“This history is written in 
other than ordinary characters,

and in Gnosis, in Theosophy, 

is called 'The Akashic Record.'”

— Rudolf Steiner [1]

“[O]ne of the things that we cultivate

...is occultism ... 

Occult mean 'hidden' or 'mysterious.'”

— Rudolf Steiner [2]


Faith, “Knowledge,”

and Anthroposophy


Religions require faith of their followers. Usually, this requirement is very nearly absolute. You may have doubts; you may wrestle with your conscience; you may pass through dark nights of the soul. But, ultimately, you must have faith. The truths of the creed are beyond ordinary comprehension; they are sacred. So have faith, commit yourself, and follow the prescribed rituals.

A few religions, however, make a gesture toward emphasizing knowledge rather than faith. Broadly speaking, we can call these religions “gnostic” — they hold that humanity can receive the blessings of the gods only by acquiring the necessary knowledge of spiritual matters. This knowledge is often said to hidden, hard to find, occult — but nonetheless crucial. It is “gnosis,” from the Greek, meaning secret knowledge.

Despite laying claim to knowledge, gnostic religions depend on faith just as much as all other religions, since the secret knowledge they affirm is almost certainly delusory. Have I said this too strongly? If so, I’ll modify my statement slightly. Gnostic “knowledge” is surely well hidden. “Discovering” it often entails mystic rituals, fasts, and efforts to cultivate extraordinary powers such as clairvoyance. Sometimes, for understandable reasons, alcohol or “holy” drugs such a peyote are involved; or, if the faithful do not turn to chemical aids, they nonetheless drug themselves by relying on dreams, visions, mystical signs, astrological "readings," devotional ceremonies, forms of enchantment, magic, superstition, and the like. What is “learned” through such practices cannot be confirmed by anyone who does not enter similar states of altered consciousness (intuition, inspiration, clairvoyance...), in which case their own reports will be fully as untrustworthy as the reports they hope to confirm. When they aren't sworn to secrecy (which they often are), initiates may attempt to describe their subjective experiences to the uninitiated, but such experiences may be explained — and dismissed — as products of the subconscious. 

Subjective experiences may be extremely powerful, of course. You may be convinced by the felt power of your inner life. But such conviction is often built on little more than the emotional will to believe. No one other than yourself can know what you "know" inwardly, and even you may not truly "know" the things you think your inner experiences prove. Inner experiences — subjective, emotional, dreamlike, intuitive — are notoriously unreliable. We deceive ourselves all the time. (We do this unintentionally, often; but sometimes an unacknowledged intention, an ardent yearning, guides our self-deception.) Recognizing self-deception and weaning ourselves from it is the key requirement for rationality and even sanity. But it is a hard process, never fully completed. Each time we see through one of our illusions, we must set to work trying to see through the next. [For more on these matters, see, e.g.,"Inside Scoop", "Fooling (Ourselves)", and "Why? Oh Why?".] Unlike real-world knowledge, gnostic or mystic “knowledge” is not genuinely confirmed but merely asserted. Deciding whether to accept such "knowledge" becomes, in the end, an almost arbitrary act of volition. You either believe or you don't. You either have the faith or you don't. For that's what it comes down to: faith.

Rudolf Steiner’s religion, Anthroposophy, is gnostic. The “knowledge” it professes is largely esoteric or occult; true comprehension can be had only through a process of initiation. The tool initiates of this religion use for their spiritual investigations is “spiritual science,” i.e., the enactment of Anthroposophical investigatory procedures. [See, e.g., "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Knowing the Worlds".] In reality, “spiritual science” does not work — it depends on clairvoyance, which does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] In reality, “spiritual science” is a religion, not a science; it is a faith in which the adherents cling to specified doctrines in the hope of receiving spiritual benefits. [3]

I will return to the subject of initiation later. But let’s proceed by examining the Anthroposophical "knowledge" that we, the uninitiated, are permitted to hear about; then we can circle back to consider the process that, supposedly, can unlock deeper mysteries. To start, we need to make a distinction. In the 2nd Century A.D., in Greece, a particular form of Christian gnosticism arose. Having roots in pre-Christian paganism, this system of thought held that the true meaning of Christ’s teachings and virtually all other spiritual doctrines lies hidden behind their apparent meaning. This Gnosticism (capital G — distinguishing it from small-g, general gnosticism) was vigorously opposed by orthodox believers at the time, and mainstream Christianity soon rejected it as heresy. In fact, the canon and creed of the Church were formulated largely in reaction to Gnosticism. [4]

Steiner was well acquainted with Gnostic doctrines, and although he tried to distance himself from those doctrines, his own teachings bear striking parallels to them.

The following quotation is even more obscure than most Steiner statements, so before we plunge into it I’ll offer an explanation and paraphrase. As always, Steiner insisted that real religion and the concept of evolution are compatible, as long as evolution is conceived as he himself described it — a spiritual process leading humanity up from the dullest imaginable consciousness up to extremely advanced forms of consciousness, culminating in divine consciousness. He claimed that the ancient Gnostics understood this, although not as clearly as he.

The Gnostics of Greece said that “world-evolution” began when a “primordial Being” — a god — created the world. That god was the Demiurge or “Demiurgos.” [5] According to Steiner, to understand the Demiurgos, we need a higher form of consciousness than is required to understand the Bible. He said that the Demiurgos, the Creator, should not be confused with the God of the Bible, Jehovah. The Demiurgos stands at the summit of a hierarchy of gods, ranks upon ranks of gods, with Jehovah occupying a fairly low rank. Steiner effectively equated the Creator Demiurgos with the amorphous Godhead, which may be conceived as the highest form of divinity, dwelling in the Crystal Heaven, so far off as to be almost uninvolved in our region of the universe. [6]   

The "gods" who are ranked below the Demiurgos were known to the Greeks as Aeons, according to Steiner. Jehovah, a lowly Aeon, did not create the universe but he did create mankind on the physical level: Jehovah united with physical matter, allowing physical human beings to come into existence. Later, a higher Aeon was needed to redeem Jehovah’s creation in this gross physical realm. This higher Aeon (in Anthroposophy, He is the Sun God: Christ) manifested itself in Jesus of Nazareth, giving a new spiritual direction that offset the ancient shortcomings of Jehovah. [7]

Are you having trouble distinguishing Anthroposophical doctrines from Gnostic teachings? That’s because they are in fact quite similar (as long as we accept Steiner's account of Gnosticism). Here is the quotation I have been discussing: 

