SPOTLIGHT ON ANTHROPOSOPHY
by Sharon Lombard
Cultic Studies Review,
Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003
Return to PLANS Articles
The author discusses how she and her family enrolled their child in a Waldorf school — without consciously deciding or agreeing to join a new religious movement — and found themselves involved in Anthroposophy. She shares some background on Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf schools, and his esoteric religion, Anthroposophy, which is inextricably entwined in Waldorf schools' curriculum, pedagogy, and school activities. Her introduction to Steiner's doctrine focuses on identifying Steiner's macro-microcosmic worldview and racist underpinnings. She questions why some Waldorfers often downplay or deny their fervor and involvement in Anthroposophy and criticizes the movement's leadership for denying Steiner's racist doctrine as documented in the "Dutch Report." The author shares her own misgivings about the group's religious foundation and argues that some of Steiner's followers work to conceal the religious context of Waldorf education. Some personal recollections of peculiarities during her family's experience with Waldorf education are discussed, including a benign Anthroposophic prescription for the author's sick child and removal of her daughter from the Waldorf school.
Steiner: "WE MUST emphasize again and again that the anthroposophical world-conception fosters a consciousness of the common source of art, religion and science. During ancient periods of evolution these three were not separated; they existed in unity. The Mysteries which fostered that unity were a kind of combination art institute, church and school. For what they offered was not a one-sided sole dependence upon language. The words uttered by the initiate as both cognition and spiritual revelation were supported and illustrated by sacred rituals unfolding, before listening spectators, in mighty pictures." (Steiner, 1964, p. 83)
A friend of mine who helped start a Waldorf School liked to say, "If you turn on the porch lights the moths will come." I would add that an assortment of other insects might also appear, not necessarily seeking the light. My friend is alluding to Waldorf schools being a magnet for Anthroposophists and Steiner enforcers, but her allegory is also a fitting metaphor for my family's association with such a school and how we were burned in the process. As it was, my husband and I were not seeking occult illumination for ourselves, or our daughter, when we moved to Wisconsin so that our child might attend a Waldorf school. Ironically, we were drawn to the flame after a conscientious search for a progressive, nonsectarian education system with an emphasis on creativity, art, and global diversity. The school's full-color booklet and interviews validated that our quest was over. The following personal saga relates how, in retrospect, we unwittingly found ourselves immersed in Anthroposophy, what we experienced, and how traumatic circumstances led to our climactic exit. It also shares what my later extensive reading and research revealed concerning the founder of Waldorf education, his doctrine, which impacts all aspects of follower's lives, and the real meanings of the doublespeak appellations — "art", "verse", "dance" and "doctor."
Rudolf Steiner, Founder of Waldorf Education
The esoteric persuasions of Rudolf Steiner — the Austrian mystagogue who died in 1925 — survive and influence contemporary occult experience in America. They are perpetuated through a schismatic branch of Theosophy which Steiner expanded to accommodate his worldview and entitled "Anthroposophy." The most successful vehicle for the dissemination of Anthroposophy is the network of Waldorf Schools established in accordance with the founder's precepts — though many parents have little, if any, historic understanding of Steiner or his religion, Anthroposophy. The Waldorf School Movement is superficially perceived as a trendy, alternative education system because it is promoted as nonsectarian, art-based, multicultural, scientific, new education. Critical investigation, however, reveals to the contrary that these schools are instead centers of occult initiation — modern mystery schools — where every aspect of the curriculum is rooted in Anthroposophy and its incorporated magic and rituals. Steiner saw Anthroposophy as a spiritually complete Rosicrucian path which will guide pupils to higher worlds through an esoteric training, and although this principle of initiation is adhered to by Waldorf Schools, it is accomplished often without participants' understanding or sanction.
Born on 27 February 1861, in Croatia, Steiner grew up in Neudforfl near the Austro-Hungarian border where his father worked as a telegraph operator for the Austrian Railway. As a child, Rudolf Steiner believed he saw the apparition of an aunt who had committed suicide walk through a door, into the middle of a room, make some odd gestures and say, "Try now and in later life to help me as much as you can," before vanishing into the stove (Wilson, 1987, p. 170). As a grown man he disclosed that after seeing this ghost he was clairvoyant, able to see the spirit world and communicate with the dead. While a student, Steiner published philosophical studies and edited Goethe's works. These — especially Goethe's mystical writings — remained influential throughout his life. He believed that Goethe had come into contact with a Rosicrucian source and had experienced a "lofty Initiation" (Steiner, 1981b, p. 9). Similarly, he was to embrace the mysticism associated with the Rosicrucian tradition for all of his adult life, eventually promoting Anthroposophy as a spiritually complete Rosicrucianism. In 1884, Steiner became tutor to the four sons of Pauline and Ladislas Specht in Vienna: one of the children suffered from hydrocephalus or water on the brain. Steiner lived with this family for six years and experimented with ways of teaching, claiming that the sick child's concentration and learning ability could be improved if the boy were prepared to receive the instruction (Washington, 1995, p. 150).
