Steiner's Big Picture
He suffered from hallucinations — he was mentally ill. That’s one possibility, anyway. Another possibility is that Rudolf Steiner never had a “vision” in his life, but in order to be considered a great and wise spiritual leader, he lied, pretending to possess clairvoyant powers that yielded supernal wisdom. He was, in other words, a fraud. Or, of course, there is a third possibility. Perhaps Steiner actually was psychic and, fully sane, he really saw the spiritual wonders he reported seeing.
Steiner claimed to be a “spiritual scientist” who objectively investigated the “supersensible” spirit realm — phenomena that we cannot study with our normal senses or with any of the usual equipment of science such as telescopes, microscopes, and the like. In other essays, I have argued that Steiner’s claims are hollow; his “visions” are useless to us, since they are utterly divorced from reality. Steiner critic Anthony Storr has made the same point, writing that Steiner’s “so-called ‘thinking,’ his supposed power of supersensible perception, led to a vision of the world, the universe, and cosmic history which is entirely unsupported by any evidence, which is at odds with practically everything which modern physics and astronomy have revealed, and which is more like science fiction than anything else.” 
But let’s not be too hasty. To give Steiner’s visions an airing, I’d like to discuss OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, the book in which Steiner lays out his visions more completely than anywhere else.  First published in 1909, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE is one of Steiner’s early spiritual works, but the author revised it repeatedly during the subsequent years, preparing the final version just months before his death. By Steiner’s own account, the book’s revelations were always correct, and they only become more completely correct with each revision. For the 1925 edition, he wrote “OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, now to be published in a new edition, is after all an epitome of anthroposophical Spiritual Science as a whole ... The outline as presented fifteen years ago has in no way been shaken. Inserted in its proper place and context, everything that I have since been able to adduce becomes a further elaboration of the original picture.” [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 12.] The revisions Steiner made over time are actually more extensive than he admitted, but nonetheless Steiner assures us that this book conveys the real cosmic lowdown. So let’s take a look.
◊ Direct Experience ◊
Steiner insisted that everything he said about the spirit realm came from his own direct clairvoyant experiences, not from the occult texts he had read. “As to whatever I might formerly have read...I was able to eliminate such things completely while engaged on supersensible research [i.e., the careful use of clairvoyance].” [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 11] Early in the book, Steiner spends a great deal of time repeating words such as “research,” “science,” and — especially — “supersensible,” as if this will convince us that his work is a serious investigation of extremely important matters. But he leaves a great deal unexplained and unproven. Crucially, he never establishes that the invisible “Spirit-land” actually exists, and he never establishes that clairvoyance (or “supersensible perception” or “supersensible research”) works.* To read the book favorably, you have to get past these problems. (If you are religious, you may believe that the spirit realm exists, as Steiner claimed. But realize that Steiner’s version of the spirit realm is extremely different from anything you will find in the Bible or Qur'an or most other texts accepted by major religions. We’ll return to this point.) Steiner said he had his first spiritualistic experience when he was a young boy.  The spirit of a dead relative appeared before him and asked for his help. Maybe this happened; maybe not. A sympathetic interpretation is that Steiner saw spiritualistic visions all his life, and as an adult he was drawn to mysticism because he found in it an explanation of the unworldly experiences he had undergone. Gary Lachman, among others, takes this line. 
* For definitions of terms, see "The Semi-Steiner Dictionary" and "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia". "Spirit-land' is, essentially, the spirit realm broadly defined. Steiner adopted the term from Theosophy and then adjusted its meaning to suit himself. His use of terms is often complex, not to say inconsistent. Thus, Steiner taught that "Spiritland," in a different sense, is a subdivision of the spirit realm: It is the highest of the known higher worlds comprising the spirit realm. Steiner wrote the first versions of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE while he was a Theosophist. After he broke away, establishing his own movement, Anthroposophy, he retained many Theosophical terms and concepts, although he put his own stamp on them, as in fact he had done before making the break.
◊ The Instrument ◊
Although he often criticized science and scientists [see "Science"], Steiner also claimed, often, that he himself was a scientist — a scientist whose subject was the spirit realm. He studied that realm through the disciplined use of clairvoyance, or so he said. Thus, turning inward, he could see outward, or so he said.* He himself was his own instrument. "Every scientist makes use of instruments and methods. He prepares his instruments by working upon the things which ‘Nature’ gives him. The supersensible form of knowing [i.e., acquiring information without the use of the ordinary senses] also makes use of an instrument, only that here the instrument is Man himself. This instrument too must first be prepared — prepared for the purposes of a higher kind of research." [p. 38] In reality, Steiner was advocating fantasization — the inward turn is, in reality, nothing but subjectivity and wishfulness. But he attached the title "science" to this effort. "Occult science." And that is our subject.
In Steiner's system, you prepare your instrument by developing focused, disciplined powers of clairvoyance. Everything in Steiner's system depends on this. And thereby, everything in his system collapses — because there is no such thing as clairvoyance, focused or not, disciplined or not. [See "Clairvoyance".] Once we have grasped this, we have precious little reason to continue through the remainder of Steiner's book. Nothing in it stands on truth; nothing in it is real.
Still, having started, let's stick with it. Let's plow ahead to see what else Steiner said, what else his followers believe, what else is imbedded in the thinking behind Waldorf schools.
* Steiner taught that the human being is a micrcosmic replica of the cosmos, the macrocosm. Everything that exists "out there" in the macrocosm also exists inside us. [See "The Center".] Anthroposophists gaze inward both to sharpen their fantasized "clairvoyant" abilities and also to discover the "truths" attainable through the use of clairvoyance. However, Steiner also claimed to direct his clairvoyance outward, into the macrocosm. Specifically, he claimed to consult the "Akashic Records," cosmic repositories of occult knowledge written on cosmic ether ("akasha") or starlight. [See "Akasha".] We will return to this matter.
◊ Components ◊
Steiner taught that human beings have four bodies, three of which can be perceived only through the use of clairvoyance — they are invisible to our ordinary senses. (The Waldorf curriculum is geared to the incarnation of the three invisible bodies. [See "Incarnation".])
The first of the invisible bodies is called the etheric body. Essentially, it consists of forces that hold the physical body together and give the physical body form and energy. "Supersensible perception [i.e., clairvoyance] can observe, as an independent member of the human being, what it is that prevents the physical substances and forces during life from going their own way, which would...lead to the disintegration of the physical body. We will call this independent member of man's being the Etheric Body or Life-Body." [p. 41] Steiner realizes that, although he has claimed the title of "scientist," his statements about such things as etheric bodies put him outside the scientific pale. "[T]he mention of a ‘life-body’ as an essential principle of human nature can at the present time scarcely fail to be regarded as unscientific." [p. 41] But he is undaunted, claiming that science in general will catch up with him and his "occult science" sooner or later.
The second of our invisible bodies is the astral body. Just as the physical body depends on the etheric body, so the etheric body depends on the higher forces provided by the astral body. This higher body returns us from the death we experience nightly when we sleep. "All the creative work of man depends — so far as the manifest world is concerned — on his activity in waking life. But this activity is only possible if he again and again derives from sleep a strengthening of his exhausted forces ... To the science of the supersensible, what rouses life again and again from the unconscious state is the third member of the human being. It may be called the Astral Body ... Left to itself, an etheric body would of necessity be in a perpetual state of sleep — or, we may also say, could only maintain in the physical body a vegetable form of life. An etheric body that is awake is illumined by an astral body." [pp. 43-44]
The third invisible body, the highest, is the "I" or "ego" — the spiritual spark of divine human identity (not to be confused with the ego as a mere psychological component). Of all earthly creatures, only man has this highest body, which yields a sense of inviolable selfhood behind the ebb and flow of sensation. "With the awareness of something permanent and lasting in the changing flow of inner experiences, the feeling of ‘I,’ of inner selfhood, begins to dawn ... The physical body disintegrates when it is not held together by the etheric; the etheric body falls into unconsciousness when it is not irradiated by the astral body. In the like manner the astral body would ever and again have to let the past sink into oblivion if the I did not preserve the past and carry it over into the present. Forgetting is for the astral body what death is for the physical body and sleep for the etheric. Or, as we may also express it: life is proper to the etheric body, consciousness to the astral body, and memory to the Ego." [p. 46]
◊ Your Dog Doesn’t Remember You ◊
Memory is so important to our divine human selfhood, Steiner was obliged to deny that animals possess memories. “To attribute memory to animals is an error ... It is natural enough to think of memory when a dog recognizes its master ... Yet in reality the recognition depends not on memory, but on something else ... The master's [presence] gives pleasure to the dog ... [T]he master's presence has become [an unconscious] need to the dog ... [But] the animal’s behaviour implies the absence of all memory.” [pp. 46-47] Lacking “I”s, animals are extremely limited and low. Indeed, for Steiner, “animal” was virtually a synonym for "wicked."
Steiner insisted that human beings occupy an exalted place among all beings. He called his ideology “anthroposophy” to accentuate the significance of humanity (anthropos: Greek for human being). We are the spiritual hub around which the whole of creation turns, he taught.* To underscore the utter difference between humans and animals, Steiner asserted that your dog can’t remember who you are, s/he merely takes some vague pleasure in your presence just as s/he would enjoy warm sunlight or a juicy steak.
The evidence Steiner gathered to substantiate his view about the minds and biological processes of animals would undoubtedly be very interesting, except that Steiner offers us no such evidence. And in reality, the preponderance of actual evidence, produced by real scientists, lies on the other side. Many animals in fact have excellent memories — remembering migration routes, the location of widely dispersed bits of food stashed away for the winter, and so on.  As was so often the case, Steiner was simply wrong. But that's where "clairvoyance" gets you. [See "Steiner's Blunders".]
* Humans often have an extraordinarily weak sense of worth, self-regard, identity. Belief systems such as Anthroposophy are often designed precisely to fill this deeply felt human need. The danger is that if such faiths provide false reassurances (you have a divine "I", you are the center of everything, the gods love you), they encourage their followers to build their lives on sand. And when the sand shifts, the longed-for but empty sense of security can vanish. Steiner led his followers to believe that the gods actually worship humanity. "[T]hese higher beings, the gods, also have a religion: they too look up to something in awe and reverence. What is this religion of the gods? What is it that the gods revere? It is man. Man is the religion of the gods." — Rudolf Steiner, quoted in THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND TO CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS (Floris Books, 2007), pp. 72-73. Such assurances lead Steiner's followers to make such assertions as this: "The entire created universe has been brought into being so that the human being might come into existence." — Ronald E. Koetzsch, "Anthroposophy 101". This is, indeed, a central tenet of the Steiner/Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy.
◊ Only I Am “I” ◊
“It is only to himself that any being can apply this name ['I']. ‘I am an I only to myself; to every other being I am a you, and every other being is a you to me.’” Steiner often didn’t realize how foolish he sounded. But, to continue: “The real being [i.e., essence] of the I is independent of all external things and for this very reason no external thing or person can call it by its name. Hence those religious faiths which have consciously maintained their connection with the supersensible world speak of the I as the Unutterable Name of God.” [pp. 49-50]
Steiner’s teachings are explicitly gnostic. Gnosticism holds that salvation can be obtained only by acquiring secret or mystery knowledge of the divine (gnosis: Greek for knowledge). This is what “occult science” is intended to achieve. The salvation Steiner offered is nothing immediate: It will be attained only after a long series of reincarnations during which we gradually evolve to progressively higher levels of spiritual development. Distinctly unbiblical, reincarnation is a basic Anthroposophical tenet. Steiner taught that human beings live alternately in physical reality and in Spirit-land. Each time a human dies, s/he goes to Spirit-land for a considerable period of time, and then s/he is reincarnated in a new physical body. If we live well, each reincarnation can represent another upward evolutionary step. But for this to happen, we need to know and act upon occult, gnostic secrets that are concealed from most other humans. (One of the appeals some people find in occultism is the self-aggrandizing notion that, as insiders, they possess stupendous secrets.)
Like many spiritualists, Steiner taught that a divine spark is present inside each real human being. As we have seen, Steiner called this spark the "I" — it is the god, or portion of a god, within us. It is an entity having independent existence (“the real being of the I...”), and it is gnostic, hidden, mysterious (“the Unutterable Name...”). Steiner taught that Christ had this spark, and we can follow Christ by emulating his enactment of the “I.” In one sense, Christ was a messenger, bringing us gnosis or knowledge. Christ may also be considered to be the Word, the message itself. Then again, according to Steiner, Christ is a Sun Being, a spirit who dwells on the Sun. We’ll dig into these matters as we proceed. 
◊ Who We Are ◊
As we have seen, Steiner taught that we have four bodies: the physical body, etheric body, astral body, and "I" or "ego" (or, as he sometimes called it, the "ego body"). But that's not the whole picture. Steiner taught that other parts of ourselves incarnate from time to time. Our overall constitution consists of nine components, most of which are invisible. Sometimes he cut this to seven (and sometime he cut it to four). In OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, he gives us his seven-fold picture of ourselves:
"[We find] the following seven members of the human being:
1. Physical body
2. Etheric body or life-body
3. Astral body
4. I , Ego
7. Spirit-Man" [p. 58]
To look into these parts and how they fit together, see "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts". (There's no point in asking a doctor about any of this, or looking up any of this in a medical encyclopedia. Steiner's teachings have nothing to do with ascertainable, real-world knowledge. This is just one more example.)
◊ Taking Pictures ◊
Occult science, the system for studying the spirit realm, hinges on our ability to form pictures of that realm. We can't do this with our eyes or brains, but fortunately for us we can do it with our psychic abilities. In particular, the astral body has a natural capacity for receiving pictures of the great beyond. Steiner taught, and his followers believe, that truth comes to us when we are asleep. At night, Steiner taught, the astral body leaves the physical and etheric bodies and travels to its true home, the spirit realm — snapping pictures as it goes, as it were. "As food and other necessities are received by the physical body from its environment, so do the pictures of the astral body's environment come to it during sleep. The fact is that the astral body is then living, outside the physical and the etheric, in the great Universe — the selfsame Universe out of which the entire man is born. For in that Universe is the source of the creative patterns, [sic] — the archetypal pictures to which man owes his form ... In sleep his astral body returns into the harmony of the Universe, whence on awakening he brings sufficient force into his bodies to enable him for a time once more to forgo the sojourn there." [p. 65]
The sorts of pictures we receive through clairvoyance and/or the excursions of the astral body constitute much of the remainder of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE As you consider these pictures, remind yourself that this is the thinking behind Waldorf schools.