“Those men in Greece who meditated upon the earliest stages of world-evolution spoke of a primordial Being for the understanding of whose nature a much more highly spiritual mode of knowledge is required than for an understanding of the events described in the Old Testament. These men spoke of the Being whom they held to be the actual Creator of the world — the Demiurgos. [paragraph break] The Demiurgos was a Being dwelling in spheres of lofty spirituality, in a world devoid of every element of that material existence with which in the Bible story the humanity created by Jehovah is naturally associated. We must therefore think of the Demiurgos as a sublime Being, as the Creator of the world who sends forth other Beings from Himself. The Beings sent forth by the Demiurgos were ranked in successive stages, each stage being lower than the last ... In Greece they were known as Aeons — of the first rank, the second rank and so on. The Aeons were Beings who had issued from the Demiurgos. Among these Aeons, Jahve or Jehovah was a Being of a relatively subordinate rank. And this brings us to a consideration of the teachings of the Gnostics, as they were called, in the early centuries of Christendom. It was said that Jehovah united with matter and that from this union man came into existence ... According to this Gnostic conception, therefore, Jehovah was a somewhat lower descendant of the more lofty Aeons who had proceeded from the Demiurgos, and as the outcome of Jehovah's union with matter, man was created ... The Gnostic teaching was that in the man Jesus there had dwelt a Being [Christ] belonging to the ranks of the Aeons, a Being of a far more highly spiritual order than Jahve or Jehovah.” [8]

The picture Steiner attributed to the Gnostics is essentially the view he himself adopted: God or the Godhead is within us but He also dwells far from us, removed in both spiritual space and time; ranks of gods descend from the Godhead; Jehovah is a relatively low god; Jesus was a man in whom a high god manifested itself. This is Anthroposophical doctrine, traceable to Gnosticism among other sources.

According to the Gnostics (according to Steiner), Christ is a god or spirit arising from the pure essence of the Aeons: 

“Far, far away in the world of the Aeons — so thought the Gnosis [sic] — the pure spirituality of the Aeons engenders what the Gnostics called the Son of the Father-God....” [9] 

Steiner’s specific version of this belief (or “knowledge”) is that Christ, the Sun God, came to Earth in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. 

“Had Christ not appeared on the earth, had He remained the Sun-God only, humanity on the earth would have fallen into decay. Increasingly men would have come to believe that material things alone exist, that the sun and the stars are only material bodies. People had forgotten altogether that they themselves had descended from a pre-earthly existence, from the spirit-world of the stars ... You will say: 'Yes, but there are many who do not want to know anything of Christ, who do not believe in Him ... In the future, though, knowledge will become a much more decisive factor for mankind than hitherto. The evolution of mankind will render it increasingly necessary for all human beings to acquire some knowledge of the spirit and of spiritual life. Such a knowledge, that will lead all mankind into the world of spirit, is the aim of anthroposophical spiritual science.” [10]

Note that Steiner said that belief is not enough for mankind’s evolutionary needs. Mankind needs knowledge in order to evolve properly; knowledge is “a necessity.” This is his version of gnosticism, pinning our hope of salvation not on faith or good works but on occult knowledge. [See "Occultism".] As in most religions, the doctrines of Steiner's newly created religion promise rewards for adherents and punishments for the wayward. Those who acquire the “knowledge” offered by Anthroposophy will move upward toward sublime spiritual elevation. Those who do not gain this knowledge — those who fail to follow Christ properly — will descend to lower evolutionary ranks, they will be left behind. In stressing these ideas, Steiner erased the distinction between his “science” and religion. The “knowledge” offered by Anthroposophy is religious doctrine, required for salvation. [11]

The parallels between Anthroposophy and capital-G Gnosticism are suggestive, but Steiner denied that he sought to revive any ancient form of gnostic (esoteric, occult) belief, and we can accept this denial. Anthroposophy is gnostic not because it conforms to ancient Christian Gnosticism or any other ancient esoteric creed, but because it seeks hidden spiritual knowledge as the key to salvation. In other words, it seeks “knowledge” not for knowledge’s sake, as a science would; it seeks “knowledge” for the sake of our souls, as a religion. 

Steiner said that some forms of gnosticism predate Christ. 

“It was a wonderful and living knowledge, in which man knew that he could share if he unfolded his inner being in purity and thus enabled the Divine content to manifest itself through him. From the fourth to the first millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha [i.e., centuries before Christ's Crucifixion], this Gnosis lived in those portions of humanity which were most advanced in knowledge.” [12] 

We can see, here, that Steiner did not confine the concept of gnosis to the Christian era or to the particular Gnostic period in the 2nd Century A.D. For him, “Gnosis” (gnosis) sometimes served as a synonym for deep spiritual Truth, which is what he claimed to offer the modern world through Anthroposophy. Some forms of gnosis existed before the advent of Gnosis, and a still higher form of gnosis exists now, thanks to R. Steiner. Each form of esoteric truth has been appropriate for the age in which it appeared. Before the “Mystery of Golgotha” (the miraculous victory of Christ, symbolized by Calvary or Golgotha), certain gnostic information was possessed by the wisest humans. After the Crucifixion, a new form of gnosticism became appropriate. And in the modern world, a still newer form is available — Anthroposophy. (To follow the next quotation, you need to know that the “sentient soul” preceded the “mind-soul,” which is associated with intellect. [See "What We're Made Of".] These are progressive levels of human soul development. The “spiritual soul” is a yet higher level.)

 “Anthroposophy strives for this new understanding, which...cannot be a renewal of the Gnosis. For the content of the Gnosis was the way of knowledge of the Sentient Soul, while Anthroposophy — in a completely new way — must draw forth a content no less rich from the Spiritual Soul.” [13] 

According to Steiner, humans constantly evolve — either upward (good humans) or downward (bad humans). [14] Good humans today require a higher form of esoteric knowledge than ancient humans needed. The role of Anthroposophy is thus not to reconstitute old knowledge but to advance to higher forms of esoteric knowledge: Anthroposophy offers the new gnosis.

Although he denied that he wanted to revive ancient Gnosticism, Steiner’s attitude toward that body of strange teachings was extremely protective. Consider the following. Referring to the 2nd Century, Steiner said: 

“[T]here existed a wisdom of which people often speak nowadays in a way that is almost blasphemous, but of which they are scarcely able to form any true idea. There existed something which up to this day has been completely exterminated from human evolution, rooted out by certain currents running counter to the deeper Christian revelation: this was the Gnosis, a wisdom into which had flowed much of the ancient knowledge revealed to men in atavistic clairvoyance [i.e., the clairvoyance all humans once possessed]. Every trace of the Gnosis, whether in script or oral tradition, was exterminated root and branch by the dogmatic Christianity of the West [i.e., the teachings of the organized Christian church].” [15]

Attacking Gnosis “is almost blasphemous.” Gnosis presented “the deeper Christian revelation.” It was “revealed to men in atavistic clairvoyance.” Gnosis, in other words, was the truth. Ancient Gnosis no longer suffices for modern humans, yet it was the truth. What modern humans need is the successor to ancient Gnosis: Anthroposophy, which presents  “the deeper Christian revelation” as revealed to Steiner through his new and improved clairvoyance. Anthroposophy is spiritual truth extended and heightened for humanity at its latest level of evolution. 