Steiner was an active participant in the pan-German movement during the 1880s. In the late 1880s, early in his career as esoteric evangelist, he wrote that it was not possible to go public with his occult convictions at that time saying, "In all this, the public display of esoteric ideas was out of the question. And the spiritual forces standing behind me gave me only one piece of advice: 'Everything in the guise of Idealistic philosophy’" (Steiner & von Sievers, 1988, p. 11). In 1897 he moved to Berlin where he edited The Magazine Für Literatur, claiming to have brought a "spiritual current to bear on literature" by guiding the magazine into esoteric paths:
Gently and slowly I guided it into esoteric paths, carefully but clearly, by writing an essay for the 150th anniversary of Goethe's birth: “Goethe's Secret Revelation," which merely repeated what I had already indicated in a public lecture in Vienna about Goethe's fairy-tale "The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily." (Steiner & von Sievers, 1988, p. 14)
He married Anna Eunicke in 1899 and the following year he was asked to give lectures to the members of the Berlin Theosophical Society. Confidently, at the age of forty, he presented himself as a Master, in accordance with his occult beliefs that teaching at a younger age was in error. Steiner met Annie Besant while attending the Theosophical Congress of 1902 in London. On October 20, 1902, Steiner became General Secretary of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society, which was at that time under the leadership of Col. Henry Olcott as Blavatsky had died. Steiner led the German and Austrian branches of Theosophy for ten years. (Annie Besant was to replace Olcott in 1907). Collin Wilson commented on the emergence of this prominent Theosophical leader in his book Afterlife: An Investigation of the Evidence for Life After Death:
And then — it seemed to happen overnight — Dr. Steiner had become head of the Berlin Lodge of the Theosophical Society, and was being accepted by an increasing number of people as a kind of Messiah. Its membership increased remarkably. Mrs. Besant had met Steiner, and been impressed. She had seemed a little concerned about the strange, mystical Christianity preached by Steiner, but then, Madam Blavatsky had taught that all religions are roads to the same truth, so that was no cause for alarm. Steiner certainly seemed to accept Madame Blavatsky's basic teaching that the present human race is the fifth "root race" (the fourth were the inhabitants of Atlantis) and that we all go through many reincarnations ... [He] talked with staggering authority about the childhood of Christ and the various spiritual movements in Western history. (Wilson, 1987, pp. 167-168)
In 1904 the Master moved out of Anna Eunicke's house and into the Berlin Theosophical headquarters where the occultist Marie von Sievers lived. She became Steiner's adoring and devoted disciple, helping him organize his life and attending his lectures. His wife Anna Eunicke died in 1911, and Steiner eventually married Marie von Sievers in 1914.
All his adult life Steiner participated in various secret societies and magical orders, establishing some of his own. For example, he joined the Masonic rite led by Heinrich Klein and Franz Hartman, who initiated Steiner into the "Brothers of Light and the Rosicrucian Illuminati" (King, 1970, p. 206). He also bought a membership in "Memphis-Misraim" from Theodore Reuss in 1905 (Koenig, http://www.cyberlink.ch/~koenig/steiner.htm paragraph 8), and used that ritual as a basis for his "Mizraim Aeterna," which he hoped would restore the Eleusinian mysteries. Rituals of "Mystica Aeterna" were celebrated only in the presence of Rudolf Steiner and by members of the Theosophical Society (Koenig, paragraph 17). The mystagogue created an "Esoteric School" that held closed meetings and utilized some Masonic rituals. In 1921 the "Esoteric School" was transformed into the "Free University for Hermeticism" (Koenig, paragraph 39). Steiner borrowed extensively from Blavatsky's doctrine and took from the French occulist Eliphas Levi's Dogma and Ritual of High Magic (Koenig, paragraph 45). Steiner's Apocalyptic Seals are almost identical to Levi's seals pictured in the book. Steiner inspired others, like Max Heindel, to found the Rosicrucian Fellowship in Oceanside, California (Jenkins, 2000, pp. 82-83), and L. Ron Hubbard of the Church of Scientology.
Steiner told followers of his clairvoyant abilities and other psychic powers, claiming to read the Akashic record to obtain information and channel Zarathustra. The Akashic Record is believed to be an invisible chronicle that records every word spoken and deed performed by mankind since the beginning of time. Occult believers say this record can be found in the ether and read by clairvoyants. Steiner taught believers how to read to the dead and to meditate on the deceased's handwriting in order to communicate with those that have died. He lectured profusely on topics such as reincarnation, hypnotism, occult science, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, mystery centers of the middle ages, astral bodies, gnomes as life forms, angels, karma, Christian mysticism, how to see spiritual beings, modern initiation, Atlantis, Lemuria, etc. Steiner's sermons, setting out his occult teachings, were recorded by his disciples and published in more than 350 volumes. In a paper such as this, it is only possible to scratch the surface of the vast body of tenets that he imparted to his followers.
During his time as General Secretary of the Theosophical Society, Steiner built Rosicrucian Temples. One lay beneath the Stuttgart House, although many of his followers who met upstairs knew nothing of its existence. In 1912, after a doctrinal rift with Annie Besant over her claim that Jiddu Krishnamurti was a reincarnation of Christ, the charismatic prophet instigated a schism in the Theosophical Society. Steiner took most of the German and Austrian believers with him to establish his own esoteric religion, Anthroposophy, in order to be free from Besant's theological restraints and impositions. Steiner and some followers moved to Dornach, Switzerland, to build their utopia which included an enormous mystical temple known as the Goetheanum. The original intricately carved and painted wooden building burned down during Steiner's day but was replaced by a subsequent temple designed by Steiner and constructed out of concrete. The second Goetheanum remains the world headquarters and spiritual center for Anthroposophy today.