◊ Kicking the Bucket ◊
Although, during life, the etheric body remains pinned to the physical body — remaining behind when the astral body and "I" ascend to the spirit realm at night — the etheric body is cut loose when the physical body dies. Indeed, death as such — termination, turning out the lights — affects only the physical body. All of the invisible parts of ourselves survive and pass on to higher levels where they prepare for our future earthly incarnations.
"In death the physical is severed from the etheric body. Left to its own unaided forces, the physical body will now inevitably disintegrate ... At death the force that holds the etheric and astral bodies together becomes at last effective, detaching the etheric from the physical." [pp. 69-70] The force uniting the etheric and astral bodies soon subsides, however. The astral body needs to free itself of the etheric body so that it can make the proper preparation for further development in further lives. "Thereafter, the astral body — severed now from the etheric — goes on its further way alone and by itself." [p. 73] Overall, the period of existence between death and the next incarnation is spent gathering the forces needed in the next life. Most of this is, of course, hidden from ordinary human consciousness; to know of it we must rely on clairvoyance or, at a minimum, the unsupported word of Rudolf Steiner. "For outer observation, what goes on between death and a new birth is of course still more hidden than the underlying spiritual reality of manifest existence between birth and death [i.e., without clairvoyance we can't apprehend the truth about our lives after death or even the truth about our lives before death]." [p. 91]
◊ Looking Around in Spirit-land ◊
Steiner gives us some of the inside scoop about what we will see and do in the spirit realm after we die on Earth, but his report is a disappointingly vague. “The science of the supersensible [i.e., Anthroposophy] can at most give pictures [not complete accounts] in attempting to describe what happens in this ‘Land of Spirits’ ... [I]n Spirit-land...the Ego will experience a kind of colour...a world radiant with colour ... Needless to say, since the manner of their origin is so very different, the colour-experiences of the spiritual world differ in character from those we enjoy in the world of Nature.” [pp. 82-83] Spirit-land is a place of colors, but not colors as we know them. We might wonder, then, what Steiner means by the word “color” in this context. Nothing specific, actually. Steiner pulls this trick often: He uses a word — “color” or “Saturn” or “ether” or (fill in the blank) — and then he informs us that he doesn’t mean what the word means, he means something else. This is a clever way of claiming that he’s talking about very, very deep stuff while simultaneously attempting to shield himself from criticism. We cannot subject his teachings to rational examination or analysis, he often said. We cannot criticize what we cannot understand, he averred. 
The “pictures” we form of the spirit realm must necessarily be vague, Steiner said, but forming these pictures is central to “the science of the supersensible.” Although the spirit realm lacks clear definitions and forms, we can develop hazy approximate images for our edification. This, Steiner indicated, is the process known as imagination. Steiner repeatedly expressed the need for “imagination” as a means of grasping spiritual truths. A skeptic might respond that no truths can result from making misty pictures of things that cannot in truth be pictured — such pictures would necessarily by false.  Still, imagination is central in Anthroposophy and, by extension, in Waldorf education.
Returning to a point I made earlier: “Spirit-land” is Theosophy-talk for the spirit realm. To generalize, we can say that we spend our time there receiving the ministrations of the gods who prepare us for our coming lives. (We receive these ministrations nightly, during the little death that is sleep, and also — in somewhat different form — during the periods following our actual deaths.) The process entails rising through a series of various spiritual regions.* At one point, Steiner says clairvoyance discerns three realms in Spirit-land, but he quickly boosts the total to five, and then he indicates that indeed there are more than five.
"Three distinct regions of Spirit-land — the land of Spirits — are apparent to supersensible consciousness [i.e., clairvoyance]...
"Whatever assumes physical form upon Earth and is thus made perceptible to physical organs [i.e., our physical eyes], is seen in its spiritual essence in the first region of Spirit-land ... The characteristic color which the stone has in the sense-world [i.e., the physical world] is experienced in the spiritual world as its complementary. Seen therefore from Spirit-land, a red stone is experienced with a greenish [sic] and a green stone with a reddish hue. Other properties too appear as their antithesis...
[The second region of Spirit-land is the "oceanic region."] "All that is life in the sense-world is the oceanic region of the spiritual world [i.e., everything that lives in the physical world has its spiritual home in the oceanic region of the spirit world] ... To the eye of the spirit, life is a flowing essence, like seas and rivers pervading the Spirit-land...
"The third region of Spirit-land is the airy sphere or 'atmosphere.' All that is feeling and sensation in the outer [i.e., physical] world is present in the spirit-realm as an all-pervading element, comparable to the air on Earth...
[Concerning the fourth region:] "The thoughts man apprehends within the manifest [i.e., physical] world are but a shadow of the real thought-being** ... [This is] what pervades the fourth region of Spirit-land ... [The fourth region is] the real world of thoughts ... While feelings and passions occasioned by the external world belong to the third region of Spirit-land, all that can come to life in the soul of man so that he becomes creative, acting on his environment in such a way as to transform and fertilize it, is manifested in its archetypal being in the fourth region...
"The prevailing element of the fifth region may be likened to the light of the physical world. It is none other than Wisdom, manifested in its pristine, archetypal form. Beings [i.e., gods] belong to that region who pour Wisdom into their environment, even as the Sun sheds light upon physical creatures...
"There are yet higher regions of Spirit-land...." [pp. 83-86]
As you progress through these regions, the gods help correct you and, by the end of your celestial period, they prep you for returning to Earth. Or so Steiner says. "These Beings of the spiritual world henceforth collaborate with the fruit of his [sic: the dead man's] former life which man himself has brought with him — the fruit which is now about to become the seed. And by this collaboration man is built up anew — built, to begin with, as a spiritual being." [p. 87]
For more about the "higher worlds" that we visit during sleep and after death, see "Higher Worlds”.
* Steiner taught that three of the regions correspond to earthly elements: the first region corresponds to land, the second to water, the third to air. The other regions are higher, representing nonphysical essences. The fourth region is that of thought, and it can be characterized by a sort of warmth (so that it corresponds, more or less, to the fourth earthly element: fire). The fifth realm is that of spirit, and it is comparable to the Sun (which, in Anthroposophy, is the home of Christ, the Sun God).
** Steiner taught that we do not think with our brains — at least, we do not produce real thoughts there. Real thoughts, he said, are actually spiritual beings that come to us from the spirit realm. They are "thought beings" or "living thoughts." [See, e.g., "Thinking".] Such thoughts are produced by the gods, and such thoughts are, themselves, gods: they are living spirits, they are "archetypes." Here he says that the "thoughts" we have while alive on Earth are but shadows of the true, living thoughts that exist in Spirit-land.
◊ Karma ◊
The "fruits" that you bring with you to the spirit realm are the results of your actions committed during life on Earth — these constitute the stuff that creates your karma. Karma or destiny is a central concept in the Waldorf belief system. Steiner compared it to the law of cause-and-effect that operates in the physical universe. You create (or cause) your own karma (the effect of your actions). Your fruit (the results of your previous actions) becomes the seed of your new existence.
"In this relationship of law and causation between an earlier and a later life we have to recognize the real Law of Destiny...the law of ‘Karma.’” [p. 89] To dwell on the point a bit: When you "die," the results of your actions during Earthly life follow you into Spirit-land. There, you learn what you did right and what you did wrong. During your next return to earth — via reincarnation — you must try to build on what you did right and atone for what you did wrong. You will get many, many chances to get things right, since you will have many, many lives both in the physical universe and in Spirit-land. But you must not waste your lives. Evolution will proceed, and if you fail to keep abreast, you will be left behind, which would be a huge mistake. The ultimate fate of non-evolvers threatens to be horrific. (Keep reading.)
Several threads of Steiner’s thought come together at this point. The basic structure of cosmic history is a process of evolution, but not the sort of evolution that you’ll find in biology books. The essence of our evolution is spiritual, according to Steiner; it is an ascent to higher and higher forms of consciousness. We and many other spiritual beings gradually ascend from near-comatose insensibility to universe-encompassing Wisdom and Divinity. Along the way, we continually shed “lowly” aspects of ourselves. Animals are not only beneath us, but generally speaking they are the embodiment of characteristics that we had to cast aside in order to evolve properly. During our evolution, we will also need to rid ourselves of lowly racial characteristics. (We will examine these doctrines further in due course.)
◊ Reincarnation ◊
The doctrine of karma is intimately linked to the doctrine of reincarnation. Steiner insisted on the truth of these doctrines, although he distinguished his vision from a more traditional, Eastern view (as he depicted it). We live many many lives, over and over. We reincarnate repeatedly. But this is not a futile process of endless repetition, Steiner said. Rather, it is a process of evolution. If we create a correct, spiritually enlightened karma for ourselves, we improve with each new incarnation and move upward toward spiritual perfection. Individuals evolve just as humanity as a whole has evolved.
"The cycle of human life from birth till death and thence to a new birth repeats itself periodically. Again and again man returns to the Earth when the fruits gained in a preceding physical life has ripened in Spirit-land. But this is not a repetition without beginning or end. Time was when man advanced from other forms of existence to those here described, and in the future he will pass on to different ones again." [p. 91]
Done properly, Steiner taught, each successive incarnation is an advancement, a forward step. Moreover, we facilitate our advancement by selecting the circumstances of our incarnations — the places where we will be born, the companions we will have in our next life, even the identities of our parents and teachers. Little occurs by chance. The crucial factors in each incarnation are the influences and needs we bring from the spirit realm and from our previous lives. Extraneous influences, such as any bodily or mental characteristics we inherit from our parents in any one life, are far less significant than the inner spirit/soul essence of the incarnating individual.
These considerations have a direct bearing on a child's education. A wise (clairvoyant) educator will detect each student's inner being and differentiate it from what is merely inherited from parents. "As every educator is aware, powers and faculties from the pupil's own inner life must [be central] ... An educator of sufficient insight will even mark the clear dividing line between the inherited tendencies and those inner faculties of his pupils which ray right through the latter, originating as they do in former lives." [pp. 98-99]
◊ In the Beginning ◊
Just as individuals evolve and humanity as a whole evolves, the solar system and the Earth evolve. Steiner's creation story is in fact a story of evolution. “The material [Earth] evolve[d] out of the spiritual; until then, the spiritual alone existed ... [T]he Earth-planet has evolved out of a cosmic spiritual entity.” [p. 104]
According to the Bible, God created the heavens and the earth — God (the creator) and the universe (the created) are separate things. Steiner’s version is a bit different. The Earth, he says, “evolved” out of a vague “spiritual entity” — and, underneath, the Earth is the same as the "spiritual entity." To be more specific, the physical Earth is a condensation of spirit; physical existence is a condensation of previous spiritual existence. Steiner offers this helpful analogy: “[I]t is very much as though we might be looking at a vessel [e.g., a bowl] filled with water, where by a finely regulated cooling process, lumps of ice were gradually taking shape. We see the ice condense out of what was water ... Similarly...material things, events and entities condense, as it were, out of a previous existence which was spiritual....” [p. 104] The water stays water, even though it changes from liquid to solid. Same for the Earth, it is a condensed form of the "spiritual entity" — the proto-Earthish spirit. At their core, the Earth and its originating spirit are the same.
Note how Steiner’s account avoids any clear, direct reference to God, per se. Instead, we find a vague reference to spirit. God, per se, is largely absent from Anthroposophical teachings, although some Anthroposophical prayers — including those recited in Waldorf schools — appear, on the surface, to address God. [See "God" and "Prayers".] Anthroposophy is a polytheistic creed, with the work of creation and the guidance of humanity undertaken by various gods of various ranks. The One and Only God of monotheism is absent. [See "Polytheism".] We will return to these points. [For the Anthroposophical take on the Book of Genesis, see "Genesis".]
◊ Where He Gets It ◊
“[I]f we are able to raise our faculty of perception [i.e., clairvoyance] and look through the visible world to the invisible, we arrive at length at a point where we have [i.e., we see] before us what might be compared to a mighty spiritual panorama ... These abiding traces of all spiritual happenings may be call the ‘Akashic Records’....” [p. 105] The Akashic Records are a celestial encyclopedia written on a universal ether (akasha: Sanskrit for sky or ether); the records are the condensation trails, as it were, left by all the events that ever occurred. If you become psychic like Steiner, you too can read these records. They actually contain everything ever, since physical stuff is spiritual stuff, deep down, so “spiritual happenings” include all physical happenings as well as all emotions, thoughts, dreams, and so on. Everything.
In reading Steiner, you may occasionally find yourself bridling. You may doubt, for instance, that a cosmic encyclopedia written on ether really exists. Certainly you may doubt that clairvoyance is a real faculty. These are the sorts of hurdles one must jump over if you are to follow Steiner. Anthroposophy is one mystic’s stab at producing a theory of everything, a set of teachings that account for all phenomena. Steiner tried to hammer almost all occult "truths" into his worldview. Some people believe in goblins; okay, include them in the paradigm. Some people believe in guardian angels, so include them. The Akashic Records — include them. Magic — include it. Alchemy, seances, astrology, phantoms, ghosts, Norse gods, Greek gods, Hindu gods — include them, include, include.  But the result is a grotesque jerrybuilt contraption, a set of doctrines lacking fundamental coherence. At the end of this essay, I’ll offer a few suggestions on how to evaluate Steiner’s amazing claims.
◊ Prehistory 201 ◊
On other pages on this website, we have looked into Steiner’s account of the distant past. [See, to start, "Prehistory 101".] Let’s examine some of these matters more deeply now. The first stage of human evolution, according to Steiner, was "Saturn": “If we would form an idea — pictorial, but approximating to reality — of the conditions during Saturn evolution [i.e., during our evolution “on” Saturn], we must bear in mind that of the things and beings now belonging to the Earth...virtually nothing was in existence then ... Of the beings of the Earth which are physically perceptible to-day [sic] man alone was present at that time, and of him only the physical body.” [p. 115]*
Steiner taught that human beings were the first life forms to arise in our solar system's evolutionary history. At the time of our first emergence, we were surrounded by spiritual beings — gods — whose “activity upon the scene of Saturn resulted in the subsequent evolution of man.” [p. 116] Various gods continue to surround us now, continuing the divine supervision of our development. 
During the "Saturn" phase of evolution, our original "physical" bodies were completely unlike the bodies we have today: “[T]he physical body on Saturn is [i.e., was] a delicate, tenuous, ethereal body-of-warmth.” [p. 118] To understand this, you have to wrestle again with Steiner’s bizarre use of language. Remember that Steiner generally denied that the words he used mean what those words usually (actually) mean. So, just as "Saturn" was not really Saturn, the “warmth” “on Saturn” was not really warmth. The "warmth" back then was a physical substance like a gas or a liquid; specifically, it was a “finer substance than gas.” [p. 117] Calling warmth a substance has no recognizable meaning, but don’t let that trouble you. The deeper “truth” conveyed by Steiner is that humans materialized during Saturn, but we did not yet have the qualities that make us fully human (“man alone was present at that time, and of him only the physical body”). To become fully human, we had to evolve. And the process continues. According to Steiner, we aren’t fully human even now.**
What proofs does Steiner offer for any of this? “The proofs are derived in every case from spiritual research.” [p. 115] In other words, the "proofs" are Steiner's claimed use of clairvoyance, nothing more. In other, other words, we must take Steiner's word for all this; no other proof is offered. Be strong. 