Here is a related point, of special importance to Christians. Steiner was no fan of “the dogmatic Christianity of the West.” Anthroposophy varies from orthodox Christian dogma far more than it varies from ancient Gnosticism. Steiner’s teachings may seem, at first blush, only slightly different from church teachings; but they veer far afield. According to Steiner, Christ is the Logos, the Living Word of God. Many Christians would agree, at least initially. But look where Steiner goes with this teaching. 

“When the Intellectual or Mind-Soul was unfolded, it was through the reality alone that man could continue to be preserved from being severed from the Divine-Spiritual Beings who belonged to him. The Divine had to enter inwardly as Being, even in the earthly life, into the Organization of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul ... This took place through the Divine-Spiritual Logos, Christ, uniting His cosmic destiny with the Earth....” [16]

Steiner denied the literal truth of the Bible, and he also diverged from sophisticated orthodox interpretations of the Bible. His "Christianity" is enmeshed in concepts that are wholly absent from mainstream Christianity. From an Anthroposophical perspective, Logos (from the Greek, meaning “word”) is closely related to Gnosis, “the deeper Christian revelation.” The meaning of the Word is not what can be found in the Bible; it is the hidden spiritual knowledge that we must attain through the mysterious, clairvoyant processes of Anthroposophy. Remember that according to Steiner, Christ is the Sun-God. And notice how Steiner said that Christ united “His cosmic destiny with the Earth.” What can this mean? Steiner’s doctrines includes karma (destiny) and reincarnation. Even Christ (identified as the pagan Sun God) falls under these doctrines, as seen in Anthroposophy. Steiner's teachings take us far from the Bible and mainstream Christian beliefs.

Let’s examine the central concern of Christianity, humanity’s salvation through Christ the Lord. Steiner rarely spoke of “salvation” as the particular objective of his teachings. He spoke, instead, of evolution. Nonetheless, salvation of a sort (supreme spiritual evolution) is the goal, and Steiner claimed that Anthroposophy is the vehicle that can get us there. At the current stage of our evolution, Steiner taught, Anthroposophy works under the guidance of the Archangel Michael, who now has special responsibilities for shepherding mankind. [17] Ultimately, traveling in the direction Michael establishes for us, we will gain salvation. 

“Michael is the Power who leads man towards the Christ along the true way of man's salvation.” [18] 

But, according to Steiner, we won’t be saved by Christ. Instead, we will evolve “toward” Christ, fulfilling a divine evolutionary process of karmic destiny that began "on" Saturn. [See "Planets".] In the distant future, our journey toward Christ will take us to Vulcan and then beyond: 

“These are the seven stages of evolution of our [solar] system: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. In the Vulcan development [i.e., during the Vulcan stage], all those Beings [i.e., humans and others] who have evolved out of the small beginnings of the Saturn existence, will be spiritualised in the highest degree....” [19] 

Steiner’s version of Christianity consists of precisely this sort of hidden spiritual "knowledge": gnosis, indeed.


Steiner held that the deepest truths about spiritual matters are, for the most part, hidden. And he said that much of the knowledge about such hidden truths must, itself, remain hidden from the general public. Yet in his books and lectures he claimed to reveal broad swaths of previously hidden spiritual knowledge. How can we explain this apparent contradiction?

The answer involves the concept of initiation. As portrayed by Steiner, a spiritual initiate is one who has passed certain occult tests in order to qualify for access to the “mysteries” (spiritual knowledge too deep and dark for ordinary understanding). When meeting in private with his most devoted followers — generally self-identified initiates — Steiner professed to speak openly about the greatest, most mysterious spiritual insights. But when addressing the general public, Steiner professed to be far more guarded. He said that modern humanity needs the "wisdom" embodied in his teachings, Anthroposophy. But most people, being uninitiated, are not equipped to comprehend or benefit from the deeper truths he possessed. So when communicating with the uninitiated — the likes of you and me — Steiner withheld knowledge that he indicated we should not have. For instance, in his magnum opus, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE — a book sold freely to one and all — Steiner refused to disclose what life on Vulcan will be like. 

“[E]volved humanity [will go] forward into Vulcan evolution, any description of which would be beyond the compass of this book.” [20] 

And note the title of the book. Steiner was prepared to publicly divulge the outline of occult revelation, but only the outline. In his public lectures, Steiner professed to be similarly circumspect (although one some occasions he was more open than on others) — he revealed a lot, but he tantalizingly claimed to withhold a lot.

Most gnostic or occult religions require initiation — they guard their secrets from outsiders. Even discussion with outsiders is often barred. Many of Steiner’s books carry this prefatory statement: 

“No person is held qualified to form a judgment on the contents of this work, who has not acquired — through the School of Spiritual Science itself or in an equivalent manner recognized by the School of Spiritual Science — the requisite preliminary knowledge. Other opinions will be disregarded....” [21] 

Only initiates, in other words, need apply. Only initiates can truly understand Steiner's teachings, and only they are equipped to form opinions of Steiner's teachings.

Anthroposophical texts are freighted with references to “mystery knowledge,” “esoteric knowledge,” and the like. For instance, discussing a circle of initiates in the past, Steiner indicated, 

“We really have to use spiritual science if we want to consider the activity of a widespread association of human beings in post-primeval times ... Such an association developed and adopted the mystery knowledge ... Thus there was a time in earthly history when the rightful representatives of mystery knowledge were totally involved in guiding the transition from the divine knowledge of the ancients to human and earthly knowledge." [22] 

This is a reasonably good description of Anthroposophy itself: an activity that attempts to make divine knowledge available to humanity. But the precondition of initiation must be met before the deepest knowledge may be revealed. Steiner describes initiation in KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT [23] and also in OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. [24] Let’s consider what he says in the latter book, in the chapter titled “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (Concerning Initiation)”.