Steiner also developed a spiritual medicine system based on his "Spiritual Science" which incorporates alchemical, astrological, Cabalistic, and other magical concepts. His views on illness are unorthodox when compared to contemporary scientific medicine, but they are still upheld and promoted by his followers. For example, Steiner viewed certain bacilli as "nothing else than physically embodied demons generated by lies," (Steiner, 1981b, p. 69) and he claimed that certain children with learning disabilities are not really human but inhabited by beings that do not belong to the human race:
The girl L.K. in class 1...is one of those cases that are occurring more and more frequently where children are born and human forms exist which actually, with regard to the highest member the ego, are not human at all but are inhabited by beings who do not belong to the human race...They are very different from human beings where spiritual matters are concerned. For instance they can never memorise sentences, only words. I do not like speaking about these things, as there is considerable opposition about this. Just imagine what people would say if they heard that we are talking about human beings who are not human beings. Nevertheless these are facts. Furthermore, there would not be such a decline of culture if there were a strong enough feeling for the fact that some people, the ones who are particularly ruthless, are not human beings at all but demons in human form. But do not let us broadcast this. There is enough opposition already. Things like this give people a terrible shock. People were frightfully shocked when I had to say that a quite famous university professor with a great reputation had had a very short period between death and re-birth and was a re-incarnated negro scientist. But don't let us publicize these things. (Steiner, 1986, pp. 36-37)
Errors resulting from devotion to the dark god, Ahriman, will be punished in the form of diseases in a following lifetime. Too much sex and desire for sensual pleasure in a past life will be paid back with a case of pneumonia in the next life. Karma will punish selfishness with malaria. Developing healing forces and overcoming diseases enables the human to evolve onwards and upwards on Steiner's evolutionary path, towards his prophetic future. Vaccines are frowned upon by many Anthroposophists because they interfere with karmic compensation:
... Let us assume that many epidemics, communal causes of illness, can be traced to the fact that victims are seeking to remove what they have karmically fostered within themselves. This is the case, for instance, with smallpox which is the organ of unlovingness. Although we may be in a position to remove the possibility of this disease, the cause of unlovingness would still remain, and the souls in question would then be forced to seek another way for karmic compensation either in this or in another incarnation. (Steiner, 1995a, p. 144)
Steiner taught that before the age of nine children, generally, should be broken of left-handedness. Some Waldorf teachers attempt to change children's dominant hand in order to help them in future incarnations:
The phenomenon of left-handedness is clearly karmic, and, in connection with karma, it is one of karmic weakness. Allow me to give an example: A person who was overworked in their previous life, so that they did too much, not only physically or intellectually, but in general, spiritually, within their soul or feeling, will enter the succeeding life with an intense weakness (Steiner, 1923 lecture, http://www.bobnancy.com/retrieved March 3, 2003. Click on "Waldorf" then "developing child", then "Left-handed Cross-dominance," scroll to May 25, 1923 lecture).
Steiner's alchemy attempts to heal all the members comprising the human being, which includes his concept of man as having an astral, etheric, "I" and physical body. An important component of his healing art is Curative Eurythmy. It is a magic based system of angelic communication incorporating Cabalism, astrology, zodiac, numerology, sigils, gestures, the alphabet, copper wands, color, and more, that supposedly connect the participant to Steiner's spiritual world invoking various spiritual beings' healing powers.
Yet another of Steiner's contributions to humanity is "Biodynamic Farming," an Anthroposophic-based farming practice in which organic methods are imbued with magical/spiritual components. For example, cows are sacrificed at certain times of the year and their body parts used for magical purposes. Primary Moon forces (beings) are believed to come to rest in horns. In one ritual fresh dung is stuffed into cow horns and buried in the ground in autumn to attract various beings in the cosmos for better crop fertility. In spring the horns are dug up and the contents emptied into warm water and stirred in a specific manner for a specific time. Rotation must be fast to cause a vortex and the direction of the stirring changed once or twice a minute. This substance, known as preparation 500, is diluted with water and sprayed over fields. Biodynamic practitioners claim this type of farming produces more nutritious food. A group of New Zealand Biodynamic apostates believe that cow horns on living cows act as antenna attracting world etheric and world astral forces, while deer radiate forces outwards through their antlers (Atkinson, http://rimu.orcon.net.nz/garuda/books/cowhorns.html , p.1).
In 1919, drawing on his life's work as a mystagogue, Steiner developed Waldorf education based on Anthroposophy and his expertise on mystery schools. Steiner died in 1925, before the Nazis came to power in 1933. Waldorf schools remained open in Nazi Germany for years due to the amiable relationship between some Anthroposophists, Waldorf leadership, and the new rulers in Germany. The schools received criticism from some party members for not being stringently Nazi; they were however defended for being anti-intellectual and serving as a model for indoctrination. Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess was Anthroposophy's chief protector within the Nazi hierarchy and it was only after he flew to Britain that the last Waldorf school was closed in Germany in 1941 (Leschinsky, 1983, p. 255).
Waldorf Education is a good example of an imposed alternate reality with an anti-cult backlash formed in opposition to the schools. The sociologist, psychiatrist, and others interested in investigating cultic studies might find the schools and controversy to be of interest. Lamentably, critical research on Anthroposophy and Waldorf published in English is lacking. Most books about Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf are published from within the enclosed world of Anthroposophy. Contributing difficulties for the researcher are the secretive, hierarchical, occult tradition from which Steiner emerged, and editorial deletions and revisionism in the publications of his recorded lectures by disciples. Those who study Waldorf might find that many involved in the schools have absolutely no comprehension of the subtext informing Waldorf education and that the uninformed people tend to "normalize" the environment. Scholars may also discover that Anthroposophy motivates all Waldorf classroom activity and that, for those "in the know," the pedagogy and curriculum serves as an Anthroposophic mystery initiation for both teacher and pupils. Because of this, Anthroposophists are drawn to Waldorf Schools. Scholars might see that Anthroposophical beliefs are the reasons for some of the more unusual practices, as well as the sometimes humorous, but too-often tragic, scenarios that surface when the esoterically uninformed flutter with the moths drawn to the light.