* The "planets" Steiner discusses here are not the planets we see in the sky today. Rather, the "planets" he discusses are stages in the evolution of the entire solar system, not mere components within the solar system. Saturn, or "Old Saturn," was the first incarnation of the solar system (it was the solar system's first "planetary condition"). Old Saturn contained everything in the solar system as it existed at that initial stage. When that stage ended, the entire solar system blinked out of existence. After a pause, the entire solar system then reincarnated in a condition called Sun (or "Old Sun"). This second stage was quite different from Old Saturn, and it was quite different from all the subsquent stages. Old Sun was followed by Old Moon, which in turn gave way to our present planetary condition, called "Present Earth." The planets that we see in the sky today are fragments or adumbrations of the stages of the solar system's evolution, but they are not those stages, per se. Today's planets, along with the Earth, will blink out of existence when our present stage of evolution ends. Then, the planets — and we ourselves — will reincarnate in a new form, which Steiner called Jupiter (or "Future Jupiter"). Future Jupiter will be followed by Future Venus, which will be followed by Future Vulcan. Yes, Vulcan. [See "Matters of Form", "Stages", and "Vulcan".]
** To be human, according to Steiner, means attaining a specific level of development, one step short of becoming a low-ranking god. We are on the path to becoming fully human, but we haven't gotten there yet. Moreover, other beings (now gods) evolved to and beyond the human level in the past. (They were aspirant spirits, then they became human, then they became gods. We are on a similar journey.) In an approximate sense, we are "human beings" now, of course, and Steiner found it convenient to call us "human" even when referring to our early (pre-human) evolutionary stages. But, technically, according to Steiner's teachings, we have not yet reached the "Human Kingdom Condition of Life" — a stage of development we may hope to attain someday. [For more on all this, see the entries for the various relevant terms in "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia". For more on the specific subject of being human, see "Indeterminacy", below, and subsequent sections of the present essay.]
◊ Indeterminacy ◊
Being human isn’t a matter of genetics. Indeed, being human is not unique to our species. It is a stage of evolution that we are now working our way through, a stage that other beings passed through before us. On Saturn, “the Spirits of Personality are [i.e., were] at the stage at which the human being is today. They are [i.e., were] going through their ‘human’ epoch.” [p. 121] Spirits of Personality are gods that find their blessedness through the expression of personality, although “personality itself is not there on Saturn, but only its mirrored image — as it were, the shell or husk of personality.” [p. 121] These particular gods, standing at their "human" level of development, were only one type of divinity that acted upon us and promoted our evolution during Saturn. Other gods, such as Spirits of Movement, Spirits of Will, and so forth, were also active. But because Spirit-land is a realm lacking clear boundaries or distinctions, separating out the actions of the various gods is well nigh impossible. “Altogether, no hard and fast line can be drawn between the activities of the several groups of Beings ... The spiritual Beings themselves undergo evolution in the process.” [p. 127]*
The process of evolution clearly implies a starting point. We began as something and evolved into something else. But inquiring into origins is useless, Steiner said. “In a purely intellectual way it is possible, of course, in the case of every given origin, to ask again after its origin ...[But in doing this] we only prolong questioning, as it were, mechanically ... [T]he facts themselves will put a natural end to questioning.” [pp. 126-127] The problem, obviously, is that Steiner’s “facts” are supported by nothing except his unratified say-so.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (among other faiths) don’t have trouble with the question of origins. God is eternal; He has no origin; but He is the origin of everything else. For science, the origin is the Big Bang. How that event occurred is still open to debate, but scientists are working on it — which they do mainly by asking questions. Questioning is the very essence of science. I’m talking about real science, not “occult science.” Questioning is given little emphasis in occult science. Indeed, Steiner generally urged his followers not to use their brains much and not to inquire too deeply into his teachings. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".] Anthroposophy is deeply anti-intellectual, and at root it depends on faith, not knowledge (although of course Steiner claimed the opposite). [See, e.g., "Faith".] We can ask questions "mechanically," Steiner said. But we shouldn't.
* The actions of the various types of gods overlapped, and the gods themselves did not occupy fixed positions in the divine hierarchy. They were evolving, just as we had begun to evolve. Steiner taught that there are nine ranks of gods. [See "Polytheism".] Spirits of Personality are gods three levels higher than human beings (i.e., you and me). Spirits of Movement are two levels higher than Spirits of Personality, while Spirits of Will are two levels higher than Spirits of Movement. 
◊ Sunny Days ◊
After our Saturn stage, we went on to the Sun stage of evolution. “The second of the great evolutionary periods — the Sun stage — uplifts [i.e., uplifted] the human being to a higher level of consciousness than he attained on [i.e., during] Saturn, although compared to man’s present consciousness, his condition on [i.e., during] the Sun might still be called unconsciousness.” [p. 129] Our evolution, Steiner taught, has largely been a matter of rising to higher and higher levels of consciousness. During Old Saturn, he said, we had a consciousness equivalent to being comatose. During Old Sun, we rose to being, in effect, deeply asleep. [See the entry for "evolution of consciousness" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]
When we reached the middle of the Sun evolution, the Spirits of Personality peeled away: “It is [i.e., was] the time when the Spirits of Personality, who reached their human level upon Saturn, [rose] to a higher level of perfection, thus transcending the stage of humanity.” [pp. 131-132] Someday in the distant future, after we become fully human, we too will be able to attain superhuman status, Steiner promised.
Archangels moved into their human stage on/during the Sun, while — toward the end of Sun evolution — we humans arrived at a somewhat equivocal condition: “The human being now continues [i.e., continued] his evolution in an inner life which, in its manifestations to consciousness, may be likened to an inward sensation of smell.” [p. 136] We were essentially unconscious — deeply asleep — but gradually our senses started to develop. On the Sun, we started to be able to sniff.
Old Sun was our second planetary condition, the second incarnation of the solar system, our second condition of consciousness. At the end of Old Sun, the solar system blinked out of existence again, and everyone caught their breath. (These rest periods come at the end of all major stages of evolution, according to Steiner.) "After all this [i.e., evolution during Old Sun] has gone on for a certain time, there is once more an interval of rest." [p. 136] The main point is that, during or "on" Old Sun, we became more alert than we had been previously. "[T]he true meaning of Sun evolution for the being of man has been attained. He has reached a higher level of consciousness than was his on Saturn. It is the consciousness of sleep." [p. 137]
(It is worth pausing over Steiner’s continual use of the word “on.” We lived “on” Saturn and then we lived “on” the Sun. Steiner said he didn’t mean this, exactly, yet his language seems to insist that were actually were on these celestial spheres, in some sense. His defender Gary Lachman says that Steiner really did mean that we really lived on these spheres, in some sense.  But taking Steiner literally is almost always a mistake.)
◊ Moony Days ◊
When he describes our next stage of evolution, Moon, Steiner repeats his denial that his words mean what they mean: “The planetary being emerging now [i.e., then] in its new form shall be designated ‘Moon’ — but we must not confuse it with that fragment of it which constitutes the present Moon, the satellite of the Earth.” [p. 137] OK? Planets are not the same as “planets” or "planetary beings" (or “planetary conditions"), and the Moon is not the “Moon,” although it is a remaining fragment of the “Moon.” (And of course the Moon is not a planet, it is the satellite of a planet, the Earth. But put this issue aside.)
On the Moon, we repeated some of what we’d already done: “The physical life of man passes [i.e., passed] in recapitulation through the stages of Saturn evolution, but under altogether changed conditions.” [p. 138] One of the basic rules of evolution, as Steiner describes it, is that we must constantly recapitulate prior stages of our development, although each time we return to a previous stage, we do so in a new way. Our evolution is an excruciatingly long process in part because of this constant need to go back over previous ground. [See the entry for "recapitulation" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]
Our bodies on the Moon were different from our previous bodies. On Saturn, our bodies were “warmth” (although of course Steiner doesn’t mean warmth). On the Sun, our bodies were “air” (although of course Steiner doesn’t mean air). On the Moon, our bodies were “water” (although of course...): “This new state may be designated ‘water,’ meaning however not our present water ... The human physical body comes now to gradually assume a form composed of three organic structures ... The densest is the ‘water body’.....” [p. 139] The “Moon man’s consciousness” is pretty much like dreaming for us today, although not exactly. On the Moon, our “dreams” became real, so to speak: “The mental pictures of Moon consciousness being not copies but symbols of the outer things, their influence on the inner life of the human being was on this very account all the greater ... He [i.e., the human] became, so to speak, the image of his own processes in consciousness.” [p. 148] We formulated ourselves through our dreams of ourselves, so to speak.
Perhaps I’m quibbling too much about evasive language, but surely we can ask why Steiner insisted on using the wrong words for things. If the “water” on the moon was not water, why call it that? It is perfectly possible to coin a new term or a descriptive phrase, such as “spiritual fluidity.” Steiner’s decision to misuse language seems to have been a conscious choice intended to befuddle or, possibly, impress.*
* Steiner employed multiple strategies in his efforts to impress. Centrally, he presented Anthroposophy as a system in which everything fits. Thus, certain ancients taught that there are four fundamental "elements": earth, air, fire, and water. Following his basic approach of including almost everything (include, include), he accepted this fallacy and pretended that the first four planetary conditions embodied it. Old Saturn was warmth or fire, Old Sun was air, Old Moon was water, and Present Earth is (naturally) earth. If we overlook the drawback that all of this is nonsense, we might be impressed.
◊ Confession ◊
I’d like to pause here to make an admission I’ve made before, elsewhere. Steiner’s description of the universe might be correct. This is, just barely, possible. Contrary to my quibble, above, perhaps the spirit realm is really so strange that the only right way to talk about it is to use the wrong words. And perhaps cosmic history is so strange that there was once a stage which we might as well call Moon that later left behind a bit of itself which became the Moon. That is possible. Indeed, if we want to completely relinquish our grip on reality, anything at all is possible. Possibly we were not created by God Almighty, and we have not evolved as Steiner said, but we are now and always have been and eternally will be precisely what the Norse god Odin intended us to be. (If not Odin, pick any other name out of a hat.) Possibly the name for Odin’s divine cosmic plan is Vladimir Putin (although of course we do not mean Vladimir Putin). Possibly the gnostic meaning of Odin’s own name is the anagram “No i.d.,” which psychic research interprets as...whatever. Looked at this cockamamie way, there is no way to rule out any fantasy as a possible “truth.” But, fortunately, our troublesome rational minds sometimes interfere and ask what possible reason we might have for believing any such particular “truth.” It is well to keep asking ourselves this question as we proceed.
◊ Clarification ◊
I will extend our pause to offer this clarification. These are the major stages of our evolution, our "planetary conditions," as posited by Steiner:
Although the stages bear the names of "planets," they are not places in the sky — they are periods of time or duration. Steiner often spoke of them as if they were planets — he often, for instance, spoke of "Saturn" when he meant Old Saturn. You should consider such usage a sort of shorthand. Silently, in your mind, add "Old" to "Saturn." Likewise, add "Present" to "Earth," when you find Steiner misspeaking about the Earth stage of evolution, and add "Future" to "Jupiter," "Venus," and "Vulcan," when this is appropriate. [See the entry in "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia" for "planetary conditions". Also see the entries for "conditions of consciousness" and "incarnations of the solar system".]
◊ Down to Earth ◊
After living on or during Saturn, Sun, and Moon, we started our life on (or during) Earth.* Early during this period (Present Earth), something big happened. “[A]n important event takes [i.e., took] place. Out of the fire-air Earth [i.e., the early, vaporous Earth] an independent heavenly body splits off, which will in its further course become the present Sun.” [pp. 165-166]  In other words, the star we call the Sun (not to be confused with the planetary condition called Sun or Old Sun) broke off from the planet called the Earth (not to be confused with the planetary condition called Earth or Present Earth). That is, the star called the Sun was once inside the planet called the Earth, and then‚ early in the planetary condition called Present Earth, the Sun separated from the Earth. This bears no relation to what science tells us about the formation of the Sun and Earth, but that’s occult science in a nutshell — it repeatedly twists meaning and reality beyond recognition.
After the Sun left the Earth, the Moon did the same: “At this juncture, an event took place which gave to the whole of evolution a new turn. Everything that could conduce to a permanent hardening of the solid substance of the Earth was eliminated. This was the time when our present Moon left the Earth.” [p. 171] This comes a bit closer to reality in that, according to science, the Moon was indeed formed partially by material drawn from the Earth. The rest came from a huge planetesimal that collided with the Earth. This object was probably the size of Mars. Steiner overlooks this minor episode.  Instead, he says that the Moon sucked out of the Earth the forces that might otherwise have caused the Earth to become too hardened to support life. The Moon today (the natural satellite of the Earth) is thus a super-hardened globe, far too hardened for us to ever set foot upon it. (This is why many of Steiner's supporters today deny that the Apollo moon landings ever occurred. [See the entry for "moon landings" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.])
* Having been comatose on Saturn, deeply asleep on the Sun, and dream-filled on the Moon, we developed ordinary waking consciousness on the Earth. The process was gradual, however. Thus, for instance, we did not become capable of rational thought until the ancient Greeks pioneered this innovation. [See, e.g., "Thinking Cap". For an overview of human evolution during the early stages of life on the Earth, see "Early Earth".]
◊ More About Animals ◊
Because Steiner did so at about this point, let’s take a brief detour back to the realm of animals. Steiner taught that most animals, especially the higher animals, descended from human beings.  But, more generally, Steiner also said that animal life came about this way: “Forms [call them bodies] began to appear [on the Earth] in which human souls were not incarnated ... This, then, is how the animals originated; and they had souls which could not dwell in the single creature ... Animals that are in the main descended from a single form [i.e., animals of one type], have one soul together ... [I]t is in this sense that in spiritual science we speak of specific (or generic) [sic] souls, or ‘group souls’ of the animals.” [pp. 179-180] All animals of a single type — tigers, whales — share a single soul. Thus, if there are a million whales, then each whale has one one-millionth of the whale “group soul”.