Anthroposophical initiation is a process of preparing one’s soul, mind, and heart to receive “supersensible” knowledge — that is, knowledge than cannot be attained by using our ordinary senses. Clairvoyance is required. And although clairvoyance presumably permits objective, "scientific" explorations of the higher worlds, a religious attitude is required: You must be reverent. Criticism and opposition (i.e., rational analysis) are out. Stipulating the need for “reverent devotion” Steiner says: 

“One who cultivates this feeling or who has always possessed it as a kind of gift of Nature, has a good foundation upon which to build the faculties of supersensible cognition [i.e., clairvoyance] ... [W]hoever in later life, in years of riper judgment, gazes up at the starry heavens, filled with wonder and boundless devotion at the revelation he there divines of sublime spiritual powers, will be well on the way to grow ripe for knowledge of supersensible worlds ... Indeed only where such reverence is present, is it possible to come within sight of the higher worlds. A man who is incapable of reverence will not progress very far on the path of knowledge ... [T]he real nature of things will ever remain a closed book.” [25]

To seek “knowledge,” you must begin with a religious attitude toward what you will learn. Instead of beginning with a neutral, objective, scientific frame of mind, wondering whether higher worlds exist, you have to presuppose the existence of such worlds and vest them with holiness. If you have not been born with a "feeling" of reverence, you have to "cultivate" it. You should be filled with "boundless devotion at the revelation" of what you "divine" about "sublime spiritual powers." In other words, you can be initiated only if you begin by accepting "truths" that can only be confirmed at the end of your initiation. Indeed, there will be no real confirmation, only an endless reaffirmation of your original "feeling." (A skeptic would argue that his undermines the entire enterprise; you don't actually learn much, you simply make some presuppositions and then you require yourself to believe them.) 

It is necessary to set aside rationality, by and large; the path to wisdom comes not through the brain, chiefly, but through the heart, as it were. To become initiated, Steiner taught, you should devote yourself to certain mental and spiritual exercises that will "cultivate" the required "feeling." [26] Progress toward that goal is arduous, and it must be undertaken even in the face of powers that might block the path. (I'll present the following opaque quotation without interruption; then I'll offer some explanations.) 

“When the pupil has got so far as to have an experience of Intuition, then in addition to having knowledge of the pictures that belong to the world of soul and spirit, and being able to read from the Hidden Script how these pictures are interrelated, he also comes to know the Beings through whose co-operation the world to which man belongs has been called into existence. Then too he learns to know himself in his own archetypal form as a soul-and-spirit being in the world of soul and spirit. He has wrestled his way through to a perception of his Higher Self, and now sees clearly what he has still to achieve in order to gain control over his Double, the ‘Guardian of the Threshold’ who stands there before him ... This ‘Greater Guardian of the Threshold’ now becomes for him the Ideal, the Example that he will do his utmost to follow ... [N]ow this Greater Guardian changes for the eyes of the pupil into the figure of Christ ... Through this experience the pupil is initiated into the sublime Mystery that is connected with the name of Christ. Christ shows himself to him as the great human Prototype and Example, united with the Earth's true evolution.” [27] 

There’s a lot to chew on in this passage.

 “Intuition” is one of three forms of knowledge championed by Steiner: imagination, inspiration, and intuition. These are precursors to, or versions of, clairvoyance. Of the three, intuition is highest.

 These forms of cognition produce pictures or imaginations, i.e., true, clairvoyant images of spiritual realities: "pictures that belong to the world of soul and spirit."

 The “Hidden Script” is the Akashic Record, a secret storehouse of knowledge written on a universal ether. Accessible through clairvoyance, it contains explanations of the spiritual pictures.

 The Beings above and around us are the gods who, without being precisely the creators of the universe, nonetheless cooperated to bring our world — that is, the solar system in which we dwell during our physical incarnations — into existence.

 Each real human being has both a soul and a spirit (the latter is higher than the former), which give access to the soul world and the spirit world, although here Steiner treats these two worlds as one. 

 Our Higher Self is our true spiritual form and identity, unknown to most humans who are blinded by materialism. Archetypally, we are beings of spirit, not of physical substance.

 The Double or Guardian of the Threshold is our “evil” or obstructive twin, our lower nature, which blocks our path into the spirit realm. When we overcome this barrier, the "evil" evaporates and the Guardian reveals himself to be Christ, who becomes our guide. Christ is not our Savior, per se, but our role model: our Prototype or Example. 

 Christ became united with the Earth's true evolution when he left the Sun, came to Earth, and was Crucified, shedding his blood into the Earth. 

 The sublime Mystery to which the pupil is initiated is the Mystery of Golgotha, the occult meaning of Christ's Crucifixion. [28]

All of this, as you can see, hinges on “mystery”, “hidden” knowledge, and “initiation." These are Steiner’s words. Anthroposophy is the process that supposedly enables “pupils” or aspirants to penetrate the mysteries, gain the hidden knowledge, and attain initiation.

But, you may wonder, how can I explain these matters when I am not an initiate? There's no real mystery about it. As I suggested previously, Steiner was torn between revealing his doctrines and concealing them; between being celebrated for his great "wisdom" and being honored for preserving mystical "secrets." In the process, he revealed much — if not, presumably, everything. By enduring the mental travail of plowing through Steiner's books and lectures, any reasonably intelligent person can grasp the main points of Steiner's teachings. This is, in a sense, its own form of initiation — although, as Steiner stressed, "true" initiation requires submission, not critical analysis. If you try hard enough, with sufficient reverence and imagination, you may convince yourself to "see" the things Steiner claimed to "see." On the other hand, even if you withhold your credence, you can still understand what Steiner was driving at.

Human history, as described by Steiner, has been a tug-of-war between the truths of gnosticism and the fallacies of other, lesser bodies of knowledge. The following quotation is from HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN? by R. Steiner. 

“These two things, you see, were engaged in a struggle: the gnostic teaching, wishing to comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha through powerful spiritual thinking; and the other teaching, that reckoned with [i.e., used or accommodated] what was to come, when thought would no longer have power, when it would lack the penetration needed to understand the Mystery of Golgotha....” [29] 

One form of thinking — the gnostic form — leads to Truth; the other leads to blindness, lack of penetration, obtuseness. The latter form has prevailed, for mankind at large, but not for Steiner and his band.

We can find Christ (the Sun God, not our Redeemer precisely but an excellent Example) by “acquiring” Anthroposophy. 

We must come again to a kind of knowledge that relates to the supersensible. To that end we must understand the supersensible force working into the being of man, so that we may be able to extend it to the cosmos. We must acquire Anthroposophy, knowledge of the human being, which will be able to engender cosmic feeling again. That is the way.” [30]

Acquiring Anthroposophy — which is a matter not just of rational knowledge but of "feeling" — is essential, and we need to do it during our life on Earth: 

“[W]hat a man can acquire during an incarnation on Earth he can acquire in no single one of the other worlds ... [W]e realise again and again what nonsense it is to believe that we can wait until death to establish connection with the supersensible world. For how this connection is established after death depends upon the inner tendencies of soul acquired here on Earth ... [Similarly] the belief might arise that it is not necessary to cultivate Anthroposophy on Earth ... [But] the human being, with his whole soul, has been prepared to contact on Earth the kind of anthroposophical life that is possible only while he is incarnated in a physical body. Men are predestined for this and if they fail they will be unable to establish relationship with any of the spiritual Beings who might have been their teachers ... We need not, however, be dejected by the fact that many individuals reject Anthroposophy and it is therefore to be assumed that they will not be able to acquire it between death and the new birth. We need not despair about them for they will be born in a new earthly life and by that time there will be a strong enough stimulus towards Anthroposophy and enough Anthroposophy on the Earth for them to acquire it. In the present age despondency is still out of place, but that should not lead anyone to say: I can acquire Anthroposophy in my next life and so can do without it now. No, what has been neglected here cannot be retrieved later on.” [31] 

The triumph of Anthroposophy is nigh unto inevitable. Nevertheless, you would be well advised to embrace Anthroposophy now rather than waiting for your next Earthly incarnation. Anthroposophy is the true way — without it, you will not know the higher worlds, you will not receive the blessings of the gods who wish to be your teachers.