Anthroposophy — Doctrine of the Group
Sects drawn to occult illumination much like what would today be termed "New Age" were already firmly entrenched in the America of the nineteenth century. After a period of spiritual experimentation, the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Helena P. Blavatsky, emerged in New York City. Theosophy spawned spiritual progenies such as I Am, most modern Gnostic sects, modern astrology, as well as Anthroposophy. These spiritual movements "integrated spiritualist ideas with a great deal of Hindu and Buddhist thought, including the theories of karma and reincarnation" and popularized Hermetic teachings in America. "Theosophy enjoyed a global boom by the early 1880s" and had an enormous impact on all subsequent occult movements (Jenkins, 2000, p. 41) including Anthroposophy.
Rudolf Steiner was a white magician and one of the most knowledgeable occultists of his time (Merkur, 1993, p. 61). He saw the universe as a vast, living being, inhabited by a multitude of spiritual beings at various stages of development, whose forces create the physical world. He was a macro-microcosmic thinker, and the old hermetic axiom once embraced by alchemists — "As above, so below" — is essential to Steiner's Anthroposophical perspective. This fundamental tenet of magic is a radical divergence from contemporary scientific thinking. Otherwise stated as "the universe a vast human being, the individual a small universe", this maxim of "truth" was originally adopted by occult thinkers free from the restraints imposed by scientific models of the universe and the Darwinian theory of human evolution. Although the attitude is viewed as erroneous by modern science, magic expert Michael Greer writes, in Circles of Power, that throughout history people have persisted in viewing the interaction between consciousness and matter as a reality independent of the mind. He adds that there are still those who embrace this principle of macrocosm (great universe) and microcosm (little universe) as a more useful model for experience than the scientific belief system accepted in American culture (Greer, 1997, pp. 13-14). They follow in a long succession, embracing this construct previously widely disseminated by Cabalists, Hermeticists, Gnostics, Neoplatonists and Rosicrucians as they exerted influence for centuries. "As above, so below" appropriates continuity with the past, right to the present day, in the eclectic teachings revered by the disciples of the Austrian mystagogue of the last century, who borrowed extensively, from this esoteric tradition, to concoct his own belief system — Anthroposophy.
Steiner is reputed to have said that Elizabeth Vreede "understood his work more deeply than anyone else" (Vreede, 2001, back cover). Once appointed the head of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section of the School of Spiritual Science by Steiner himself, Vreede reiterated Steiner's belief that stars are the discarded physical bodies and external forms of divine, spiritual beings; "members of a 'spiritual colony' that, although invisible, works directly into the material realm ... [H]uman souls are fellow members in this community of spirits in the life between death and rebirth" (Vreede, p. 284). In her bookAnthroposophy and Astrology, Vreede gives a summary of the Anthroposophic macro-microcosmic world view. After explaining Steiner's concept that plants on earth correspond to the living mirrored image of the beings of the star world and describing plants as beings with self-consciousness in a group soul which exists "as the offspring of the spirits of wisdom" (p. 286), she writes:
The plant world receives its forms from the starry heavens, and the animal world its form from the zodiac. Human beings receive their form from the whole sphere of the heavens, not from the single constellations, just as we also bear in our head an image of the entire stellar universe. Again we find the human being as the synthesis, the perfect embodiment of the entire cosmos. (Vreede, 2001, p. 287)
In other words, a tulip is created by a certain group of spiritual beings' forces, while the lily is created by another group of beings, whereas, animals get their form from the gods of the Zodiac. All beings in the cosmos make up man. Man is the world and the world is man. Macro-microcosmic thinkers perceive the world from inside and outside of their bodies, rather than objectively from within their skulls. Their world is animistic, teeming with spiritual beings whose powers create and regulate the physical world. In March 1910, Steiner gave a series of sermons on the topic of Macrocosm and Microcosm, addressing his audience: "I have tried to make it clear that in the microcosm, in the nervous system, in the brain, men are mirror-images of the activities and beings of the macrocosm" (Steiner, 1968, p. 147).
Steiner taught that the physical human being is comprised of an etheric body, astral body, and an "I" body. This belief gives Anthroposophic believers the ability to leave their physical bodies during their day-to-day earthly existence in order to commune with spiritual beings in the cosmos. In Waldorf education, Steiner's "True Nature of Man" — more commonly known by the uninformed as his "child development model" — is based on his concept of man as physical, etheric, astral, and "I". It is extremely helpful to be familiar with Steiner's conclusions about these soul-and-spirit bodies of man in order to understand his pedagogy. For example, the emphasis on delaying first grade and reading until the etheric body enters (signaled by growth of secondary teeth), and delaying intellectual thinking until after the age of fourteen when the astral body supposedly incarnates. According to Steiner, these spiritual bodies incarnate in seven-year increments, after birth, as the physical body grows. They are believed to leave the physical body after death and reincarnate after a period of cosmic existence spent with spiritual beings in the universe. The physical body is the hereditary body of flesh and bones. Beings in the cosmos cause the physical body to grow as well as hold it together. Beings that live in the chest move the blood as the heart is not a pump. Plants, minerals, man, and animals have physical bodies.