The chief difference between humans and animals is that humans have "I's", or we might say that each human has an individual soul, whereas animals share group souls. But Steiner taught that humans also have group souls, although these are less important to us now than they were in the past. [See "Four Group Souls".] Thus, while you, today, have your own individual soul, you also participate in the group souls of the assemblies or collectives to which you belong: your family, your nation, your race... As you develop your individual identity more and more, your involvement in your various groups souls gradually declines. Part of the process of evolution is moving away from group souls and moving toward more complete fulfillment in our individual spiritual identities, our individual souls. Ultimately, however, this will reverse, in a sense. In the long run, in the future, everything that evolves upward will converge toward a single, paramount goal: ultimate divinity. This is the teleological arrow, the direction, giving form to Steiner's version of evolution. All good spiritual beings (good humans and good gods) are evolving upward toward union in the most perfect, ultimate apotheosis, with human beings (us) at the pinnacle. The fate of evil spiritual beings (evil humans and evil gods) will be, of course, quite different, unless these miscreants can be shown the error of their ways. As for animals and other beings that are not truly spiritual — they will fall away, poor things.
◊ Paving the Way for Races ◊
When we started our lives on the Earth, our bodies still bore little resemblance to the bodies we have now. Nevertheless, we began down the path toward racial differences, Steiner said. “The human bodies were like wraiths, like shadows. Distributed as they were over the whole Earth, they came under different kinds of Earthly influence at different parts of the Earth’s surface ... [D]iversity began now to appear among the human forms. Thus the way was paved for what afterwards showed itself in variety [i.e., differences] in race.” [p. 170.]  Anthroposophists usually reject out of hand the charge that their guru was a racist. But Steiner talked about race interminably. Indeed, he saw indications leading to “variety in race” even at this early stage of our Earthly history.
According to Steiner, the condition of each human body reflects the state of that person’s soul, and this was true way back then, too. A person’s “inner soul-condition could be seen in his external, bodily form ... [N]ot all earthly men were alike in form and figure.” [p. 176] Some earthly men had better limbs, “the variation depending on their dwelling-place on Earth.” [p. 176] A second type of proto-people, less developed in their limbs (less muscular and physical), were more mature overall — they “were now able to develop more perfectly the beginnings of the head. These were, in their inner life, of all human beings [sic] the most harmonious.” [p. 176] A third type of proto-human became "more deeply entangled in Earthly existence ... The feeling they had of belonging to the spiritual world was slight....” [p. 177] So some humans (the harmonious ones with the beginnings of good heads) were more advanced, while others (two out of three — the limb-developed ones, and the unspiritual ones entangled in Earthly life) lagged behind. 
Let Steiner’s words sink in. Beginning long ago, humans diverged from one another in important ways — a few were more advanced while most others were backward in various ways. Of course, there is variation among human beings today, and there may well have been such variation long ago. But notice that Steiner immediately links variation to the beginnings of racial divergence, and he stresses the importance of bodily differences — they reflect the states of peoples’ souls. Here we see early signs of the deepest evil in Steiner’s thinking.  Bodily differences — such as differences in color — reflect spiritual differences. Or, as Steiner once said, “One can only understand history...if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual...if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.
◊ Planetary Migrations ◊
After introducing the concept of race, Steiner describes an extraordinary type of human segregation. As time passed, the process of physical reincarnation on the Earth became impossible for some humans. “Their form [i.e., bodily type]...had grown all too unlike the human figure to be able to receive the soul. This meant that certain human souls no longer found it possible to return to Earth [after their sojourns in Spirit-land].” [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 177] Some souls whose bodies could not bear life on Earth went instead to the planet Jupiter. “These were transplanted for their further evolution to another planet...Jupiter.” [p. 178] Later, other humans moved to other planets. "For [some], there arose in Mars a dwelling suited to their further evolution ... [Still others] found on Saturn a place for their further evolution." [pp. 178-179]
Resist the confusions Steiner's mystifications can cause. Before beginning life on the Earth, we lived "on" Saturn, Sun, and Moon, although not really. In the future, we will also live "on" Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan, although not really. Meanwhile, early in life on Earth (i.e., here on the planet Earth, during an early part of the Present Earth planetary condition), some of us had to quit the planet Earth for other planets. These planets were literally planets, not planetary conditions — they were the planets existing at that time, which were different from the planets as they exist now.* "Here we are speaking of heavenly bodies and planets, and of their names, in precisely the way as was customary in a science of former times ... Only one who is able to follow back their evolution into far distant ages, can recognize the connection of the present planets with their forebears." [p. 178]  Thus, for instance, the "Jupiter" some people traveled to was not Future Jupiter (a planetary condition that lies in our future), nor was it the planet Jupiter as it exists today. It was the planet Jupiter as it existed then. (It was a sort of prefigurement of the planet Jupiter as it exists today, which in turn is a sort of prefigurement of Future Jupiter as it will exist in the future.)
By a "science of former times," Steiner means the old, mystical (astrological) science that was so much truer than modern, materialistic science. Steiner often affirmed the former and castigated the latter. [See "Science".] So here he is saying that, as scientists used to understand, planets are extensions of spiritual realities. "The physical Earth is but the physical expression for an organism of soul and spirit [i.e., a spiritual being, a god], and the same is true of every other heavenly body.” [p. 178] This is the fundamental premise of astrology, which ascribes spiritual/magical powers to the planets and stars. Astrology is woven throughout Anthroposophical belief and practice. [See "Astrology".]
Humans who spent time on the other planets eventually were able to return to Earth. They did this by entering new, more receptive Earth bodies. “Humans now began to multiply again on Earth ... For the way in which the Earth-Moon forces were now working enabled the human bodies to take such shape as adapted them perfectly for the embodiment of human souls. Now therefore the souls, formerly translated to Mars, Jupiter, etc., were guided once more to the Earth ... Thus it came about that among the progeny of men [and women, obviously], there were some with souls coming from outside [i.e., the other planets] — appearing again on Earth for the first time since the primeval ages of its evolution — and others with souls that were now reincarnating [i.e., returning to Earth straight from Spirit-land].” [p. 187] So humanity now consisted of people who had bypassed the Earth to evolve on other planets, and those who managed to continue their evolution on the Earth. After this, “for long periods of time the human race still consisted of two kinds of human beings.” [p. 188] Which is to say, the human race now consisted of 1) humans who had gone to other planets for a while, and 2) humans who stayed on Earth and continued reincarnating in the normal way.**
* At the end of OCCULT SCIENCE, Steiner attempts to clear up the confusion caused by his varying use of such terms as "Saturn." "Seen in the light of spiritual science, the present Saturn is a kind of reincarnation of Old Saturn. It came into existence because, before the Sun had separated from the Earth, Beings were there who would not have been able to leave with the Sun. They were so much imbued with Saturnian characteristics that they could not live where Solar properties above all were to be developed. So too the present Jupiter arose because Beings were there with characteristics which cosmic evolution as a whole will be unfolding in the future Jupiter and not till then. Mars on the other hand is a heavenly body inhabited by Beings whose evolution on Old Moon was such that they could not have benefited from any further progress upon Earth. Mars is a reincarnation of Old Moon on a higher level. The present Mercury is a dwelling-place for Beings who are ahead of earthly evolution in that they have developed certain earthly qualities in a higher form than is possible upon the Earth herself. Likewise the present Venus is a prophetic anticipation of the future Venus state." [pp. 328-329]
** Among the first first kind of human beings, Steiner drew distinctions that he considered important, based on the planets people went to. Thus, overall, there were several types of humans, reflecting the planetary influences embodied in various groups. From such distinctions, Steiner traced the primary human races: white, yellow, red, brown, and black. Drawing again from Theosophy, he spoke of both "root races" and "sub-races." [See, e.g., "Races", "Differences", and "Planetary Humans"; also see entries in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia for such terms as "planetary humans", "planetary migrations", "race", "root races", and "sub-races".] The connections between peoples and planets (and stars) are complex, according to Steiner's teachings, and may not always hinge on ancient travels to other worlds. Direct astrological influences in more recent times are also significant, Steiner indicated. [See "Astrology", "Astrosophy", "Star Power", and "Waldorf Astrology". For more on the planets themselves, see "The Planets".]
◊ Higher and Lower Humans ◊
After all humans had gathered on the Earth once again, connections to various distant planets remained important. As had been true during previous evolutionary stages, human evolution during the Earth stage was guided, to a significant degree, by the various “planetary spirits" — gods who lived on the various planets or who were, in a deeper sense, the actual essence of those planets. The following is hard to follow, so here’s a synopsis: All humans now once again lived on the Earth, but the gods living on other planets influenced the lives of humans on the Earth. The highest humans were those who matured under the influence of the benevolent higher spiritual beings headquartered on the Sun. But other humans fell under the influence of lower gods who existed on celestial orbs other than the Sun, and thus these humans did not evolve as much. The “leader” of any orb is the highest god on that orb (a planet, star, moon, or what-have-you); he usually has a host of other, somewhat lower gods in his service. The “higher Egos” that humans acquire under the influence of planetary leaders are our higher, more-than-merely-earthly spiritual identities.* Which gods influenced which humans depended, in part, on which planets people had migrated to. If your grandfather had migrated to Jupiter, you were likely to be susceptible to the influence of the the gods of Jupiter. If you were primarily influenced by the gods of the Sun, you evolved particularly well, so you became a member of a high human band (i.e., a high nation or race). If you were primarily influenced by inferior gods elsewhere, you evolved less well; you became more or less abnormal; you lagged behind the higher humans; and, in the worst cases, you might actually have subhuman or animal strains in your lineage.
“Jupiter became the habitation of Beings [i.e., spirits, especially gods] who had not matured to the level of the Sun ... [Just as] the leader of the Sun evolution became the higher Ego...of the human beings who had remained on the Earth, so did the Jupiter leader become the higher Ego which passed like a common consciousness through other human beings...who traced their descent to a mingling of the offspring of the men who had remained on Earth with those who had...gone off to Jupiter ... They were those human descendants who in that ancient time had still been receiving [i.e., had received] human souls — souls, however, that...were between the human and animal kingdoms.” [pp. 190-191] 
The intermingling of Earth humans with humans returning from other planets led to the existence of “Jupiter men,” “Mars men,” and “Saturn men" (i.e., humans descended, in part, from those who had gone to these various planets). [p. 191] Below the sci-fi trappings of these doctrines is some real nastiness. Steiner is basically saying that some groups of humans were higher than others, even in their spiritual capacities. The differences between various types of humans was a matter of both spiritual and genetic lineage. Descendants of humans who all stayed on the Earth were fine; but humans produced by interminglings between Earth humans and unearthly humans were inferior. Indeed, some unearthly humans came from semi-animal stock, implying that they were to some degree subhuman.
This is rank nonsense, but Steiner meant it. The lower humans were prone to fall under Lucifer’s power, Steiner taught, while the higher humans resisted. “[I]n the lower kinds of human beings the life-body [i.e., the etheric body] was after all too little protected, and could not sufficiently resist the encroachments of the Luciferian nature.” [p. 191] The "Luciferian nature" is the corrupting spirit of Lucifer. Inferior humans were (and are) influenced by inferior and even demonic spiritual beings, according to Steiner. And Steiner associated such inferiority with racial identity. The passages we are considering here are not explicitly racist.** The word “race” does not occur in these sentences. But Steiner will soon return to the subject of these planetary migrations, and then he will make the racial import of his doctrines plain.
* "Higher ego" is a Theosophical term. It refers to the human soul component also called buddhi-manas. Essentially, Steiner taught that we have a "higher man" within us, the spiritual/clairvoyant/transcendent man whose true home is the spirit realm. This higher man consists of three spiritual members, the highest of which is Atma-Buddhi-Manas. [See "What We Are".] We develop these higher members under the guidance of gods who live on various celestial orbs.
** Arguably, fear of miscegenation — race mixing — peers out from the comment about mixed matings, and the entire idea of groups being separated by their lineage certainly suggests racial separation. But none of this is expressed overtly, on the surface of these passages.
◊ Hallucinations ◊
As I suggested at the start, it’s possible that Steiner suffered from hallucinations; maybe he was crazy as a coot. I don’t take this view — I think he was quite sane; I think he intentionally spun mystic webs that brought him a fairly wide following in traumatized Germany following the calamitous end of World War I. But I wouldn’t rule out the other possibility, if you want to push it: His sanity is certainly open to question.
In my opinion, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE is, at best, a scam. The book is needlessly disorganized and incoherent. The language in cloudy, referents are often uncertain, subjects are raised (and dropped) out of sequence — the text is full of explanations that explain nothing and statements that state nothing. Madness? Perhaps. Or cleverness. Steiner strove to make “mystery knowledge” as mysterious as possible without being utterly, irretrievably incomprehensible. He walked a fine line. The only real mystery is that some readers are willing to believe him. But hucksters and con men have long known the power of double-talk that promises the moon while delivering zilch.
◊ Our Epochs and Divisions ◊
Steiner taught that human beings on Earth have passed through four great ages prior to the present age. The oldest Earth age was the Polarian Age; it was followed by the Hyperborean Age, the Lemurian Age, and the Atlantean Age. Our own age is the Post-Atlantean Age. 
In accordance with the Theosophical practice of gathering myths from around the world and trying to hammer them into a consistent whole, Steiner equated the Polarian Age with the Garden of Eden. “In Biblical tradition the time before the entry of the Luciferian beings is referred to as the time of Paradise, and the [human] descent on to [sic] the Earth — man’s entanglement in the world of the senses — as the expulsion from Paradise.” [p. 192] Only by a considerable suspension of disbelief can we agree that Steiner was describing “Biblical tradition.” He tried to make his scheme appear to be at least superficially consistent with some elements of Biblical lore, but he generally failed. The “Luciferian beings” are Lucifer and the injurious spirits in his power — his minions, his cohorts. We humans may become victims of Lucifer and his minions. Indeed, in a sense, we may even merge with them. “The ancient Persians...were in danger of merging altogether into the Luciferian beings.” [p. 192]  As we have seen, the dangers of Luciferic control are greatest among “lower” humans — they may not be able to resist the corrupting essence or nature of Lucifer. (Return to p. 191: “[In] the lower kinds of human beings the life-body [i.e., the etheric body] was after all too little protected, and could not sufficiently resist the encroachments of the Luciferian nature.”)
The Polarian Age encompassed Eden, and the Hyperborean Age saw mankind's Fall, our expulsion from Eden. Mankind then moved on to the Lemurian Age — Lemuria being a human habitation, a continent, somewhat comparable to Atlantis. Then came the Atlantean Age, when we lived on Atlantis itself. Extremely important events transpired there. “It was during the evolution in the region of Atlantis that the actual separation of humanity into the men of Saturn, Sun, Jupiter and Mars took place.” [p. 207] On Atlantis, in other words, we were separated into the four distinct strands that would become the four primary races of mankind, according to Steiner.