Receiving the divine blessings requires following Christ. This, in turn, requires following Anthroposophy. "We must acquire Anthroposophy, knowledge of the human being, which will be able to engender cosmic feeling again. That is the way.” Hallelujah.


A while after writing the essay above, I wrote the following for a different forum. 

Although it covers some of the ground we've already been over, I'll append it here. 

You may find some interesting, supplementary material in it.


Gnosis is hidden, esoteric knowledge; gnosticism is the study or possession of such knowledge. A useful synonym for gnosis, one Steiner often used, is “mystery knowledge.” In theology, a “mystery” is a secret rite or the secret knowledge underlying that rite. In orthodox Christianity, the eucharist is deemed a mystery: Bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ. Steiner spoke of other Christian mysteries, predominantly the “Mystery of Golgotha” — that is, the hidden meaning of Christ’s Earthly mission, culminating in his Crucifixion. In orthodox Christianity, the meaning of the Crucifixion is not mysterious: It is the central tenet of Christian faith, that Christ died for our sins in order to redeem them and save us. Steiner offers a very different take on Christ and His death.

In emphasizing “mysteries,” Steiner created a modern form of gnosticism. He denied this, sometimes, and in a limited, literal sense he was correct: Gnosticism (capital G) was a  movement of the second century AD, and Anthroposophy does not literally endorse the doctrines of that movement. But at a deeper level, Steiner’s denial is false. Steiner said that Gnosticism was essentially true and Anthroposophy is true — i.e., the latter derives from the former; Anthroposophy reformulates mystery teachings in the form appropriate to our more advanced stage of evolution. Criticizing Gnosticism is tantamount to blasphemy, Steiner said, and rejecting Anthroposophy would be a similarly grave error. Anthroposophy holds the “deeper Christian revelation” — the mystery knowledge that is denied to the uninitiated.  Like the Gnostics and, later, the Rosicrucians, Anthroposophists possess deep mystery knowledge that can be revealed only to the initiated. But in various ways, Steiner let the cat out of the bag, at least part way.

“At the time when Christ was about to enter the evolution of humanity, it was possible, through faculties that were a heritage from the days of the old clairvoyant wisdom, to form certain conceptions of the sublimity of the Christ Being. And at that time there existed a wisdom of which people often speak nowadays in a way that is almost blasphemous, but of which they are scarcely able to form any true idea. There existed something which up to this day has been completely exterminated from human evolution, rooted out by certain currents running counter to the deeper Christian revelation: this was the Gnosis, a wisdom into which had flowed much of the ancient knowledge revealed to men in atavistic clairvoyance. Every trace of the Gnosis, whether in script or oral tradition, was exterminated root and branch by the dogmatic Christianity of the West — after this Gnosis had striven to find an answer to the question: Who is the Christ?

“There can be no question to-day of reverting to the Gnosis — for the Gnosis belongs to an age that is past and over. True, its extermination was caused by malice, ignorance, enmity towards knowledge and wisdom ... [sic] but for all that it happened out of an underlying necessity. When anthroposophical spiritual science is accused of wanting to revive the ancient Gnosis, that is only one of the many expressions of ill-will directed towards it to-day. The accusation is, of course, made by people whose ignorance of the Gnosis is on a par with their ignorance of Anthroposophy. There is no question of reviving the Gnosis, but of recognising it as something great and mighty, something that endeavoured, in the time now lying nineteen hundred years behind us, to give an answer to the question: Who is the Christ?

“Before the inner eye of the Gnostic lay a glorious vista of spiritual worlds, with the Hierarchies ranged in their order, one above the other. [Note that this is the vision of Anthroposophy as well.] How the Christ had descended through the worlds of the spiritual Hierarchies to enter into the sheaths [i.e., bodies or components] of a mortal man — all this stood before the soul of the Gnostic. And he tried to envisage how the Christ had come from heights of spirit, how He had been conceived on earth. The best way to get some idea of the knowledge then existing is to reflect that everything produced by the world after the extermination of the Gnosis was paltry in comparison with the grandeur of the Gnostic idea of the Christ. The Mystery-wisdom behind the Gospels is infinitely great — greater by far than anything which later theology has been able to discover from them. To realise how paltry and insignificant compared with the Gnosis is the current conception of the Christ Being, we have but to steep ourselves in the ancient Gnostic idea of Him. Picturing this, one is filled with humility by the grandeur of the conception of the Christ Being entering into a human body from cosmic heights, from far distant cosmic worlds. [Note that this is different from saying that Christ came from Heaven or was sent by God.] 

“This majestic, sublime concept of Christ has fallen into the background, but all the dogmatic definitions handed down to us as Arian [a heresy teaching that Christ was not an immortal god] or Athanasian [generally speaking, orthodox Christian] principles of faith are meagre in comparison with the Gnostic conception, in which vision of the Christ Being was combined with wisdom relating to the universe. Only the merest fragments of this great Gnostic conception of Christ have survived.” [32]

What is the “current conception of the Christ Being,” the conception that Steiner disparages? It is what the churches preach: that Christ is the Son of God, and He is our Savior. These concepts are only partially correct, Steiner said. Who is the Christ, really? According to Steiner, He is the Sun God, our Prototype who came to Earth in order to advance our evolution. 

“We, of course, recognise in the Christ a cosmic, super-earthly Being, a Being Who descended from spiritual worlds in order, through His birth in a physical man, to impart meaning to earth-evolution.” [33] 

The “meaning” of our evolution, like the “meaning” of Christ’s mission, is hidden from all but the initiated.

According to Steiner, the real Christian message was destroyed by the Catholic Church, headquartered in southern Europe. Northern Europeans also lost true, gnostic understanding of Christ, because they focused on Jesus the man instead of Christ the god; but the northern vision of Christ had greater heartfelt truth than the corrupt Roman vision. Also, the northern vision (informed by Norse myths) came closer to the hidden truths of our existence:

“[W]e find lighting up in the Gnosis a sublime conception of the Christ which died away as Christianity passed through the Roman system ... [O]n the other hand, when Christianity encountered the peoples from the North, the concept of Jesus [i.e., the man in whom Christ incarnated] came to the fore ... Just as in the South the concept of Christ was inadequate, so in the North was man's feeling for Jesus [inadequate]. But for all that it was a feeling that stirred the very depths of the human heart.