The etheric body incarnates around the age of seven. "It is visible to the seer and has approximately the same form as the physical body. It is a body of forces" (Steiner, 1981b, p.22). "A whole people" (ethnic and "racial" groups) share the rudiments of a common etheric body (Steiner, 1981b, p. 47). The etheric body in the male is female, and visa versa. It appears as "a form of light extending everywhere, but only slightly, beyond the form of the physical body" (Steiner, 1981b, p. 23). The loosening of baby teeth and growth of secondary teeth is a sign that the etheric body is incarnating. The etheric body never leaves the physical body until death, "except during certain states of Initiation" (Steiner, 1981b, p. 33). It loosens if a person gets a fright or sneezes. If a body part falls asleep and tingles it is because the etheric body temporarily has left that part of the physical body. "If a hand, for instance, has gone to sleep, the seer can perceive the etheric part of the hand protruding like a glove; parts of the etheric brain also protrude when a man is in a state of hypnosis" (Steiner, 1981b, p. 34). Man, plants, and animals have etheric bodies.
Humans and animals have astral bodies that bear feelings such as sorrow or joy. The astral body whirls about in space seeking the appropriate parents for the reincarnation process. To a "seer," it resembles a bell-shape opening downwards (Steiner, 1981b, p. 46). "A whole people" share a common astral body that "lives within a kind of astral cloud and is the body of the Folk-Spirit" (Steiner, 1981b, p. 47). It is released into the physical body between fourteen to twenty-one years of age. Steiner taught that all human astral bodies leave the physical body during sleep. They "wind their way, in spiral form, out of the physical body" into the cosmic community of spiritual beings, returning to the physical body upon waking (Steiner, 1959, p.104). While united with planetary beings, the astral body drinks the forces of beings associated with Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Sun, etc. These planetary beings give the astral body what it needs to exist. During sleep, the astral body is in "union with the starry world, the astral world" (p. 105) and returns to the microcosm when the person wakes.
Spiritually advanced man has an individual "I" body. This separates him from animals and lower humanity, making him divine. The "I" leaves the physical body and accompanies the astral body during sleep. The "I" is the body that can be trained to remember past lives in Greece and Atlantis, etc. The spiritually advanced will develop "I's" that can remember past lives, and, after death, this body will be able to locate those that it worked with during a previous life on Earth. "The anthroposophical movement is to help and guide people to remember in the right way" (Steiner, 1990, p. 14). Anthroposophists who have developed their "I's" reincarnate in core groups that have been spread around the globe and will instruct others who have not developed their "I's" in what they may "think, feel, will and do". The "earth and all it can yield will belong to those" who develop their "I's" (pp. 23-24).
One of the more influential yet eccentric medieval alchemists to embrace the micro-macrocosmic theory of ancient Greece was Paracelsus (1493-1541). His writings have exerted an influence for centuries right up to modern branches of Theosophy and Anthroposophy (Roob, 1997, p. 15). Claiming to have visited with magicians in Egypt and Arabia, he is said to have traveled to India before settling in Basle, Switzerland, where he taught medicine at the university and developed his version of alchemy which incorporated Cabala, astral magic, and Christian mysticism. All Cabalistic signs, according to Paracelsus, could be reduced to two — the macrocosm and the microcosm. He taught that the sign of the macrocosm is a six-pointed star; the sacred symbol of Solomon's Seal. The microcosm, a five-pointed star or pentagram, represented man and all occult forces. These signs had magical power over supernatural beings. (Spence, 1996, p. 257 & p. 276). Likewise, Steiner taught his pupils about star magic as documented in the book Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation: Mystery Centres of the Middle Ages. In the lecture recorded in chapter five he claimed that once, while on a spiritual journey in the spirit world, he became aware of a lonely occult school in Central Europe that imparted the "overpowering" and great wisdom of the meditation known as Solomon's Key. According to him, this wisdom goes right back in history through the Middle Ages to Aristotle in Greece: the tradition originated in Asia and Alexander the Great brought it to Greece via Macedonia. This symbol played a major role in the Central European mystery school that Steiner clairvoyantly discovered while in the spiritual world. Supposedly, the master of the occult school would instruct pupils to make a star with their bodies by standing with their feet apart and their arms stretched out above. By assuming this position the pupils "became conscious that they really do exist" (Steiner, 1965, p.64). After deep meditation the pupils learned that they could write themselves into space and feel the very marrow in their bones. They went so far inside of themselves that they left their bodies and they learned to know the lines of force that the gods had drawn to establish and found the world (p. 67). Having discovered the paths to the gods through Man and by placing themselves in the spirit-being of man, the pupils learned to look back into past Atlantean times and even further (p. 68). "The teacher would say to the pupil: "Behold, Man is a Microcosm; he imitates in his organism what goes on in the great Universe" (p.69). This concept of man as pentagram was a favorite topic of study for medieval wizards and alchemists. The image is found in numerous Renaissance magic textbooks and alchemical sources. It reappears in Steiner's Anthroposophical teaching today, and, remarkably, in the lesson books and classroom rituals of Waldorf pupils.
During the Renaissance, influential magicians such as Agrippa of Nettesheim (1486-1533) and others, like Giordano Bruno, Robert Fludd, and John Dee, disseminated macro-microcosmic ideas. Agrippa was one of the predominant sources of Renaissance magic (Yates, 1972, p. 109) and his work was well known by Steiner who described him in the book Mysticism and Modern Thought. Agrippa's Christian, Cabalistic, alchemical, and magical philosophy is very close to the Rosicrucianism expressed in the Rosicrucian Manifestos associated with the mythical Christian Rosenkreutz, and it was a major source for most Renaissance magicians' work. Many texts were published about the great macrocosm and the little world of man, the microcosm, in an attempt to order and to present the philosophy based on the congruent design of the cosmos and its correspondences in man. Man became the world and the world man. He took his place at the center of the universe, the mid-point between spiritual realms and the physical realm, gaining power over matter and the ability to "participate with Spirits and Angels" (Clulee, 1988, p. 149).