Since, at this point in OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, Steiner momentarily drops the subject of human divisions, I will drop it now, too. But we will not be able to escape it for long.
◊ Christ and Gnosis ◊
Steiner taught that the various celestial orbs and the descendants of humans who went to those orbs have “oracles,” which he defined as “place[s] where the intentions of spiritual Beings are perceived.”  Humans who gain the knowledge provided by the oracles are “Initiates.” The highest oracle, heeded by the most spiritually mature humans, is presided over by the gods of the Sun; the other oracles provide less accurate spiritual knowledge. “Other Oracles were called into life by the members of Saturn, Mars and Jupiter humanity, whose Initiates carried their vision no farther than to those Beings who could be revealed to them....” [p. 194] That is, Saturn humans and the other non-Solar humans only knew what their relatively lowly oracles could teach them.
The oracle of the Sun is centered on Christ, who is the main solar god, often called the Sun God. Steiner’s conception of Christ is intricate. Certain humans were able to gain knowledge of Christ long before His birth in Bethlehem, Steiner taught. They learned that He is not really Christ, as such, but “Christ.” “[T]hese human beings...could learn [about] the sublime Being who had been the Leader in the severance of Sun and Earth, and through whom the understanding for [i.e., of] the ‘Christ’ was subsequently revealed to man.” [pp. 193-194] Note the quotation marks Steiner put around “Christ.” Steiner did not believe in Jesus Christ as such but in a gnostic conception of a Mystery. According to Steiner, Christ is the Sun God, but He is also the Word, the living embodiment of divine will. [See, e.g. "Sun God", "Gnosis", and "Was He Christian?".]
High mystery knowledge could be obtained from “a special sanctuary [i.e., an oracle] which shall here be named the Christ — or the Sun — Oracle.” [p. 194] This knowledge was beyond the reach of all except those humans who had matured under the influence of the Sun Leader. The other humans “were not able, even in their more advanced states of consciousness, to reach through to the Christ Revelation.” [p. 195]  Initiates who had received the Christ Revelation (i.e., knowledge of Christ and His role in human evolution) knew Christ long before He incarnated in Bethlehem.
Steiner was working out of the gnostic tradition of Christian mysticism, according to which Christ is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” [John 1:1] An orthodox interpretation of this passage is that Christ is the fulfillment of the eternal Word of God ; but as a gnostic, Steiner viewed “Christ” as the Word itself, that is, the essence of mystery wisdom. When Christ was eventually born in the flesh, he embodied the Sun’s mysterious plan for future human evolution. “With Christ there appeared in human form and figure what the high Being of the Sun had prepared as the great pattern for humanity ... Hitherto this wisdom had existed only to enable man to bring himself into a state of soul where he could behold the realm of the Sun Spirit ... From now on, the wisdom contents of the Mysteries [i.e., mystery knowledge, occult wisdom] had a different mission; they had to make man capable of recognizing Christ-become-Man....” [p. 216] Before the mysterious incarnation of the Sun God in Bethlehem, the purpose of mystery wisdom was to help men to learn from the Sun; after the Event in Bethlehem, the purpose of mystery wisdom has been to recognize the real meaning of “Christ” in the flesh. Christ became our model for future evolution; he became our Prototype. [See "Prototype".]
The question becomes whether Steiner understood Christ’s real meaning. Judged by the doctrines of virtually all recognized Christian denominations, he did not. (For Christians, the question becomes, which is true, the teachings of your church, or the teachings of Rudolf Steiner? An alternative phrasing might be, which is true, THE HOLY BIBLE or OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE?)
◊ More Planets ◊
According to Steiner, Earth gave birth to the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, and so forth. This includes planets we haven’t yet discussed, such as Venus  and Mercury.  Steiner omitted Uranus and Neptune from his enumeration of planets, but — in a move bound to shake our confidence — he included Vulcan, a planet that scientists once thought might exist but that we now know is entirely fictitious. Somehow, Steiner’s high consciousness didn’t tip him off about the nonexistence of Vulcan; he spoke of Vulcan much as he spoke of the other planets. Thus, according to Steiner, there have been humans who gathered in or around the "Vulcan Oracle": “There was moreover a further class of human beings who had absorbed most of all of the Luciferian influence. They...may be called adherents of the Vulcan Oracle.” [p. 195]
Steiner’s blunder about Vulcan is related to numerous other bloopers and foul-ups we can lay at his door. Anyone unconcerned about Steiner’s heresies may nonetheless be troubled by Steiner’s simple ignorance about history, science, medicine, and other standard, secular subjects: what is usually called information or knowledge. 
◊ Calamity ◊
Life on Earth has been punctuated by disasters. One disaster was the destruction of Lemuria, Steiner said. Another disaster came when Atlantis suffered a similar fate. It was our own fault. “Towards the middle of the Atlantean period of evolution, a great calamity began gradually to overwhelm mankind. The secrets of the Initiates should [sic] have been carefully protected ... [But] men were coming into the realm [or influence] of lower spirit-beings [e.g., demons] who were themselves unable to partake in the regular evolution of the Earth and therefore worked against it ... Nor was it only the ordinary run of human beings, but some of the Initiates too succumbed to the temptations of lower spirit-beings ... Mighty and ominous powers of Nature were thus let loose by the deeds of men, leading eventually to the gradual destruction of the whole territory of Atlantis by catastrophes of air and water. Atlantean humanity — the portion of it, that is, which did not perish in the storms — was compelled to migrate ... Europe, Asia and Africa on the one hand, and America on the other, began gradually to assume their present shape. Vast numbers of human beings migrated to these countries [sic].” [pp. 197-198]  According to Steiner, the migrants from Atlantis became the white, yellow, black, and red races of humanity. 
Steiner simply could not drop the subject of race. “We have described the conditions under which the evolution of mankind has been going forward since the re-population of the Earth in the Lemurian epoch [i.e., since various sorts of humans returned from the other planets]. We saw how the human beings have to be traced back in their soul nature to diverse beings who, coming down from other worlds, incarnated in the bodily descendants of the old Lemurians. The varieties of race are a consequence of this.” [p. 218]  Humans who went to other worlds during the Lemurian Age developed different “soul natures.” Returning to Earth later, they all entered similar bodies (they were all “bodily descendants of the old Lemurians”), but deep down they were “diverse,” and the diversity involved “race.”
Here is the appalling consequence of such thinking. We currently live in the Post-Atlantean Age when — according to Steiner — human races must prepare to go to battle against one another. “White mankind is still on the path of absorbing spirit more deeply into its essence. Yellow [or colored] mankind is on the path of preserving the period when the spirit was kept away from the body, when the spirit could only be sought outside of the physical human being. But the result will have to be that the transition from the fifth cultural epoch [i.e., the present] to the sixth cultural epoch cannot happen differently than as a violent fight between white mankind and colored mankind in the most varied areas ... You see, we stand before something so colossal that, if we regard it through the diverse perceptions of spiritual science, we will in the future recognize it as a necessary occurrence.”  The necessary occurrence, according to Steiner, is race war.
◊ Initiation ◊
Chapter Five of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE deals with Steiner's directions on how to become an occult initiate. I deal with this topic in the essays "Inside Scoop" and "Knowing the Worlds", so I will skip it here. Please consult those other essays. ("Knowing the Worlds" is an examination of Steiner's second-most important book, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. "Attaining" the knowledge of higher worlds is the process of occult initiation.)
◊ Next Stop, Jupiter ◊
When the Earth stage of evolution ends, we will proceed to the Jupiter stage. Our immediate future will be a “new cosmic entity into which Earth will be metamorphosed, even as [i.e., just as] Old Moon was metamorphosed into Earth. [paragraph break] The future evolutionary form may be named the ‘Jupiter’ condition.” [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 299]
Steiner’s descriptions of the future are not, according to Steiner, mere predictions. They are objective clairvoyant accounts of how things will be: “We are therefore beholding what our earth is destined to become.” [p. 299] The chief benefit of the successive evolutionary stages is that we will attain progressively higher forms of consciousness as we move along. On Jupiter, we will have a sort of inverse version of Old Moon consciousness — it will be a perfected form of imagination. (We will later perfected inspiration on Venus and perfected intuition on Vulcan. See the entries for "Jupiter Consciousness", "Venus Consciousness", and "Vulcan Consciousness" in "The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia".)
Steiner gets awfully vague, even by his own standards, when looking forward. The future is knowable (to him) but it is generally indescribable. Note that, according to Steiner, he was not limited to the same level of consciousness as the rest of us. “Supersensible consciousness [i.e., clairvoyance] can...attain some knowledge of the events and processes of Jupiter evolution [i.e., the Jupiter stage of our evolution]. Yet the beings and events seen in this field are not of a kind to be perceived by outer senses ... All we receive of them are the impressions of purely spiritual sound, spiritual light and spiritual warmth” (bearing in mind that by “sound,” “light,” and “warmth” he doesn’t exactly mean sound, light, or warmth). [p. 299] Skeptics may suspect that Steiner was hiding his own ignorance in these clouds of obfuscation. In any event, Steiner stressed that thinking is useless for the kinds of things he discusses: “These things cannot be — nor are they meant to be — discovered by dint of reasoning and reflection.” [p. 300] But we already knew this; “occult science” is indeed poorly suited to reasoning and reflection.
Jupiter consciousness will be a form of imagination allowing us to perceive both exterior and interior realities simultaneously: “With this consciousness one sees a man in outline and in forms, as in day-waking consciousness [i.e., ordinary wide-wake consciousness], but one sees at the same time what lives in his soul....”  This heightened consciousness will become available to all of us on Jupiter, as long as we are real, upward-evolving humans, not subhumans or demons of any sort. Steiner taught that favored humans can develop clairvoyant imaginative powers today, during Earthly life (and Waldorf schools seek to foster this); the process is demanding, but it can be done. By contrast, all real humans who make the transition to Jupiter will possess perfected Imagination as a birthright. “On the planet which will replace the Earth, the whole of humanity will have this psychic-consciousness or Imagination, the ‘Jupiter’ consciousness.” 
◊ Wrapping Up ◊
After Jupiter, we will move along to Venus, which will be an inverse recapitulation of Old Sun. “[B]eings and entities become perceptible which are the further-developed forms of what was present during Old Sun evolution. They are now at such a lofty level of existence as to elude [i.e., transcend] a power of perception whose range is limited to the Old Moon and to the forms deriving from it [i.e., Jupiter].” [p. 300] Venus consciousness will build on Jupiter consciousness by adding the wisdom of dreams. Designated “Inspiration,” Venus consciousness will combine three types of awareness; it “will unite the present day-consciousness [i.e., waking consciousness], the psychic-consciousness known only to the initiate [i.e., disciplined clairvoyance, or Imagination], and in addition all that man sleeps away today [i.e., the wisdom of dreams, which people today tend to ignore].”  Notice how Steiner’s vision of the future takes man farther and farther away from rationality. By the time we get to Venus, we will be using psychic powers and sleep-state powers, relying on these at least as much as we will rely on waking consciousness.
From Venus, we will ascend to Vulcan. “Vulcan is in like [i.e., the same] relation to the Saturn evolution as Venus [is] to Sun and [as] Jupiter [is] to Moon.” [p. 300] Your eyes may be glazing by now, but we’re nearly through. “The seventh state of consciousness [i.e., Vulcan consciousness] is the ‘spiritual consciousness’ or Intuition, the very highest, when man has a universal consciousness; when he will not only see what proceeds on his own planet, but in the whole cosmos around him.”  Intuition will be (in a sense) the ultimate state of imaginative/clairvoyant/psychic consciousness. On Vulcan, insight and wisdom will be present in your consciousness as if by magic — thinking things through rationally will be like a long-forgotten bad dream. You will just know; you won't have to think.
◊ Good Humans, Bad Humans ◊
Just as evolution in the past has included many trials and tribulations, so will our future evolution be troubled. Prior to the Jupiter phase of evolution, there will be “a cosmic time when, side by side with human souls who have attained this high level of development [i.e., the good, highly evolved humans], others will be living who have turned into a path leading towards evil. These backward souls will have burdened their Karma with so much of error, ugliness, and ill-doing as to constitute a special group of their own, subject to aberration and evil and bitterly opposed to the progressive community among mankind.” [pp. 308-309]  The evil humans will be segregated in a “distinct [i.e., separate] kingdom” [p. 309], a sort of spiritual penal colony.
When the good humans move on to Jupiter and beyond, they will do what they can to lift the bad from their detention: “[T]he descendants of the good humanity will constitute a human kingdom on a higher level. This is the human kingdom proper, and a great part of its work will be to influence and ennoble the souls who have fallen into the other group....” [p. 309] Steiner here offers, in effect, his understanding of the White Man’s Burden,  which is for high (spiritually white) humans to oversee and, if possible, improve lower (spiritually dark) humans. 
Sadly, the efforts of good humans to improve their inferior brothers has not fully succeeded in the past, and it will not fully succeed in the foreseeable future, Steiner taught. At least some evildoers will persist in their errors, despite our best efforts to reform them. Thus, during the Venus phase of evolution, an extraordinary measure will be necessary: “From Venus [i.e., during the Venus phase], at a certain stage, a separate celestial body becomes [i.e., will become] detached. This — as it were, an ‘irreclaimable Moon’ — includes all the beings who have persisted in withstanding the true course of evolution. It enters now [i.e., will enter] upon a line of development such as no words can portray, so utterly unlike is it to anything within the range of man’s experience on Earth.” [pp. 309-310] 
The irreclaimable ones in their forlorn "moon" will undergo a fate that "no words can portray." We are given the distinct impression that irreclaimability is a severe condition, but otherwise we are left uninformed. As for the good people of Venus, they will naturally enjoy a more pleasant fate than their unfortunate brethren; they will rise to Vulcan. But concerning this topic, too, Steiner is unprepared to offer a clear description: “The evolved humanity on the other hand, in a form of existence utterly spiritualized, goes forward [i.e., will go forward] to the Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book.” [p. 310]  Steiner's silence is more than anticlimactic. The entire pattern of human evolution, the whole subject “revealed” by occult science, culminates here, and yet Steiner says it lies outside the scope of his book. He undercuts the rationale for the entire enterprise — having spoken vaguely all along, he leads us to a conclusion that has no shape or content.
◊ This and That ◊
The final chapter of OCCULT SCIENCE is a bit of a grab bag. Titled "Details from the Domain of Spiritual Science", the chapter consists of bits and pieces of Steiner's larger vision. I will make no effort to present it more coherently than Steiner himself does.
