Steiner's vision contained pleasing elements. A warm, fuzzy glow emanates from these elements. But nearer the center of Steiner's teachings lies a narrative of conflict and struggle.
Mankind's evolution to higher and higher levels entails a series of enormous cataclyms during which hordes die. The epoch during which we lived on Lemuria, for instance, ended in a cataclysm of volcanic explosions and fire. Likewise, the epoch when we lived on Atlantis ended in a cataclysm of crashing waters and torrential floods. Mankind caused these catastrophes, Steiner taught.
Something similar awaits us in the future, according to Steiner. A titanic war will very nearly wipe out humanity. "All" people will wage war against "all" others. We will rend one another. Few will survive.
This is the price of progress, as Steiner described it. Struggle and conflict are key components of Steiner's creed.
Here are some of Steiner's statements about the coming apocalypse.
“At the end of our fifth great epoch, the post-Atlantean, there will be catastrophes that will work in a way similar to those at the close of the Atlantean epoch [i.e., the destruction of Atlantis]. Through the War of All Against All, the seventh culture of the fifth epoch will find its conclusion [i.e., our epoch will end like previous epochs, in violent destruction]. These are interesting connections that are indicated in certain repetitions, and when we follow them more closely they will throw light into the depths of our soul life.” — Rudolf Steiner, EGYPTIAN MYTHS AND MYSTERIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1971), lecture 2, GA 106.
“[O]ur epoch will come to an end through other forces, through a mighty increase of egoism in human nature, and, on account of this, through the war of all against all.
“Only those who turn to a spiritual life will survive the catastrophe, which, in this case, means the war of all against all, just as only a small group of people escaped from the catastrophes of Lemuria and Atlantis. The war of all against all will be still more terrible for those involved in it than were those of fire and water, however terrible we may picture them to have been. Those who are now turning towards a spiritual life should feel it their duty to do all that is possible to rescue the good seed of our age and carry it over into the sixth age, which will follow the present one. This age is made up of great subdivisions; the ancient Indian, the Persian, the Egyptian, the Greco-Latin, and the present one, which will be followed by the sixth and the seventh right on to the time of the war of all against all.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNIVERSE, EARTH AND MAN (Collison, 1931) lecture 10, GA 105.
“The downfall of our present epoch will be caused by lack of morality. The Lemurian epoch was destroyed by fire, the Atlantean by water; our epoch and its civilisation will be destroyed by the War of All against All, by evil. Human beings will destroy each other in mutual strife. And the terrible thing — more desperately tragic than other catastrophes — will be that the blame will lie with human beings themselves.
“A tiny handful of men will make good and thus insure their survival in the sixth epoch of civilisation. This tiny handful will have attained selflessness. The others will develop every imaginable skill and subtlety in the manipulation and use of the physical forces of nature, but without the essential degree of selflessness.
“In the seventh epoch of civilisation, this War of All against All will break out in the most terrible form. Great and mighty forces will be let loose by the discoveries, turning the whole earth-globe into a kind of [self-functioning] live electric mass. In a way that cannot be discussed, the tiny handful will be protected and preserved.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Work of Secret Societies in the World” (transcript, Rudolf Steiner Archive), a lecture, GA 93.
“Mighty flames of fire destroyed ancient Lemuria, and mighty floods ancient Atlantis. Our civilisation will also perish, through the war of all against all. This is what we must face. Our fifth root-race will perish, because egoism will reach its highest pitch. But at the same time, a small group of men will develop the power of Budhi, of the Life-Spirit, through the force of thought, in order to carry over Budhi into the new civilisation. Everything that is productive in the striving human being will grow stronger and stronger, until his personality reaches the summit of freedom. At present, every individual must discover in himself a kind of guiding spirit in the soul's inner depths: — This is Budhi, the power of the Life spirit. Were we to approach the future by taking up the cultural impulses as in earlier epochs, we should face the disintegration of humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Adept School of the Past” (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, No. 31/32, 1941), GA 97.
“If we allow things to take their course, in the manner in which they have taken their course under the influence of the world-conception which has arisen in the nineteenth century and in the form in which we can understand it, if we allow things to take this course, we shall face the war of all against all, at the end of the twentieth century. No matter what beautiful speeches may be held, no matter how much science may progress, we would inevitably have to face this war of all against all. We would see the gradual development of a type of humanity devoid of every kind of social instinct, but which would talk all the more of social questions.” — Rudolf Steiner, “The Remedy for Our Diseased Civilsation” (ANTHROPOSOPHIC NEWS SHEET, Supplements 2-3, 1939), GA 206.