In a lecture entitled The Relationship of Man to the Sun, Steiner recapitulated his own doctrine by telling his audience that Agrippa knew "quite well that in the several planets of our system are spiritual Beings of specific character and kind" (Steiner, 1965, p. 49). He went on to say that Agrippa assigned to each planet what he called "the Intelligence of the planet." Agrippa believed that stars were a sign "of the presence of spiritual Beings." He knew that the beings united with "stars are Beings who rule the inner existence of that star or planet," rule "its movements in the Universe" and "hold sway indeed over its whole activity." The Intelligence of the "Earth Star" was man himself. Man had been given "the task to regulate and rule the Earth by the World-Spirit." "Through what he is, through the forces and powers he bears within his being, Man gives to Earth the impulse for her movement round the Sun, for her movement altogether in cosmic space." Man is "Lord of the Earth" (Steiner, 1965, pp. 50-51). In turn, Agrippa's magical universe had been influenced by the doctrines of the legendary Hermes Trismegistus — “the patriarch of natural mysticism and alchemy” — (Roob, 1997, p. 8), which claimed that man was the image of God and gifted with omnipotence. Like Agrippa and earlier magicians, Steiner was also to systemize the influence of the planets, numbers, Hebrew words, the Zodiac, angels and other supernatural beings, relating their connection to specific organs of man.
Appearing throughout Steiner's doctrine are references to his trinity of Ahriman, Lucifer, and what he calls "the Christ Spirit." Two thousand years ago, the Christ — who existed in the Sun — came to Earth and inhabited Jesus' body for a period of three years: this Christ spirit had also inhabited other great spiritual leaders of human kind such as Zarathustra. Lucifer had a human incarnation about 5000 years ago in China, and Ahriman incarnated in the West in 1998. Steiner's path of initiation enables disciples to remember past lives and gain the ability to recognize fellow believers in future reincarnations. This ability to remember past lives was considered crucial to his predicted Sixth Epoch:
It is the deeper task of the anthroposophical movement to enable a number of human beings to enter their next incarnation with an I each remembers as his or her own, individual I. These people will then form the nucleus of the next period of civilization. Then these individuals who have been well prepared through the anthroposophical spiritual movement to remember their individual I will be spread over the earth. For the essential characteristic of the next period of civilization is that it will not be limited to particular localities, but will be spread over the whole earth. These individuals will be scattered over the earth, and thus everywhere on earth there will be a core group of people who will be crucial for the sixth epoch of civilization. These people will recognize each other as those who in their previous incarnation strove together to develop the individual I. (Steiner, 1990, pp. 22-23)
With the help of the Akashic record and his professed clairvoyant abilities, he laid out the evolution of the Earth in a series of epochs and rounds: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. Earth consists of 7 epochs, and present humankind exists in the later part of the Fifth Epoch on Earth. Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan, are prophesied future periods. He taught that believers who develop their "I" will remember each other and reincarnate together in "core groups" to instruct others in what to "think, feel, will and do," and that they will inherit the earth:
To put it bluntly, we can say that the earth and all it can yield will belong to those who now cultivate their individualities. Those, however, who do not develop their individual I will be dependent on joining a group that will instruct them in what they should think, feel, will and do. In the future development of humanity this will be felt as a regression, a second Fall. Therefore, we should not regard the anthroposophical movement and spiritual life as mere theory but rather as something that is given to us now to prepare what is necessary for the future of humanity. (Steiner, 1990, p. 24)
Steiner's lectures are peppered with racism and anti-Semitism. His racist doctrine is similar to other occult variants like ariosophy, sometimes attracting interest from far-right publishers and distributors. Peter Staudenmaier studies racism and Steiner texts including untranslated German lectures such as those recorded in Die Geistigen Hintergrunde des Ersten Weltkrieges (1974, GA 174b). On the Internet discussion group, firstname.lastname@example.orgStaudenmaier translated some German Steiner text into English (see posts from September 2002 titled "skin color and spirit" archived at http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/archives.html ). He concludes that Steiner accepted as obvious the basic Theosophical notion that intelligence and beauty are correlated with "racial characteristics" and links this to the classical Theosophical concept that "primitive peoples" are the "degenerative remnants" of older "racial forms." Staudenmaier notes that Steiner subscribes to "esoteric Darwinism" in which inferior "races" of his lifetime were believed by him to be descendants of the earlier Lemurian and Atlantean root races which were devolving physically and spiritually toward an animal state. In contrast, the fifth root race, the Aryans, continued evolving upwards, towards universal humanity. Followers will be saved from Steiner's prophetic, apocalyptic "War of All Against All" — when white humanity will destroy "colored" humanity who has not taken the spirit deep within the skin.
White humankind is still on the path of absorbing the spirit deeper and deeper into its own essence. Yellow humankind is on the path of conserving the era when the spirit will be kept away from the body, when the spirit will only be sought outside of the human-physical organization. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen in any other way than as a violent battle of white humankind against colored humankind in myriad areas. And that which precedes these battles between white and colored humankind will occupy world history until the completion of the great battles between white and colored humankind. Future events are frequently reflected in prior events. You see, we stand before something colossal that — when we understand it through spiritual science — we will in the future be able to recognize as a necessary occurrence. (Steiner, 1974, p. 38, translated by P. Staudenmaier).