The Ether-Body of Man
As we have seen, Steiner taught that human beings have multiple invisible components or parts [see the section "Who We Are", above]. These "higher members" of the human constitution experience sensations comparable to the physical body's sensations of warmth, color, and so forth. But, Steiner said, we must understand that "warmth", "color", and so forth, are quite different at the nonphysical levels of existence. What we experience at those higher levels is the inner or spiritual essence of phenomena, not the mere outer impressions given by phenomena. This becomes apparent when we use clairvoyant spiritual perception to see ourselves as we truly are, not merely as our outer senses indicate.
"The general impression which the [clairvoyant] seer has of the ether-body of man may now be described as follows ... [The seer may] have, to begin with, a general impression of the ether-body. There arises in his soul the same inner experience which he has at the sight, let us say, of the color of a peach-blossom;* this experience then becomes vividly alive, and he can say: the ether-body has a 'peach-blossom' color. Then he perceives the several organs and currents of the ether-body. But the ether-body can also be described in terms of other experiences of the soul — experiences which correspond to sensations of warmth, impressions of sound, and so on, for it is not only a color-phenomenon. Moreover the astral body and other members of man's being can be described in like manner."** [pp. 315-316]
* Note that "peach-blossom" is the color of spiritual health, according to Steiner. It is also the color of white people's skin, he said. "If we take the flesh color of a Caucasian person, which resembles spring's fresh peach-blossom colour, we have the living image of the soul ... And if...we take hold of black, we have the spiritual image of death." — Rudolf Steiner, ART (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 188-189.
** For more on the etheric and astral bodies, see "Incarnation".
The Astral World
The physical universe is by no means the sum of reality, Steiner taught. Through the proper use of clairvoyance, we can perceive a much richer tapestry, one in which spiritual past, present, and future are intertwined, and in which the many worlds of the cosmos are intimately linked.
"As long as the physical world alone is being observed, the Earth — man's dwelling place — appears as a separate heavenly body. When supersensible cognition* rises to other spheres, there is no longer this separation. Hence it was possible [for me, Rudolf Steiner] to say that together with the Earth, Imaginative consciousness* perceives the Old Moon condition, such as it has become up to the present time. The world thus entered is one to which not only the supersensible nature of the Earth belongs; other heavenly bodies, physically separated from the Earth, are part of it as well.** In that realm the knower of supersensible worlds observes the supersensible nature not only of the Earth but of other heavenly bodies too."*** [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 316]
* In this passage, Steiner uses the terms "supersensible cognition" (perception of things hidden from our ordinary senses) and "Imaginative consciousness" (the formation of true mental images) as essentially interchangeable. In both cases, he means clairvoyance of the sort he claims to possess.
** This is the premise underlying Anthroposophical astrology.
*** For more on the higher worlds discussed in Anthroposophy, see "Higher Worlds".
Human Life After Death
Here Steiner offers several tidbits about what happens to us after we die.
◊ The astral body remains united with the etheric body for a brief period after the physical body expires. This period is about as long as the individual in question would have been able to stay awake if, while still alive, s/he had made a concerted effort to fend off sleep as long as possible. "The memory of the life just ended — which means that the connection with the etheric body is still maintained — lasts for about as long after death as the extreme length of time for which, if compelled to do so, the individual would have been able to stay awake." [p. 317]
◊ After the etheric body is discarded, a fragment remains. This fragment contains the "fruits of the past life. It is the bearer of the 'seed' of [one's] coming life." This provides the mechanism for karma.* [p. 317]
◊ The usual period of time between incarnations is about 1,075 years — half the time required for a new sign of the zodiac to become predominant.** In other words, we usually incarnate twice under each sign of the zodiac, once as a man and once as a woman. Things vary from individual case to individual case, however. "The re-entry of the human being into earthly life is an outcome of these two factors: the inner thirst of the soul for incarnation, and the cosmically given possibility of finding a suitable bodily nature [i.e., a suitable type of body in which to incarnate]." [pp. 318-319]
* See "Karma".
** The Earth's axis is tilted, and the direction of the tilt shifts slowly, swinging through a cycle that lasts almost 260 centuries. This shift — called the "precession of the equinoxes" — causes the axis to point at different regions of the sky in succession. Put another way, over the course of approximately 25,800 years, the Earth's axis seems to lean toward each of the constellations of the zodiac in succession. Thus, each of the twelve traditional constellations may be said to be predominant during one twelfth of the 25,800-year long "great year" or "Platonic year". One twelfth of 25,800 is 2,150. Half of this is 1,075.
The Stages of Human Life
Steiner taught that we are born several times as various components of our natures incarnate. “At physical birth man is released from the physical integument of the maternal womb ... For his etheric body man is enveloped by an ethereal sheath — an etheric integument — until about the change of teeth, the sixth or seventh year, when the etheric integument falls away. This event represents the 'birth' of the etheric body. After it man is still enveloped by an astral sheath, which falls away at the age of puberty — between the 12th and 16th year. The astral body in its turn is 'born.' Then at an even later point of time the I is born ... With the birth of the I, man's adult life begins. With the three members of the soul (Sentient Soul, Intellectual or Mind-Soul and Spiritual Soul)* progressively awakened and activated by the I, he finds his proper place in life.” [pp. 319-320]
This process is later reversed and one approaches death. “The life of man is thereby naturally divided into three epochs. First is the time during which the physical and etheric bodies grow and develop. In the middle period the astral body and the I come into their own. The third and last is the period of bodily decline when the youthful development of the etheric and physical bodies is in a sense reversed. ... [W]hen the physical and etheric bodies have been cast off, the evolution of the astral body through the ‘time of purification’** takes about a third as long as the past life between birth and death.” [p. 320]
* These are extensions or modifications of various incorporeal parts of our nature. Steiner was somewhat inconsistent in his descriptions of our invisible components. [See "What We're Made Of" and "Our Parts".] Steiner again refers to the Sentient Soul, Mind Soul, and Spiritual Soul in the section "The Members of Man's Being", below.
** Following earthly death, according to Steiner, we spend a period in kamaloka, a sort of purgatory. [See “Kamaloka”.]
Higher Regions of the Spiritual World
Once we have attained intuition, Steiner taught, we can see into several levels of the spirit realm — but our vision is limited, meaning we cannot see all the way to the highest levels.* “[T]here are even higher regions of existence, though we can do no more than briefly allude to them here.” [p. 321] We can see only as high as intuition can penetrate; to see higher, we would need still more powerful forms of clairvoyance. We presently know of the highest regions only because the gods transmit the influences of those regions to us. The high gods in the highest regions undertake work we can scarcely comprehend. “Beyond the realm of Intuition is the region where the great cosmic plan is being woven out of purely spiritual causes.” [p. 321]
* The levels of the spirit realm correspond, roughly, to the types of gods resident there. Steiner said there are nine levels or ranks of gods [see "Polytheism"], and above them is the nebulous, unfathomable Godhead, which is as yet more an ideal than a reality [see "God"]. To a considerable extent, Steiner's teachings about such things derive from Theosophy. Here is one summary of Theosophical and Anthroposophical descriptors for various parts of the spirit realm (or at least those regions and levels that can be apprehended by the most highly evolved humans on the contemporary Earth, humans epitomized by R. Steiner):
Theosophical Literature (T) <> Anthroposophical Literature (A):
(T) Physical Plane <> (A) Physical Plane, Physical World, World of Understanding
(T) Astral Plane <> (A) Astral Plane, Soul World, Soul Land, Imaginative World, Elementary World
(T) Devachan, Mental Plane <> (A) Devachan, Mental Plane, Spirit Land, Spiritual World, World of the Harmony of the Spheres, World of Inspiration
(T) Rupa-Devachan <> (A) Lower Devachan, Lower Spiritual World, Heavenly World
(T) Arupa-Devachan <> (A) Higher Devachan, Higher Spiritual World, World of True Intuition
(T) Shushupti or Buddhi Plane <> (A) Buddhi Plane, World of Foreseeing
(T) Nirvana Plane <> (A) Nirvana Plane
(T) Para-Nirvana Plane <> (A) Nirvana Plane
(T) Maha-Para-Nirvana Plane <> (A) Nirvana Plane
Note that the Anthroposophical account, complex though it is, is actually a simplification of the Theosophical account, especially in its terms for the highest levels of the spirit realm, which it rolls together as the Nirvana plane. [See "Higher Worlds".]
The Members of Man's Being
Here Steiner elaborates, a bit, on his description of the human spiritual constitution.* How clear or helpful his explanations of these matters are depends, perhaps, on the receptivity of the reader. "[T]he Sentient Soul is due to a transmuted astral body, the Intellectual Soul to a transmuted ether-body, and the Spiritual Soul to a transmuted physical body. But it may equally well be said that all three members of the soul are part and parcel of the astral body. The Spiritual Soul, for example, can only come into being as an astral entity in an appropriate physical body. It lives an astral life in a physical body molded and worked upon to be its proper habitation." [p. 322]
* Steiner variously said that human beings have three, four, seven, or nine major constituent parts. Previously, we saw Steiner's seven-part description [see the section "Who We Are", above]. Here is Steiner's ninefold account (1-9), subdivided into a threefold account (I-III):
I. Body Nature:
1. Physical Nature
2. Etheric Nature
3. Soul Nature (a)
II. Soul Nature (b):
4. Sentient Soul
5. Intellectual Soul
6. Spiritual Soul
III. Spirit Nature:
7. Spirit Self
8. Life Spirit
9. Spirit Man
[See "What We're Made Of".]
The State of Consciousness in Dreaming
Steiner gave varying indications concerning the value of dreams. Here he declares that dreams have no validity in modern occultism. (On other occasions, he said something quite different. [See “Dreams”.]) “Dream-consciousness is on the one hand a relic of the picture-consciousness which man enjoyed on the Old Moon, and — for a long time too — in former periods of Earth evolution ... Dreaming is thus a relic of the normal state of consciousness of former times. And yet the dream-condition of today differs essentially from the old picture-consciousness ... [N]othing deriving from the dream-life can be a direct source of spiritual-scientific knowledge of higher worlds. The same applied to what is often spoken of as visions, premonitions and second sight.”* [p. 322]
* Steiner differentiates, here, between what he identifies as true clairvoyance (the sort he himself employed) and forms of psychic "seeing" that he brands as false. This is the fundamental claim he makes for "occult science" as described and developed by himself: It is true, it is "scientific" and objective, while competing spiritual systems are false, unscientific, and delusional (except for systems that are essentially consistent with, and secondary to, his system). All "true" spiritual systems, he taught, fundamentally agree with one another; they have evolved from one another; and they are currently epitomized by Anthroposophy. [See "Altogether".] As for dreams, Steiner sometimes said that a true Anthroposophist develops the ability to dream truly or correctly — he reaches a level of spiritual awareness in which dreams convey truth. “His dreams, hitherto confused and haphazard, now begin to assume a more regular character. Their pictures begin to succeed each other in sensible connection, like the thoughts and ideas of daily life. He can discern in them law, cause, and effect. The content, too, of his dreams is changed. While hitherto he discerned only reminiscences of daily life and transformed impressions of his surroundings or of his physical condition, there now appear before him pictures of a world he has hitherto not known.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1944), p. 113. [See "Dreams".]
The Way to Supersensible Cognition
Steiner taught that the method he laid out for developing clairvoyance is the “direct path” to knowledge of the higher worlds. But he said a second path also exists. “There is also another way, known as ‘the path of feeling.’* ... [A] feeling to which a man unreservedly devotes his inner life for a sufficient length of time becomes transformed of its own accord into cognition — into Imaginative vision. If, for example, the soul is deliberately steeped for weeks and months or even longer in feelings of humility, the feeling-content is transformed into spiritual perception. A gradual ascent through this and other feelings of this kind can thus become a pathway into the supersensible.” [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, p. 323] Steiner said that this second path is generally impractical in the hurly-burly of modern life; hence, he recommends the direct path as lays out in OCCULT SCIENCE and KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT.
* Here, Steiner differentiates between the "scientific" approach of Anthroposophy and a more emotional approach. The emotional approach would seem to be less elevated. Yet Steiner often taught that emotions are truer than ideas or thinking or rationality (science); the heart is truer than the head. Thinking enables us to grasp the physical level of existence, he said, but feelings enable us to apprehend spiritual realities. “[T]hinking is oriented to the physical plane. Feeling really has a connection with all the spiritual beings who must be considered real ... In the sphere of feelings, human beings cannot liberate [i.e., separate] themselves from the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), p. 70. [See "Thinking".] In his prescriptions for steps to take in order to attain occult initiation, Steiner accords feeling at least equal significance with thinking. “From the stone there flows into the soul one kind of feeling, and from the animal another ... Out of these feelings and the thoughts that are bound up with them, the organs of clairvoyance are formed.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 35. [See "Knowing the Worlds".] In this sense, the distinction between a thinking approach and a feeling approach largely collapses. (Note that feelings are more fundamental than thoughts: the latter arise from the former; and together, feelings and thoughts lead to the development of incorporeal "organs" that facilitate a still higher form of apprehension, namely clairvoyance.)
The Observation of Particular Events and Beings
Steiner claimed that occult initiates can learn not only the general laws and conditions of the spirit realm, but also the particular conditions and actions of specific spirit beings. Careful study is required, however. Aspirants should heed him well, he admonished. Gaining true, focused clairvoyance “can only be done after a regular and proper training* has been undergone, for this alone makes it possible to distinguish truth from illusion as to the several beings and events. Those who would claim to recognize the spiritual details, without have undergone a proper training are liable to countless illusions ... [T]he same training which enables one to see the facts of higher worlds described in this work on Occult Science, also enables one to perceive an individual human soul during his life after death ... Yet the reliable observation of the particular is only possible against the background of a more universal knowledge ... When he has walked along these paths in the sincere and unselfish quest of knowledge, then and then only is a man fit to observe the details ... Unalloyed insight into the single facts and beings is only possible for those whose sincere interest in the universal truths of spiritual science enables them to receive the detailed revelations too in a scientific spirit and without selfish longing.” [OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, pp. 324-325]
* Essential to such training, Steiner indicated, is the instruction provided by a guru. In the past, spiritual aspirants needed gurus whom they obeyed unquestioningly, Steiner said. On the modern Anthroposophical path, by contrast, a guru is more like a friendly advisor, not a stern master. Nonetheless, having a guru is necessary; otherwise, the spiritual seeker would be overwhelmed by the mysterious, seemingly inexplicable events and beings he would perceive in the spirit realm. A seeker “would find himself plunged into the stormy sea of astral [i.e., soul] experiences if he were left to fend for himself. For this reason he needs a guide who can tell him from the start how these things are related and how to find his bearings in the astral world. Hence the need to find a Guru on whom he can strictly rely." — Rudolf Steiner, AT THE GATES OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1986), lecture 12, “Occult Development”, GA 95. Steiner offered himself as the guru for modern humanity, and his followers accept him in this role. [See "Guru".]