“...The experiences underlying the Northern Mysteries were more intimately and directly connected with the existence of the stars, with nature, with earthly fertility ... [T]he Mystery-truths are great and potent impulses in the evolution of mankind ... [W]hat linked the Northern Mysteries with the whole evolution of the universe, arose from the earth, just as the Gnostic wisdom, inspired from the cosmos, was connected with happenings in the far distances of the universe. How the secret of man, linked as it is with all the secrets of the cosmos, comes into operation when a human being enters physical existence on the earth — it was this that, with greater depth than anywhere else at a certain period of earth-evolution, lay at the root of these ancient Northern Mysteries.”  [34]

The “secret of man” — this is what can be detected in Norse myths, in Gnosis, and now in Anthroposophy (anthro: human; sophy: knowledge or wisdom). This is what Christ brought us, according to Steiner — Christ was our Prototype because he showed us what we are, spiritual beings whose true dwelling is beyond the Earth. And, like Christ, we can evolve beyond our current station: 

“When Christ Jesus had come to the earth, when the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place, the great secret that was intended to be mirrored in every single human soul was this: ‘My kingdom is not of this world!’  ... [T]he Christ Himself had now entered earth-evolution, had become part of it. That is the all-important fact. The Gnostics were the last survivors of the bearers of that ancient, atavistic earth-wisdom which was comprehensive and powerful enough to make some understanding of the Christ possible.” [35] 

Note that what Christ underwent in coming to Earth from a higher realm is what each human undergoes.

Most people, including orthodox churchmen, do not understand the real meaning and message of Christ. But Steiner is the successor to Mystery priests who knew Christ’s real identity:

“Many were the prayers, many were the lofty teachings given by the teachers in the Mysteries in order to glorify and describe the sublime Sun-Spirit. These teachers in the Mysteries said to their pupils and they in turn to all humanity, that when man has passed through the gate of death he must enter, first, into the sphere of the lesser stars and their beings, and then rise above the sun. This he cannot do if the power of the Sun-Being is not bestowed upon him

“...Among the peoples where these customs prevailed, special rites and ceremonies were enacted in connection with this veneration of the sun. The ritual consisted, as a rule, in an image of the god being laid in the grave and after some days taken out again, as a sign and token that there is a god in the universe — the Sun-God — who ever and again awakens men to life when he succumbs to death.

“... [T]he priest told them: 'Through your birth you have departed from the realm of the Sun-God. When you pass through death you shall find that realm again through the power that he, the Sun-God, has laid in your hearts.'

“It was known to the initiated priests of these Mysteries that the sublime Sun-Spirit of whom they spoke to the worshippers is the same Being as He who would later be called the Christ.

“...Relatively speaking, it was not difficult for men at that time to accept such teaching because they had an instinctive remembrance of the realm of the Christ whence they had descended to the earth. But human nature is involved in a process of evolution and this instinctive remembrance of pre-earthly, spiritual life was gradually lost. Eight hundred years before the Mystery of Golgotha there were only a very few in whom any instinctive remembrance of pre-earthly life still survived.” [36]

Note that the essay I’ve just now quoted contains “The Message of Anthroposophy.” And what is that message?

“[If] Christianity is rightly understood, men know that the sun shines upon all men ... Anthroposophy will reveal to men that the Being who before the Mystery of Golgotha could be reached only by instinctive, super-earthly faculties [i.e., clairvoyance], can be reached since the Mystery of Golgotha through a power of knowledge acquired on the earth itself.

“Men...will understand that the Being who was formerly to be found on the sun is now to be found on the earth.

“...[T]his means that through Spiritual Science we must again learn to perceive a spiritual reality in everything that is of a material nature — a spiritual reality behind stones, plants, animals, human beings, behind clouds, stars, behind the sun.

“...Anthroposophy is able to affirm the reality of the Spirit behind the whole of nature. It may therefore also affirm that the Spirit is at work throughout the earthly history of mankind, that the earth itself first acquired meaning through the Mystery of Golgotha.

“Before the Mystery of Golgotha the meaning of the earth was contained in the realm of the Sun; but since the Mystery of Golgotha it inheres in the Earth itself.

“This is what Anthroposophy would fain bring to mankind ... And when, prepared by Anthroposophy, men are ready to seek again for the spiritual world, they will find Christ as an ever-present reality, in the way that is needful and right for our age ... [I]f in our day men reject knowledge of Christ, then they belie Him.

“...[I]f you truly receive into yourselves the spirit of Anthroposophy, you will find that it will again open the ears, the hearts and the souls of men to the Mystery of the Christ.

“Anthroposophy would wish its destiny to be one with the destiny of Christianity. This requires that men to-day shall turn, not merely to dead words which speak to them of Christ, but to knowledge ... He who was once their God has become their divine Brother.” [37]

Can we call this message Christian? Perhaps, in a way. Steiner claimed that his teachings reveal the true Christian message. But his teachings insist on Mystery knowledge — we can be saved through possession of secret knowledge, not through faith or good works. This is the Gnostic claim that is a heresy according to orthodox Christian teachings. 

“The classic source for ancient controversies regarding groups conventionally classified as gnostic is Adversus haereses (Latin: ‘Against Heresies’), a five-volume work written in Greek about ad 180 by the Christian bishop Irenaeus of Lyons. Originally titled ‘Exposure and Refutation of Knowledge Falsely So-Called,’ this extraordinarily influential work was studied, adapted, and expanded upon from the late 2nd through the 4th century by Christian writers ...  Later sources provide further information about the movements described by Irenaeus as well as about other groups, but they offer little help in understanding the term gnostikoi itself, which they sometimes apply to one or two specific sects and sometimes to a wide variety of groups deemed heretical." [38]

According to Steiner, Christ was once a god of another celestial sphere, but now he is our “brother”: He is our Savior only to the extent that he is our Prototype, a being such as we ourselves may become. Steiner used some more or less conventional Christian language, but his conception of Christ and his emphasis on Mystery knowledge separate Anthroposophy from orthodox Christianity — and Steiner insisted that our salvation (immortality, evolution) depends on Anthroposophy. “[W]hen, prepared by Anthroposophy, men are ready to seek again for the spiritual world....” (As we have seen, orthodox Christianity contains "mysteries," but the Gnostic emphasis on mysterious or occult "wisdom" as the key to Salvation was largely purged when Gnosticism was declared heretical. In contrast, occultism is central to Anthroposophy. [See "Occultism".])

Here is Steiner’s distinctly heterodox summary of the Christ story: 

“At what point in the evolution of humanity was attainment of consciousness of the spiritual world made possible for man? It was at the point where man's descent into the physical body was countered by victory over that body, and there was placed before men the great Prototype of Christ Himself ... When Jesus of Nazareth had reached the age of 30, the Christ came down into his body. For the first and last time Christ lived in a physical body. And His victory over death — when it is rightly understood — reveals to man what the manner of his own life must be....