In a 1915 sermon in Stuttgart, Steiner said that advanced spirituality is tied to external skin color and that white skin is a sign of spiritual progress:
This carrying down, this thorough impregnation of the flesh by the spirit, this is characteristic of the mission, the whole mission of white humanity. People have white skin color because the spirit works within the skin when it wants to descend to the physical plane. That the external physical body will become a container for the spirit, that is the task of our fifth cultural epoch, which has been prepared by the four other cultural epochs.
And our task must be to acquaint ourselves with those cultural impulses that tend to introduce the spirit into the flesh and into the ordinary. If we recognize this completely, then it will become clear to us that where the spirit is still supposed to function as spirit, where in a certain way the spirit is supposed to be retarded in its development — because in our time its task is to descend into the flesh — that where the spirit is retarded, where it takes on a demonic character and does not fully penetrate the flesh, then white skin color does not appear, because atavistic powers are present that do not allow the spirit to achieve complete harmony with the flesh. (Steiner, 1974, p. 37, translated by P. Staudenmaier).
Racial selectiveness was important to Steiner's doctrine which includes the notion that beauty and intelligence correlate with "racial characteristics":
If the blondes and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondeness. 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 nourishment into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains. (Steiner, 1981a, p. 86)
Steiner's doctrine of "esoteric Darwinism" was steeped in Blavatsky's basic theosophical teachings; "savages" are considered degenerate remnants of older racial forms devolving into apes. A year before he died he was still preaching the same sermon:
[W]e are not justified in thinking that human beings were originally like the savages of today. The savages have developed into what they now are — with their superstitions, their magical practices and their unclean appearance — from states originally more perfect. The only superiority we have over them is that, while starting from the same conditions, we did not degenerate as they did. I might therefore say: The evolution of man has taken two paths. It is not true that the savages of today represent the original condition of mankind. Mankind, though to begin with looked more animal-like, was highly civilized. ... Just as the present savages have fallen from the level of the human beings of primeval times, so the apes are beings who have fallen still lower. (Steiner, 1987, p.126)
In 1904, early in his Theosophical career, he taught that the "backward races" were the descendants of the earlier Lemurian and Atlantean root races which survived the Atlantean flood. Steiner's clairvoyant powers enabled him to see far back in time, before the beginning of the world, long before that marked by historians and scientists. His psychic abilities enabled him to describe Atlantis in elaborate detail, when humans still had magical powers and could lift their hands above plants to make them grow rapidly, and when man drove vehicles that floated in the air. These "backwards races" should have died out, but Ahriman thwarted this cosmic plan. Instead of evolving towards a more advanced spiritual state and higher stages of evolution with more "beautiful bodies," they physically and spiritually regressed. Steiner and other Theosophists asserted that these "lower races" were devolving toward an animal state, while the fifth root-race, the Aryans, led by Manu, was saved from the Atlantis flood and continues to evolve towards a higher Sixth race. Steiner taught that a "universal human" would eventually return to pure spirit, free from the restraints of the physical body in his future Vulcan phase of cosmic evolution.
Anthroposophists continue to uphold Steiner's racist teachings claiming that there is "no question of a racial doctrine." This is documented in an article entitled No Question of a Racial Doctrine, Dutch Report is Ready, published in the magazine about life in the Anthroposophical Society, Anthroposophy Worldwide, No. 4, May 2000, page 3. The article records that on April Fool's day, 2000, the "Anthroposophy and the Question of Race Commission" — a panel of Anthroposophists appointed to study and report on whether or not Steiner's doctrine is racist — presented a 720-page final report to the public which has not yet been published in English (see van Baarda, et al, 2000 for source of the report in Dutch). The magazine article states that the Dutch report "confirmed the findings of its 1998 interim report that Rudolf Steiner's complete works contain neither a racial doctrine nor racist comments". Critics of Anthroposophy who have studied Steiner's doctrine and the Dutch report observed that notably racist works were not included in the study and that some racist passages from included works were omitted. Despite their findings, however, the Commission admits that there are sixteen discriminatory remarks by Steiner that "would be illegal in the Netherlands if proclaimed publicly by anyone today." The Commission recommended that "these sixteen quotes, as well as sixty-seven, easily misunderstood remarks" should be published with accompanying explanations in the future. "[T]he Commission found no racism in Dutch Waldorf schools, only some use of stereotypes in ethnology lessons." Some Anthroposophists in Europe have placed ads in major daily newspapers distancing themselves from Steiner's racism, while other Anthroposophical Society members criticized them for doing so. Ted van Baarda, head of the Commission, was concerned about facing these questions due to Anthroposophists' "loyalty to Steiner." The Commission, however, was not to "evaluate spiritual science but rather the effect of such remarks on the public." The report was to "identify the facts in order to develop a strategy for dealing with attacks," because, as van Baarde emphasized, "We cannot afford to lose." Presumably he means that initiates are obligated to proselytize Steiner's racist doctrine for society's redemption and the fulfillment of his prophecies.