We should note that Steiner sometimes said that the correct spiritual path today is provided by Rosicrucianism. “[T]he path that is right for modern humanity [is] the Rosicrucian path.” — Rudolf Steiner, MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1985), p. 94. This may seem surprising, considering that OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE elaborately makes the case for occult science, or spiritual science, or Anthroposophy — not Rosicrucianism, as such. But once again, Steiner was propounding a distinction without a real difference. The "Rosicrucianism" he advocated is all but indistinguishable from Anthroposophy — it is Rosicrucianism as reinterpreted by himself, the founder of Anthroposophy. [See "Rosy Cross".] Steiner insisted on the distinction so that he could claim that Anthroposophy is a science, not a spiritual system, not a religion. In similar fashion, Steiner provided the central doctrines affirmed in a new "Christian" sect, the "Christian Community". [See "The Christian Community".] That sect, with roots in Rosicrucianism, is the overt religious arm of Anthroposophy; it is the system of worship founded on the spiritual "truths" provided by the "science" of Anthroposophy. However, in reality — as our review of OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE should make plain — Anthroposophy is itself, quite clearly, a religion. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] Rosicrucianism, as redefined by Steiner, and Christianity, as redefined by Steiner (in the form of the "Christian Community"), are two faces that Anthroposophy presents (partially, while concealing much) to the world. Waldorf education is another such face; it, too, is an embodiment of Anthroposophical doctrines and practices. [See "Schools as Churches"; also see "The Relevance of All This to Waldorf Education", below.]
The Relevance of All This
to Waldorf Education
Some parents think Waldorf schools sound like pleasant places where the “insights” of a kindly fellow named Rudolf Steiner have some sort of vague influence. They may have heard that Steiner was a philosopher, an educational reformer, a polymath — indeed, a genius. Any schools founded on his teachings must be swell.
Learning what Steiner’s teachings actually are can be a useful corrective to such misapprehensions. As Anthony Storr said, Steiner’s vision is like science fiction, floating without factual support of any kind.* But Rudolf Steiner's followers take Steiner's bizarre teachings extremely seriously. They believe that the universe is as Steiner described it, and this is the vision of the universe they would like Waldorf students to accept, sooner or later. Waldorf faculties may not overtly teach Anthroposophical doctrines to their students — but they lace much of their work with allusions and nods to Anthroposophy. They think that Steiner told them the truth about the universe, and of course they want their students to find their way to the truth. [See "Spiritual Agenda" and "Sneaking It In".]
Not long ago, the Anthroposophic Press put out a new edition of OCCULT SCIENCE, titled AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE.  On the back cover, these words appear: “In this basic work of spiritual science, readers learn how the creation and evolution of humanity is embedded in the heart of the vast, invisible web of interacting cosmic beings through whom the alchemical processes of cosmic evolution unfold.” The book is the “basic work of spiritual science.” Anyone who wishes to become an Anthroposophist must accept most, if not all, of the doctrines presented in the book. Anyone who is an Anthroposophist does accept most, if not all, of them. The book so important that the Anthroposophical Press has also published A STUDY COMPANION TO AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE.  From the Introduction: “AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE, also translated as OCCULT SCIENCE, An Outline, is Steiner’s most complete and methodical presentation of the results of his own spiritual research.” 
What you have been reading in "Everything" is what Anthroposophists believe. Consider the implications.
And think about this. Steiner once said to Waldorf school teachers: “As Waldorf teachers, we must be true Anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.”  Consider the implications.
Do you want your children to be "educated" by people who believe Steiner? Not every Waldorf teacher is a devout Anthroposophist, but — as we have just now seen — Steiner said they all should be. Do you want your child to be shepherded in the direction of Anthroposophy? A child sent to a Waldorf school is likely to be led in precisely that direction.
Consider the implications.
If you want to know whether the training given to Waldorf teachers includes the bizarre occult doctrines laid out in OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (or its variant, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE), you might consider the official descriptions of courses offered in Waldorf/Anthroposophical training programs. Here are a few:
◊ "Cosmic and Human Evolution (1.5 credits). This course explores the stages of cosmic and human evolution from Ancient Saturn through Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon and Earth evolutionary cycles, and lays seeds to understand further stages of evolution in Future Jupiter, Future Venus and Future Vulcan stages. Texts include Esoteric Science: An Outline and Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World."
◊ "Year #2 [topics to be covered include] LIFE BEFORE BIRTH - OUR JOURNEY THROUGH THE PLANETS ... KARMA AND REINCARNATION ... LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH."
◊ “Esoteric Science - This course examines the esoteric history of the human being ... Students should leave the course with a basic understanding of the spiritual scientific approach to the evolution of human consciousness. In addition, we will examine tools to spiritual self-development as outlined by Rudolf Steiner ... The evolution of the earth and solar system in relationship to spiritual beings (Old Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth; [and] stages of Earth evolution through Atlantis) [will be covered].”
◊ "Astronomy — Macrocosm, Microcosm (2.0 credits). This course combines viewing the night sky, studying the constellations and rhythmic movements of the planets, and their correlations with the human form, rhythms of life, stages of consciousness and how the human individuality is related to the starry worlds and the Earth. We will discover the relationship between astronomy and the human body, astrology and the human soul, and astrosophy with the human spirit."
◊ “A Research for Personal and Social Change - This course will work with research methods based upon the essential view of the human being and the basic exercises outlined in ESOTERIC SCIENCE by Rudolf Steiner ... Discussions will include aspects of evolving consciousness and how personal change can influence social change ... Required reading before the first session: chapters 1, 2, 3 & 5 of ESOTERIC SCIENCE....”
[For more, see "Teacher Training".]
If you doubt that many Waldorf teachers believe the bizarre occult doctrines laid out in OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, you might review revelatory statements made by Waldorf teachers. Here are a few:
◊ “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.
◊ “Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., gods], including the Christ, can find their home....” — Waldorf teacher Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.
◊ "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the "I"] develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents, and Teachers (SteinerBooks, 2017), p. 4.
◊ “Must [Waldorf] teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? ... The teacher's faculty [of clairvoyance] must be cultivated and brought to a stage of conscious awareness....” — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000), p. 17.
◊ “[A]ll-important preparatory [spiritual] exercises can be found in KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND IT ATTAINMENT and in OCCULT SCIENCE [ - AN OUTLINE]. The six basic exercises lead to the development of the twelve-petaled lotus flower [i.e., an organ of clairvoyance]...located in the region of the heart. A little reflection shows how important these attitudes of soul can be for the life of the Waldorf teacher.” — Waldorf teacher-trainer René M. Querido, THE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND OF WALDORF EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1995), p. 4.
Rudolf Steiner's occultism suffuses the Waldorf movement. It is the life's blood and spiritual essence of the Waldorf movement.
— Roger Rawlings
* Circle back to the beginning of "Everything", above: Steiner’s “so-called ‘thinking,’ his supposed power of supersensible perception, led to a vision of the world, the universe, and cosmic history which is entirely unsupported by any evidence, which is at odds with practically everything which modern physics and astronomy have revealed, and which is more like science fiction than anything else.” — Anthony Storr, FEET OF CLAY (Free Press, 1996), p. 81.
While we are circling, we might as well hear again from Gary Lachman, who — unlike Storr — is a big fan of Steiner's. After discussing the evolutionary paradigm found in OCCULT SCIENCE, Lachman writes, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the last few pages have taxed some readers’ capacity for giving Steiner the benefit of the doubt and left them wondering who could possibly believe this science fiction story.” — Gary Lachman, RUDOLF STEINER (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007), p. 147.
But Lachman is inclined to believe. And many Waldorf teachers are inclined to believe. Consider the implications. Please.
"Of my clairvoyant researches into the world of spirit it has often been alleged that they are a re-hash, howsoever modified, of ideas about the spiritual world which have prevailed from time to time, above all in earlier epochs of human history. In the course of my reading I was said to have absorbed these things into the sub-conscious mind and then reproduced them in the fond belief that they were the outcome of my own independent seership. Gnostic doctrines, oriental fables, and wisdom-teachings were alleged to be the real source of my descriptions. But these surmises too were the outcome of no very deeply penetrating thought. My knowledge of the spiritual — of this I am fully conscious — springs from my own spiritual vision. At every stage — both in the details and in synthesis and broad review — I have subjected myself to stringent tests, making sure that wide-awake control accompanies each further step in spiritual vision and research. Just as a mathematician proceeds from thought to thought — where the unconscious mind, auto-suggestion and the like can play no part at all — so must the consciousness of the seer move on from one objective Imagination to another. Nothing affects the soul in this process save the objective spiritual content, experienced in full awareness.
"It is by healthy inner experience that one knows a spiritual 'Imagination' to be no mere subjective picture but the expression of a spiritual reality in picture-form. Just as in sensory perception anyone sound in mind and body can discriminate between mere fancies and the perception of real facts, so a like power of discernment can be attained by spiritual means.
"So then I had before me the results of conscious spiritual vision. They were things 'seen,' living in my consciousness, to begin with, without any names. To communicate them, some terminology was needed, and it was only then — so as to put into words what had been wordless to begin with — that I looked for suitable expressions in the traditional literature. These too I used quite freely. In the way I apply them, scarcely one of them coincides exactly with its connotation in the source from which I took it. Only after the spiritual content was known to me from my own researches did I thus look for the way to express it. As to whatever I might formerly have read — with the clear consciousness and control above referred-to, I was able to eliminate such things completely while engaged on supersensible research." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969), pp. 10-11.
"[F]or spiritual research the facts of the most distant early times are not obliterated. When a creature has come into bodily existence, its bodily nature are not obliterated in the same way. They leave behind their traces, nay their exact images, in the spiritual foundation of the world. And if we are able to raise our faculty of perception and look through the visible world to the invisible, we arrive at length at a point where we have before us what may be compared to a mighty spiritual panorama wherein all the past events of the world are displayed. These abiding traces of all spiritual happenings may be called the 'Akashic Records,' denoting as 'Akasha-essence' that which is spiritually permanent in the world process, in contrast with the transient forms. Here once again it must be emphasized that researches in the supersensible realms of existence can only be made with the help of spiritual perception — that is to say, as regards the region we are now considering, by actual reading of the Akashic Records. Nevertheless here too, what has been said already in similar connections holds good: to investigate and discover the supersensible facts is possible only by supersensible perception; once found however, and communicated in the science of the supersensible, these facts can be understood with man's ordinary faculty of thought. There must only be the readiness to approach the subject with an open mind In the following pages the evolutionary conditions of the Earth according to the science of the supersensible will be communicated. The transformations of our planet will be followed down to the state of life in which it is today. Let anyone consider what he has before him today in pure sense-perception, and then give his attention to what supersensible knowledge tells of how this present has evolved from the primeval past. If he be truly open-minded, he will then be able to say to himself: In the first place, what this science tells is inherently logical; secondly if I assume the truth of what is communicated from supersensible research, I find I can understand how it is that things have eventually come to be such as they appear before me now." — Ibid., pp. 105-106.
"In the time when, before the separation of the Moon, the Moon forces were bringing about in the Earth a constantly increasing measure of solidification, it befell that among the descendants of the 'seeds' left behind by men on Earth, there were some in whom the human souls returning from the body-free condition could no longer incarnate. Their form was much too hardened, and under the influence of the Moon forces had grown all too unlike the human figure to be able to receive the soul. This meant that certain human souls no longer found it possible to return to Earth. Only the most mature, only the strongest felt themselves equal to the task of so transforming the Earthly body during its growth that it could blossom forth into the true human form. Hence but a portion only of the human bodily descendants became vehicles for Earth men. Another portion, owing to their hardened form, could only receive souls that were at a lower level than the souls of men. Some of the human souls, on the other hand, being thus compelled to cease partaking in Earth evolution during that epoch, were brought into a different kind of life-history. Even at the time of the separation of the Sun, there had already been souls who could no longer find a place on Earth. These were transplanted for their further evolution to another planet. Under the guidance of cosmic Beings, this planet wrested itself free of the general World-substance which had been united with the physical evolution of Earth at its beginning, and out of which the Sun itself had also separated. This was the planet whose physical expression is known to external science as Jupiter. (Here we are speaking of heavenly bodies and planets and of their names, in precisely the same way as was customary in a science of former times. The meaning will be clear from the context. The physical Earth is but the physical expression for an organism of soul and spirit, and the same is true of every other heavenly body. He who perceives the Supersensible does not mean by the name 'Earth' the mere physical planet, nor by 'Sun' the mere physical fixed star. And in like manner, when he speaks of Jupiter, Mars, etc., he is referring to far-reaching spiritual complexes. Naturally, the heavenly bodies have since the times of which we are here telling undergone fundamental changes in their form and purpose — in a certain respect, even in their position in the heavenly spaces. Only one who is able to follow back their evolution into far distant ages, can recognize the connection of the present planets with their forebears.)
"It was thus on Jupiter that such souls continued their evolution. Later on, when the Earth was inclining still more to the solid state, another dwelling-place had to be created for souls who, though able for a time to inhabit the hardened bodies, could no longer do so when the hardening had gone too far. For these, there arose in Mars a dwelling suited to their further evolution. Then again there were souls who at a still earlier time, when the Earth was united with the Sun and was incorporating in itself the air element, proved unadapted to partake in its evolution. These souls were affected too strongly by the Earthly corporeal form. They had therefore to be withdrawn, already at that time, from the immediate influence of the Sun forces. The Sun forces must work upon them from without. They found on Saturn a place for their further evolution. Thus in the course of its evolution the number of human forms on Earth steadily decreased. Forms began to appear in which human souls were not incarnated — forms which were able to receive only astral bodies, even as man's physical body and life-body had done on Old Moon. While Earth was growing waste and void as to human inhabitants, these beings now established themselves upon it. In the last resort, all human souls would have had to leave the Earth — had it not been for the severance of the Moon. This made it possible for human forms which at that time could still be humanly ensouled, to withdraw the human seed or embryo during their Earthly life from the Moon forces emanating directly from the Earth, and let it mature within themselves up to the point where it could safely be exposed to these forces. This meant that, while the seed or embryo was taking shape within the human being, it came under the influence of those Beings who guided by the Mightiest among them, had severed the Moon from the Earth, so as to carry Earth's evolution forward over a critical point." — Ibid., pp. 177-179.