“...What will the Christ Mystery, the Christ Deed, come to mean in the life of man in the future? ... As he ascends again into the spiritual world, man will know that through the Christ Deed he has gained the victory over what he experienced in the physical body; he will point to the physical as something that has been overcome, surmounted.

“...[M]an will look back upon what was experienced in the physical world, and will know that it is a grave. Then, with deep consciousness of the import of his words, he will say...‘The grave is empty and He Who lay within it has risen!’

“...The future of Christianity is that Christianity will not merely proclaim the existence of higher worlds, nor be mere religion, but an inner affirmation, a powerful impulse in life itself ... This Mystery is a Deed, a reality of life, inasmuch as man looks up to Christ not merely as the Savior but as the great Prototype...not merely the Comforter but the One Who goes before us ... [T]his is what the Christ Idea will be in the future, pervading all knowledge, all art, all life.” [39]

This, in brief, is what Steiner meant Anthroposophy, his Theory of Everything, to be. Anthroposophy intersects with Christianity, especially in emphasizing Christ, but it also intersects with other religions and worldviews to virtually the same degree. Anthroposophy stresses polytheism, karma, reincarnation, and evolution, for instance — these are absolutely key concepts — and these do not come from Christianity nor are they generally consistent with it. Anthroposophy is Christian to the extent that it emphasizes Christ. But it is Hindu to the extent that it emphasizes reincarnation and karma. It is “scientific,” perhaps, to the extent that it emphasizes evolution. It is Zoroastrian to the extent that it emphasizes Ahriman. But really it is neither Christian nor Hindu, neither scientific nor Zoroastrian. It is itself — it is a unique amalgam of beliefs, derived from many sources, significantly including Theosophy, Gnosticism, and Rosicrucianism — systems that all stress the importance of secret spiritual knowledge and, thus, systems that run contrary to mainstream Christian teachings. 

— Roger Rawlings

Anthroposophical Gnosticism

in Practice

Language has extraordinary importance and power, according to Steiner. It forms and shapes thoughts, which exist in the supersensible realm as real beings. The essence of initiation, Steiner said, is learning the spiritual core of true language, the secret names of things. 

"[I]nitiation consists in this very act of learning to call the things of the world by those names which they bear in the spirit of their divine authors. In these, their names, lies the mystery of things. It is for this reason that the initiates speak a different language from the uninitiated, for the former know the names by which the beings themselves are called into existence." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Forgotten Books, Anthroposophic Press, 1947), chapter 2, GA 10.

In Waldorf schools, the occult significance of language is embodied in eurythmy, which Steiner called "visible speech, visible music": 

“[A]ll that can be perceived by supersensible vision, all that can thus be learned about the nature of these forms and gestures of the air, can be carried into movements of the arms and hands, into movements of the whole human being. There then arises in visible form the actual counterpart of speech. One can use the entire human body in such a way that it really carries out those movements which are otherwise carried out by the organs connected with speech and music. Thus there arises visible speech, visible music — in other words, the art of Eurythmy.

“When one brings artistic feeling to the study of the nature of speech, one finds that the individual sounds form themselves, as it were, into imaginative pictures. It is necessary, however, entirely to free oneself from the abstract character which language has taken during the so-called advanced civilisation of the present day. For it is an undeniable fact that modern man, when speaking, in no way brings his whole human being into activity.” — Rudolf Steiner, A LECTURE ON EURYTHMY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1967), GA 279.

Mastering the proper form of speech leads to altered consciousness and reascent into spirit realms. 

"In the picture of the descent of world evolution down to man you have that scale which human beings have to reascend, from Imagination through Inspiration to Intuition. In the poem transformed into eurythmy you have Imagination; in recitation and declamation you have Inspiration as a picture; in the entirely inward experience of the poem, in which there is no need to open your mouth because your experience is totally inward and you are utterly identified with it and have become one with it, in this you have Intuition." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTMAS CONFERENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1990), p. 36. 

For more on the Logos,
see "Logos".

For a review of some related topics,

The Demiurgos, the Ancient of Days, 

Zeus, Jehovah, the Immortal Mortal.

[Montfaucon's ANTIQUITIES.]

Note that Steiner's account of the Demiurgos 

differs from what we find elsewhere.

A gnostic talisman.

[Rosemary Ellen Guiley, 


(Castle Books, 1991), p. 237 

— image from Dover Publications.]

More of the same:


(Dover, 2003), facing p. 184.]

The occultism found behind and in Waldorf schools

differs from other forms of occultism is many ways.

But there are also many links between Anthroposophy

and occultism at large.

Gnostic cross incorporating the "four elements."

Gnostic Sun emblem (the Sun
in the center of the celestial vault):
double, intersecting crosses.

Double, intersecting crosses
with the celestial vault completed
to symbolize eternity enclosing temporality.

[Rudolf Koch, THE BOOK OF SIGNS 
(Dover Publications, 1955), pp. 93, 22, and 23.]

This is a sketch of scenery used at the Goetheanum
— the Anthroposophical headquarters —
to stage Steiner's mystery play
"The Guardian of the Threshold".

[R.R., 2009.]

For an overview of Steiner's four
mystery plays, see

Gnosticism may be traced back to ancient Greece and beyond. 

Steiner's representation of these matters is often inconsistent with more reliable sources.

"Mystery religion, any of various secret cults of the Greco-Roman world that offered to individuals religious experiences not provided by the official public religions. They originated in tribal ceremonies that were performed by primitive peoples in many parts of the world. Whereas in these tribal communities almost every member of the clan or the village was initiated, initiation in Greece became a matter of personal choice. The mystery religions reached their peak of popularity in the first three centuries ad. Their origin, however, goes back to the earlier centuries of Greek history." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, January 21, 2017.

"Gnosticism, any of various related philosophical and religious movements prominent in the Greco-Roman world in the early Christian era, particularly the 2nd century.

"The designation gnosticism is a term of modern scholarship. It was first used by the English poet and philosopher of religion Henry More (1614–87), who applied it to the religious groups referred to in ancient sources as gnostikoi (Greek: those who have gnosis, or “knowledge”). The Greek adjective gnostikos (“leading to knowledge” or “pertaining to knowledge”) was first used by Plato to describe the cognitive or intellectual dimension of learning, as opposed to the practical. By the 2nd century ad, however, gnostikoi had been adopted by various Christian groups, some of which used it positively as a self-designation, though others criticized this practice as a presumptuous claim of exclusive access to truth." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, January 21, 2017.