Peter Staudenmaier studied the Dutch report and commented on the Commission's statement: "The Commission confirmed the findings of its 1998 interim report, that Rudolf Steiner's complete works contain neither a racial doctrine nor racist comments." On December 12, 2002, in a post to email@example.com entitled "It takes an expert" Staudenmaier wrote:
This is what Anthroposophists are asked to believe. Since nobody acquainted with Anthroposophy's central works can possibly believe this, it raises an obvious question about Anthroposophy's basic ability to deal with the manifest content of its own teachings. The standard Anthroposophist response is that, yes, indeed, it does take an expert to understand Steiner's works. Aside from the patently elitist and authoritarian implications of this stance, it is unconvincing even according to its own logic, because so many of the self-proclaimed experts on anthroposophy know astonishingly little about what Steiner actually wrote on racial topics and about the historical and intellectual context of those writings. That is precisely why informed critics of Anthroposophy are routinely greeted with the charge of arrogance: even simple, unadorned quotations from Steiner are enough to unsettle the Anthroposophist consensus on these matters, because they show that any thinking person can make sense out of Steiner's racial teachings without bowing to the self-appointed experts.
I very much hope that the Dutch report is made available in English soon, so that people can peruse its pages and decide whether Steiner's quoted passages — even if blatantly incomplete and decontextualized — contain racial doctrines and/or racist comments. (Staudenmaier, 2002, December 12, http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/archives.html search archive).
Steiner's hierarchical scheme of human evolution is subtly incorporated into the Waldorf curriculum. As part of their "history" lessons, pupils learn ancient Indian religious stories as well as Persian, Egyptian-Chaldean, Greco-Roman, and Germanic-Nordic myths which are meant to jog past life memories. Uninformed parents might interpret the lessons as "multiculturalism"; in reality, however, pupils are being passed through a covert mystery initiation, corresponding to Steiner's doctrine of the spiritual evolution of the Aryan. Steiner believed that Manu saved an "advanced" group of people from the Atlantis flood, guiding them to India. They evolved "upwards" after a Persian initiation, Egyptian initiation, etc., and according to Steiner, will continue to evolve "higher" during his predicted future periods of Earth. The following example from a Waldorf pupil's main lesson book reflects how Anthroposophic myth-making is woven into the curriculum:
The Journey from Atlantis to India
Thousands of years ago there was a vast continent named Atlantis. The people used their magic for evil and greedy purposes. On Atlantis there was a wise man called Manu. Great love lived with Manu. Often he would spend time alone thinking with his heart about God. One day when Manu was sitting by a pond he saw a small fish that needed help. As the fish grew, Manu continued to help the fish. When the fish was as big as a whale he told Manu that the great rains were coming to wash away evil in the world. Manu built an Ark and filled it with plants and kind people. The huge fish pulled the Ark to the Northern Mountains of India. The people were overjoyed at the sight of the rainbow and for the first time they saw the bright blue skies! (Personal collection).
Steiner prophesied that the pure and advanced will evolve into various forms on their way to becoming pure spirit, free from the restraints of the physical body. These future evolutions of man include a plant-like body during Jupiter and a bee-like state when Earth becomes Venus. By the Vulcan period, man's present organs of reproduction will atrophy and the spiritually advanced will instead have a highly evolved larynx as an organ of regeneration; man will give birth by speaking another into existence. In other words, in future, followers will return to spirit and become the creator, the "universal human." At one point along Steiner's path of evolution, possibly during Earth's future Venus period, two wings or antenna will develop on the forehead and the heart will become an organ of knowledge — the brain of the "chest-being." He also predicted that in the future man will fly. Those who don't comply with Steiner's way, who do not develop their "I", will be destined to life in his eccentric hell, when during Jupiter, they will become "subordinate nature spirits." (Steiner, 1995b, p. 70)
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, in Germany, Steiner and many others who undertook occult quests, were inspired by the works of Goethe, who equated Christ with the Sun. During this period, there was a push by volkisch movements to return to Germany's roots of neopagan sun worship — replacing Christ worship — in order to restore the "true" Teutonic religion of the ancient Aryans (see Noll, 1995). Steiner's enlightenment incorporated a Sun trinity that consists of the physical Sun, the second Sun, and most importantly, the first Sun. "Laggard beings" that should have evolved into spirits of wisdom, but instead remained behind, live and work on the physical Sun. Within solar flares, laggard angelic beings from Steiner's Ancient Sun period which "are in fact ahrimanic beings" reside (Vreede, 2001, p. 41). In the corona, laggard angelic beings, that remained behind from Steiner's Old Moon condition, dwell. Within sunspots the laggard spirits of personality exist, archai who completed their human stage on Steiner's ancient Saturn (p. 41). All the beings that live on the physical Sun studied by science "must all be regarded as having ‘remained behind’" (p. 41). Within the human chest there exists a second Sun, dwelling place of the spirits of Yaweh Elohim, who breathed breath into the human being. These beings cause the circulation of the blood. "In the blood, in rhythm, in pulsebeat, the second sun dwells within us" (p. 42). And last but not least, "the first and highest Sun is the Sun of Christ." "The Christ Sun has united itself with the Earth" (p. 43).
Many people participating in Waldorf schools do not know much, if anything, about the esoteric subtext. Followers of Steiner often claim that Anthroposophy is not a religion but rather a philosophy, and Steiner was a scientist, artist, educator, and philosopher. Religion scholars, however, have classified Anthroposophy as a religion and Steiner's doctrine certainly meets criteria for being classified as such: it includes worship of Christ the Sun Being as well as archangel Michael who is the messenger of the Sun and of the Christ; there is belief in various supernatural beings such as angels and demons, as well as gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines which are "elemental" spirits that dwell in earth, air, fire and water; there is a destiny of followers and assurance of eternal life in the form of reincarnation; a path to follow to gain psychic sight in order to see spiritual beings that surround mankind, use of rituals, the promise of a good reincarnation in Steiner's prophetic future if one develops one's "I." Followers stand to inherit the earth and "all it will yield". As in any religion, there are local communities of like-minded believers.