"All that was conferred upon human evolution through the coming of Christ, has been working in it like a seed. Only by degrees can the seed ripen. Up to the present, no more than the minutest part of the depths of the new wisdom has found its way into physical existence. We are but at the beginning of Christian evolution. In the successive epochs that have elapsed since His appearance, Christian evolution has been able to unveil only so much of its inner essence as men and nations were capable of receiving, capable also of assimilating to their power of understanding. The first form into which this recognition could be cast, may be described as an all-embracing ideal of life. As such it showed itself in striking contrast to the forms of life which had evolved in contrast to the forms of life which had evolved in post-Atlanteans humanity. We have described the conditions under which the evolution of mankind had been going forward since the re-population of the Earth in the Lemurian epoch. We saw how the human beings have to be traced back in their soul nature to diverse beings who, coming down from other worlds, incarnated in the bodily descendants of the old Lemurians. The varieties of race are a consequence of this. And when the souls reincarnated, all kinds of different interests arose in them, as an outcome of their Karma. While all this was working itself out, there could not exist for man the ideal of a 'universal humanity.' Mankind went forth from unity in the beginning, but Earth evolution hitherto had led to diversity. In the figure of Christ live also the forces of the sublime Being of the Sun, and in these forces every human I will find its source and its foundation. Even the Israelites still felt themselves as a nation, with each man merely as a member of the nation. As man came to understand — to begin with, purely in thought — that in Christ Jesus lives the ideal Man, unaffected by any and every tendency to separation, Christianity became the ideal of universal brotherhood. Beyond all separate interests and kinships there arose the feeling that the inmost Self of man has in every one the same origin. (Beside all earthly ancestors appear the common Father of all men. 'I and the Father are One.')*
"In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries A.D. a new civilization-epoch was preparing in Europe. The actual beginning of it was in the fifteenth century, and we are still living in it now. Intended as it was by slow degrees to replace the fourth, the Graeco-Latin, this is the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. The peoples who after manifold wanderings and destinies came forward as the bearers of this epoch, were descended from those Atlanteans who had been least affected by what had taken place meanwhile in the four preceding epochs. They had not penetrated to the countries where the civilizations of these earlier epochs took root. They had instead transmitted the heritage of Atlantean civilizations in their own way. Among them were many who had preserved in large measure the heritage of the old dim clairvoyance — the intermediate state between waking and sleeping. Such men knew the spiritual world from their own experience and could tell their fellow-men of what goes on there. In this way there arose a world of stories about spiritual beings and events. The fairy-tales and sagas of the peoples came originally from these real experiences in the spirit; for in many human beings the dim clairvoyance lasted on into times by no means remote from the present. Others there were who, though they had lost the old clairvoyance, developed the new faculties in relation to the physical experiences of clairvoyance. And beside all this, the Atlantean Oracles also had their successors here; centers of the Mysteries were to be found on every hand. The Initiation-secret chiefly developed in these centers was of the kind that leads to the revelation of that spiritual world which Ahriman keeps hidden.** The spiritual Powers underlying the elemental forces of Nature were revealed. In the mythologies of the European peoples can be found traces of what the Initiates in the Mysteries were able to make known to men. Yet these mythologies also contain the other secret, though in a less perfect form than either the Southern or Eastern Mysteries. The superhuman Beings were known in Europe too; but they were seen in perpetual warfare with the associates of Lucifer. The God of Light was indeed proclaimed, but not in such form and figure as would enable one to say with assurance that He would conquer Lucifer. Nevertheless these Mysteries too were irradiated by the figure of the Christ that was to come. Of Him it was prophesied that His Kingdom would replace the kingdom of that other God of Light. (The sagas that tell of the Twilight of the Gods, and kindred legends, originated in this knowledge of the European Mysteries.)" — Ibid., pp. 217-220.
* As we have seen, Anthroposophy is polytheistic. "The Father," as conceived in Anthroposophy, is not the One and Only God. There is no such monotheistic God in Anthroposophy. Steiner taught that the Father is actually the presiding god of Saturn, dwelling amid other gods on other planets. [See "The Father".]
"After a cosmic interval — a sojourn in a higher world — the Earth will then be transmuted into the Jupiter condition. In Jupiter what we now call the mineral kingdom will exist no longer; the forces of this kingdom will have been changed into plant-like forces. Thus upon Jupiter the vegetable kingdom, though in a very different form, will be the lowest. Above it will be the animal kingdom, likewise considerably altered, and then a human kingdom, recognizable as the spiritual descendants of the bad humanity originating upon Earth. Lastly, the descendants of the good humanity will constitute a human kingdom on a higher level. This is the human kingdom proper, and a great part of its work will be to influence and ennoble the souls who have fallen into the other group, so that they may yet gain entrance to it.
"In the Venus stage of evolution the plant kingdom too will have disappeared. The lowest will then be the animal kingdom, metamorphosed a second time. Above it will be three human kingdoms, differing in degrees of perfection. During the Venus stage the Earth will remain united with the Sun. In Jupiter evolution, on the other hand, there will come a time when the Sun will separate again and Jupiter will be receiving the Solar influences from without. Then, after Sun and Jupiter have again become united, the transition to the Venus state will gradually be accomplished. From Venus, at a certain stage, a separate celestial body becomes detached. This — as it were, an 'irreclaimable Moon' — includes all the beings who have persisted in withstanding the true course of evolution. It enters now upon a line of development such as no words can portray, so utterly unlike is it to anything within the range of man's experience on Earth. The evolved humanity on the other hand, in a form of existence utterly spiritualized, goes forward into Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book." — Ibid., pp. 309-310.
So now I have shown you a large number of short excerpts from OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE, along with a few lengthy excerpts. Is this sufficient? No, surely not. To proceed from here, you really should tackle reading OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE cover to cover. Here's an inducement to do so:
How do you know that I haven't cheated? How do you know that I haven't skipped over page after page of wonderful, brilliant, logical, and transcendent statements by Steiner? How do you know that I haven't perversely plucked out a few stray quotations that, by willfully misrepresenting everything true and noble, I have twisted into a semblance of nonsense?
Come to that, how do you know that Steiner made any of the statements I have ascribed to him? How do you know that I am not — to put it bluntly — lying?
You can't know. Not unless you read Steiner. Reading Rawlings isn't enough. Rawlings may be wrong, or only half-right, or wholly evil and malicious. (I can promise you that I have not misrepresented Steiner — I have quoted completely representative statements made by Steiner, and I have explained them truthfully and accurately. Cross my heart. But — how can you know?)
No. I'm sorry. If you truly want to get to the truth, you'll have to do some extra work. Read Steiner. Get his book and read it. I ask you to do this for your own sake and also, more importantly, for your children's sake. You will see that I have told you the truth, and you should certainly bear this truth in mind when selecting a school for your children.
A clairvoyant sees the full picture (left);
everyone else sees only skeletal abstractions (right)
— or so Steiner said.
"It may easily happen that clairvoyant people...produce thoughts cleverer than the thoughts of recognized scientists ... [C]lairvoyant persons do not need to exercise any organs of thought in order to arrive at the clever thoughts ... They create the corresponding images out of the spiritual world ... There they are, ready-made ... Suppose a clairvoyant person brings something out of the spiritual world in all manner of pictures [left] ... The person in question does not need to think this out, he sees it ... Consider another person who is not gifted in clairvoyance, but who can think ... He exerts his organs of thinking and through them produces this thought skeleton [right]."— Rudolf Steiner, MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), pp. 5-6.
[Colored sketch, R.R., 2009,
based on b&w sketch in the book.]
Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy grew out of Theosophy.
For an overview of that form of everything, see "Basics".
Steiner's other main source was Gnostic Christianity.
Yet another significant source of Steiner's thinking can be found in Norse myths.
See "The Gods".
For one Anthroposophist's simplified summary of cosmic and human evolution
— intended to indoctrinate Waldorf students —
see "Out in the Open"
Raking through OCCULT SCIENCE and other Steiner texts, Steiner's followers have tried to piece together detailed accounts of mankind's past and future as described by Steiner. Here's a sample, which I have assembled by raking through THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), by Richard Seddon, and MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), by Stewart C. Easton.
For a statement about the identity of individuals quoted and paraphrased at Waldorf Watch,
Waldorfish art, by R.R.
Our historical period is overseen by the Archangel Michael. We are currently in the Anglo-Germanic age, which began in 1413 AD and extends till 3573 AD. A crucial task during this period is to advance human consciousness to an “objective” appreciation of all phenomena, so that spiritual truths can be apprehended “objectively” through the “consciousness soul.” (Steiner taught that not only do we have both spirits and souls, but we have various sorts of souls. The consciousness soul — which incarnates at about age 42 — is influenced by gods called Spirits of Wisdom, so it has ties to the sphere of Jupiter.)
The current historical age began under Samuel, the Archangel of Mars. His reign as Time Archangel — most of it occurring in the previous age — was turbulent, with Christendom splintering under the assaults of Mongols, the Renaissance, and growing nationalism. The compensation for all this was that the consciousness soul awakened, to be strengthened under succeeding Archangels.
Gabriel, Archangel of the Moon, took over in 1471. Under him, natural science became dominant, humans became increasingly materialistic and skeptical, and ancient Egyptian impulses pervaded society. Socialism and democracy reared their heads. On the upside, German philosophy reached great heights of wisdom during this time, although such Germanic wisdom was generally ignored in other lands. One pivotal development under Gabriel was that people learned they could disbelieve spiritual truths — a necessary step so that we could later freely choose spirituality.
Michael became Spirit of the Age in 1841, and he assumed his 350-year incumbency as Time Archangel in 1879. His main task is to bring “spiritual science” (Anthroposophy) to the fore, spreading Steinerism everywhere, thus opening humanity for the “Christ impulse.” Michael’s task isn’t easy — he is opposed by the arch-demons Lucifer and Ahriman. Fortunately, Michael (Archangel of the Sun, hence Christ’s countenance) is a warrior, so the prospects for victory seem good. Ahriman will manifest in the West, just as Lucifer manifested previously in the East. Western civilization will lead to the destruction of the Earth, but that will enable properly evolved humans to pass on to their next, higher evolutionary stage.
A version of an Anthroposophical seal:
Michael overcoming "the dragon" (i.e., Ahriman).
"[T]he true path of knowledge leads us first of all from within the physical body and physical existence and only then to approach the conditions that are to be arrived at with the essences which are outside." — Rudolf Steiner, ESOTERIC DEVELOPMENT (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 154.
"[I]t is possible for the separate parts [of a community] to go their own way, for each part to form an I [an ego]. This is the black path. The white path is the one which strives for what is common, which forms an I in community. Were we to burrow more and more deeply into ourselves, to sink ourselves into our own ego-organisation, to desire always more and more for ourselves, the final result would be that we should strive to separate ourselves from one another. If on the other hand we draw closer, so that a common spirit inspires us, so that a centre is formed between us, in our midst, then we are drawn together, then we are united. To be a black magician means to develop more and more the spirit of separateness. There are black adepts who are on the way to acquire certain forces of the earth for themselves. Were the circle of their pupils to become so strong that this should prove possible, then the earth would be on the path leading to destruction." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2019), pp. 150-151.
"It does not follow that, when called upon to decide, anyone will naturally follow the white path. That depends entirely upon whether he is so far purified at the time of his decision that no trace of self-seeking makes this prospect of felicity appear desirable ... Nothing that egotism desires is denied upon the black path, for the latter provides, on the contrary, for the complete gratification of egotism, and will not fail to attract those desiring merely their own felicity, for it is indeed the appropriate path for them. No one therefore should expect the occultists of the white path to give him instruction for the development of his own egotistical self." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1947), chapter 11, GA 10.
“Those who come to me wanting to hear the truths available through esotericism and nevertheless refuse to walk the path are like schoolchildren who want to electrify a glass rod and refuse to rub it. But, without friction, the rod will not be charged with electricity. This is similar to the objection raised against the practice of esotericism.” — Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25.
"It is most interesting and instructive that the best individuals today, those human beings who long to have their soul life connected with a spiritual world, are not capable of grasping the core of the actual science of the spirit. Instead, where it involves distinguishing the true path from the two possibilities for error, they stumble, because they do not dare leap over the abyss; they wish either to make use of their dependence on the ordinary world, in phenomenalism, or, if they do not do this, they seek an intensification of the sense of self in ecstasy." — Rudolf Steiner, ERRORS IN SPIRITUAL INVESTIGATION (Mercury Press, 1983), GA 62.
"This is the Western path into the spiritual world. It is this path through Imagination that must establish the stream of Spiritual Science, the process of spiritual evolution that must make its way from West to East if humanity is to achieve real progress. But it is supremely important at the present time for humanity to recognise what the true path of Imagination should be, what path must be taken by Western Spiritual Science if it is to be a match for the Inspiration and its fruits that were once attained by ancient Eastern wisdom in a form suited to the racial characteristics of the people concerned." — Rudolf Steiner, "Natural Science and Its Boundaries" (THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1962), GA 322.
"The fundamental characteristic of spiritual life today is that man subordinates himself to a certain degree only and wishes to tread his path of knowledge in the fullest possible freedom. We shall see that there is a path into the spiritual world which takes this desire into full account: it is the Rosicrucian path of knowledge. This is the true path of modern times. It did not exist in those Mysteries of antiquity where man was initiated into the deeper secrets of existence." — Rudolf Steiner, MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1968), lecture 5, GA 119.
"If a form of medicine injurious to humanity were ever to take root, if a terrible aberration of the sexual instincts were to arise, if there were baleful doings in the sphere of the purely mechanistic forces of the world, in the application of the forces of nature by means of spiritual powers, an unspiritual conception of life would see through none of these things, would not perceive how they deviate from the true path ... The sleeper, as long as sleep lasts, does not see the approach of a thief who is about to rob him; he is unaware of it and at most he finds out later on, when he wakes, what has been done to him. But it would be a bad awakening for humanity!" — Rudolf Steiner, THE WORK OF THE ANGELS IN MAN'S ASTRAL BODY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1960), GA 182.
"[S]cientific intellectuality must...be allowed to pass over into the domain of art. Science itself must become art if we would approach the secrets of man's being. Now if we follow this path with all our inner forces of soul, not only observing in an outwardly artistic sense, but taking the true path, we can allow scientific intellectuality to flow over into what I have described as ‘Imaginative Knowledge’ in my book, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1943), lecture 1, GA 307.
"Spiritualism today is a false path to the spirit followed by souls who seek the spirit in an outer way — even by means of experiments — because they have lost all feeling for a real, true, genuine path." — Rudolf Steiner, STAYING CONNECTED (SteinerBooks, 1999), p. 226.
"Just as it is being striven for there along a false path, so must it be striven for in spiritual science along the true path. What we should like to say to the East is this: It is our task to overcome entirely just what you are trying to preserve in an external form, namely, an old Luciferic-Ahrimanic form of community." — Rudolf Steiner, PREPARING FOR THE SIXTH EPOCH (Anthroposophic Press, 1957), GA 159.
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A recent edition:
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009.]