft" means, interestingly, knowledge as well as science.) This is Rudolf Steiner's doctoral thesis, published in 1892 (GA 3) as an introduction to The Philosophy of Freedom. It's a nice introduction to the science of epistemology that also makes it clear why Steiner disagreed with Kant, who was, and still is, the most influential of epistemological philosophers.

Incidentally, I wrote an article about anthroposophy and anarchism about fifteen years ago for the Norwegian anarchist magazine Gateavisa, and some years later I translated it into English: Anthropos Anarchos.

This article puts major emphasis on The Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 10 (Freedom — Philosophy and Monism) because it was addressed to skeptical anarchists with a penchant for atheism, or dialectical materialism.

The first approach, though, through the book Theosophy, is a much shorter and easier way to grasp the cosmological and evolutionary background that many of the lectures are based upon. This enormous body of lectures covers an incredibly diverse range of topics. They may be extremely challenging to follow without the foreknowledge outlined in the basic books. A very useful follow-up to Theosophy would be Geheimwissenschaft im Umriss (GA 13, published in 1910), translated as Occult Science — An Outline or An Outline of Occult Science. This book is a sequel to Theosophy and deals with the evolution of Man and the Earth.

Sectarianism and the fear factor

It's not a good idea to get too hooked on reading Steiner, though, because he is such an overwhelming towering figure. Over time, it can easily lead to sectarianism and onesidedness based upon "The Doctor has said," something Steiner warned strongly against, echoing Buddha by emphasizing that nothing must be accepted on authority.

When one rejects the spiritual in favor of atheism, this may of course be based upon what one experiences as intellectual honesty because the ability to raise one's cognition to higher levels is absent. But this rejection of the supernatural is just as often caused by fear. Even worse, many people cling to religion because of fear: Fear of death and damnation and judgment, fear of freedom and self-dependence. By the same token, when the fear of Spirit is not subconscious and irrational, which is most common, it may be simply based upon an unwillingness to lose one's freedom and independence, which is a much healthier instinct that all the noblest and bravest of atheists can relate to.

In spite of the apparent contradiction between theism and independence, or individualist anarchism, there is really no reason to fear the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner. On the other hand, the Opposing Powers of which he speaks -- not just the luciferic and ahrimanic forces, but especially the Asuras and Sorath the Sun Demon, whose influence will increase considerably in the future -- may give rise to fear, although such an emotion is useless, crippling, and destructive. Knowledge of those things and how they operate is the only protection we have, but that kind of knowledge is extremely effective, which is why it's important for such Opposing Powers to keep humanity in the dark about them.

Rudolf Steiner's greatness

Many people have wondered how come Rudolf Steiner was so great, or how he achieved such a stature. It seems that this particular individuality has been a major contributor to Christian thinking through the ages, primarily as Aristotle (whose works became the foundation of Biblical theology for the Scholastics in the Middle Ages), and as Thomas Aquinas, a very important Scholastic.

Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner himself always refused adamantly to say anything about his former incarnations, or about the former lives of those who pestered him with such questions, which would sometimes make him shun such people for weeks. So some of his former incarnations have been deducted post mortem from private correspondence discovered between himself and his physician Ita Wegman. I feel this is like eavesdropping in a sense, so I regard it as theory, out of respect so to speak.

The opposing spiritual powers

But the question of Steiner's greatness reminds me of what I have come to regard as his historical significance. Anthroposophists may be divided on this, so I offer it only as my own personal interpretation of 20th century history, shared by a few others. It seems to me that not only the first world war, but both world wars were unleashed against Europe as a reaction to Rudolf Steiner's work on German-speaking soil. The outbreak of 1914 is easy to figure out, when all the state leaders were lulled into a state of decreased consciousness and the war itself caused such a disturbance in the astral sphere that Steiner's research into the holiest of mysteries with regard to the Gospel events in particular, had to be discontinued. This powerful opposition was awakened after the lecture cycle From Jesus to Christ in 1911 (GA 131), where certain secrets were revealed that very powerful individuals had a vested interest in keeping hidden from the public -- secrets that were known to a select few among the Jesuits and the Freemasons, and possibly some members of the High Church in England.

Especially after the first world war, this opposition became extremely vicious and aggressive, cutting Steiner's life short (he only became 64) and torching his major achievement, namely the first Goetheanum so it burned to the ground.

The first Goetheanum

Of course the policies of Woodrow Wilson were crucial in paving the way to the rise of the Nazis eight years after Steiner's death, which explains Steiner's exceptional and uncharacteristic hostility towards Wilson. Steiner did not predict the rise of the Nazis as such (although he said that if they came to power, it would no longer be possible for him to set his foot on German soil), but he did say in his very last lecture cycle in September 1924 (before his illness put an end to his lecturing) that the calculations done by a certain astronomer a century earlier indicated the rise of the Beast in the year 1933 (when Hitler actually came to power).

There is also another factor, or possibility, theory, to consider, that we discussed a few years back. When anthroposophy was disseminated through RS, it brought about some counterparts, two major evil mirror-images if you will. Like you have one Dr Jekyll and not one Mr Hyde, but two (at least). The first of these is Nazism; the second is Scientology. This topic would bring us beyond the scope of this article, however, so let's leave it for some other time. In the meantime, check out this cool dude as he explains Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy in a nutshell:

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