“The war of all against all will be an expression of the egotism that is always growing stronger, the egotism conjured forth by humanity today as the I is and will always become, stronger and stronger. That will be the end of the last post-Atlantean culture. This catastrophe will also have its mission, its usefulness in the ascent of the entire human race. However, the great war of all against all will be something much worse than war of the present-day with weapons. It will be a war of souls, of souls who no longer understand one another, a war of the classes. This future catastrophe is difficult for present-day consciousness to understand.
“The Atlanteans were magicians. As we today use the powers asleep in coal, so the Atlantean used the forces in plant seeds. The forces in the seeds served them in their technology, in their industry.
“...Magic must never be made to serve when selfish purposes are involved. Hence, the employment of seed forces is not permitted today even to serve white magic. On the other hand, in Lemurian times the seed forces of the animals were used. But everywhere that the growth forces of animals are misused, horrendous forces of fire, the volcanic element, are awakened.
“Today these things are not so obvious. Today the feeling for one's self, the overwhelming egohood of people has brought about the drying up, the desolation of those regions of the earth that have developed this egotism to the greatest extent. It is absolutely true that this war of all against all is being prepared on the surface of the earth because a connection exists between the egotistical withering of the soul's forces and the paralyzation of the earth's productive powers. The Nordic myth of the Twilight of the Gods also tells us this.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (Anthroposophic Press, 1993), lecture 3, GA 104a.
“When the seventh epoch has run its course, another great convulsion will overwhelm the Earth, comparable to the catastrophe between the end of Atlantean and the beginning of post-Atlantean time. Under the altered conditions following upon this event the life of man will once again evolve through a succession of seven epochs. The souls who will then be incarnated will experience in an enhanced degree the community with spiritual worlds enjoyed by the Atlanteans on a lower level. But among human beings not everyone will without more ado prove equal to the new conditions then prevailing. It will only be those in whom souls are incarnated who have duly benefited by the influences of the Graeco-Latin and the succeeding fifth, sixth and seventh post-Atlantean epochs. Their inner life will be in harmony with what the Earth will have become. The others will perforce remain behind, while formerly they had been free to choose whether they were making themselves fit to go forward with the world's progressive evolution or were neglecting to do so. For the conditions that will prevail after the coming cataclysm, those above all will be well fitted who, in their incarnations between the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and the sixth, succeed in integrating the supersensible wisdom and their own human powers of intelligence and feeling. The fifth and sixth are the decisive epochs. In the seventh, the souls who have reached the evolutionary goal of the sixth [epoch] will go on evolving. For those who have not, even the surrounding world will be too greatly altered; they will find little opportunity to recover their lost ground, and must await a more distant future when the conditions will again be favorable.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979), p. 308; emphases by Steiner.
“A small part of humankind will live toward the sixth main race; a larger part will not yet have found the light within. Because egotism is the fundamental power in the soul, the war of all against all will rage within this larger part of humanity. As the Lemurian race found its end through the power of fire, the Atlantean through water, so will the fifth race find its destruction in conflict between selfish, egoistic powers in the war of all against all. This line of evolution will descend deeper and deeper; when it arrives at the bottom everyone will rage against everyone else. A small part of humankind will escape this, just as a small part escaped during the destruction of the Atlantean race. It is up to every individual to find a connection to the spiritual life in order to be one of those to go over into the sixth root race. Mighty revolutions stand before humankind; they are described in the Apocalypse.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE, lecture 3.
“While the head is skillfully engaged in elaborating material things and material phenomena into a materialistic science, the metabolic part of man, which takes hold of the complete human structure, works out the very opposite world-picture; it elaborates a thoroughly spiritualistic world-picture ... But within the metabolic part of man, this influences the instincts and the passions. There it produces the very opposite of what it would produce if it were to claim the whole human being. When it permeates the instincts, ahrimanic powers get hold of it, and then it is not active in a divine-spiritual sense ... [T]he human being then merely makes claims and demands ... [T]his now appears in the world-historical events. If the development were to continue in this consistent way, we would reach, at the end of the twentieth century, the war of all against all ... We may already see what has thus developed, we may see it raying out from the East and asserting itself over a great part of the earth.” — Rudolf Steiner, "The Remedy for Our Diseased Civilization".
"Our epoch will come to an end through what we call the War of All against All, by frightful devastating moral entanglements.
"We divide this fifth epoch, from the Atlantean flood to the mighty war of All against All, into seven consecutive ages of civilization, as shown in the diagram below.