"Early heretical movements

Gnosticism, from the Greek gnōstikos (one who has gnōsis, or “secret knowledge”), was an important movement in the early Christian centuries — especially the 2nd — that offered an alternative to emerging orthodox Christian teaching. Gnostics taught that the world was created by a demiurge or satanic power — which they often associated with the God of the Old Testament — and that there is total opposition between this world and God. Redemption was viewed as liberation from the chaos of a creation derived from either incompetent or malevolent powers, a world in which the elect are alien prisoners. The method of salvation was to discover the Kingdom of God within one’s elect soul and to learn how to pass the hostile powers barring the soul’s ascent to bliss. The Gnostics held a Docetist Christology, in which Jesus only appeared to assume the flesh. Although not assuming material form according to the Gnostics, Jesus, nonetheless, was the redeemer sent by God to reveal His special gnōsis. Irenaeus and other Christian theologians, as well as the 3rd-century Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus, dismissed Gnosticism as a pretentious but dangerous nonsense.

"Along with Irenaeus and others, the writers of the later New Testament books seem to have opposed early Gnosticism. The supporters of what would become orthodox Christianity stressed the need to adhere to tradition, which was attested by the churches of apostolic foundation. A more hazardous reply was to appeal to ecstatic prophecy. About ad 172 a quasi-pentecostal movement in Phrygia was led by Montanus with two prophetesses, Prisca and Maximilla, reasserting the imminence of the end of the world. He taught that there was an age of the Father (Old Testament), an age of the Son (New Testament), and an age of the Spirit (heralded by the prophet Montanus). Montanism won its chief convert in Tertullian. Its claim to supplement the New Testament was generally rejected, and the age of prophecy was held to have ended in the time of the apostles."  — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, January 21, 2017.

"Gnosticism. A complex of religious movements, having at least some of its roots in Jewish and pagan thought but appearing in developed form as a Christian heresy in the 2nd cent [i.e., century].... 

"Among the points of difference [between gnosticism and orthodox Christianity] are (i) the distinction between the remote supreme Divine being and the inferior Demiurge ... (ii) the importance of gnosis ('knowledge') as a means of redemption ... and (iii) a christology of Jesus as the emissary of the supreme God in docetic human form.

"Opponents of gnosticism...pointed to the plain sense of the scriptures and the unbroken tradition of the Church as proof against the legitimacy of esoteric revelations; to the absurdity of gnostic cosmology...; to the reality of Jesus' sufferings; and (apparently without good reason) to the immoral character of the gnostics themselves...

"Recent study...has supported two conclusions: first, gnosticism should probably be seen as an originally non-Christian phenomenon ... Second, the gnostics were ousted by the church in the 2nd-3rd cents [i.e., centuries]...." — THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF WORLD RELIGIONS (Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 376.

Predominant in the mystery teachings 
of Anthroposophy is the influence of 
Norse mythology.
The myths of the Norsemen give an accurate 
albeit mysterious account of human evolution,
Steiner taught.
[See "The Gods".]

Norse myths are emphasized 
in Waldorf education.

Norse gods, by Lorenz Frølich.

Steiner's doctrines emerge from a welter of religious, occult, gnostic, Rosicrucian, and esoteric traditions. Despite the efforts of Steiner, Blavatsky, and others, a fully successful synthesis of these traditions has never been achieved. Here is a diagram summarizing one attempted, partial synthesis, focusing on the books of the Bible. In part, this attempt bears similarities to Steiner's own work; in part, it is quite different. By taking such disparate efforts into account, we perceive Anthroposophy in its esoteric context, one system among a plethora of systems. 

"[This is a] synthesis of the Old and New Testaments [that] represents the interblending planes of being. In the right margin the seven outer circles [shown in the diagram] contain the names of the planetary angels. The words in the graduated circles from the top triangle downward read: (1) Abyss of Compassion; (2) Zion; (3) The New Heaven and the New Earth; (4) The New Jerusalem; (5) Paradise; (6) The Bosom of Abraham; (7) The Outer Courts of the Lord. From below the circles of darkness reach upward, each divine principle being opposed by an infernal opposite. The small circle on the left containing a triangle and cross is named The Tree of Life, and that on the right The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the center of the diagram is the Trinity, joined with the superior and inferior planes by lines of activity." — Manly P. Hall, THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES (Forgotten Books, 2008), p. 446.

The dream of mysticism,

the goal of gnosticism:

Transcendent knowledge,

seeing the invisible.


Gnosticism is distinct from 

other spiritual paths, 

but it arises recognizably 

from a central religious impulse.

Waldorf student art courtesy of 

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.

The middle painting includes the Hindu

symbol for the mantra "Om" or "Aum,"

which is meant to embody the universe.

Steiner employed it sometimes.

In a strange inversion of the Lord's Prayer,

he used these words:



Evils reign 

Bearing witness to I-being....”

— Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! 

(SteinerBooks, 2004), pp. 220-221.

Christ, the god of the Sun;

sketch based on sculpture by R. Steiner

[R.R., 2009.]

Charts by which Ramon Lull 

tried to expose the secrets of the universe.


(Prometheus Books, 1989), p. 36.]

Steiner was an industrious scholar of the occult. He knew a vast amount about matters that have no real bearing on life or truth.

“Thus did Ramon Lull look for a kind of renaissance of the secrets of the Logos, as they were known and spoken of in the ancient Mysteries. [paragraph break] You will find all this quite misrepresented in the historical documents. But when one enters little by little, as it were, into a personal relationship with Ramon Lull, then one comes to see how in all these efforts he was trying to find again the solution of the riddle of the Cosmic Word. And it is a fact that the students of the medieval initiates continued for several centuries to spend their lives in endeavors of this kind. It was an earnest and intensive striving, first to immerse oneself in the human being, and then to go forth from the human being and rise up into the secrets of the cosmos.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SECRET STREAM: Christian Rosenkreutz and Rosicrucianism (SteinerBooks, 2000), p. 215.

“The Lullian Art has been both ridiculed and worshipped, by laymen, theologians, and mathematicians. It is basically a mechanical method for producing all the possible permutations of two groups of words or concepts.” — Martin Gardner, “Ramon Lull” http://homepage.mac.com/bobsc/xianbios/lull.html. “The big question — and it was raised by Lull — is whether the mechanical production of all combinations, or a selection of random combinations, is a genuine creative thought. In most cases the number of combinations of primitive concepts is enormous. Except for a minute percentage, the combinations are nonsensical and useless.” — Martin Gardner, SCIENCE: GOOD, BAD AND BOGUS, p. 51.

For Steiner's teachings about the Holy Grail,

please see "Grail".

To learn about damnation, Steiner-style,

see "Hell".

Hidden meanings can be found anywhere.
To learn more, please use this link: "Magic".

For more on Michael, his mission,

and his antagonists, see "Michael".

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, 
use the underlined links, below.



Examining the central denial made by Steiner’s followers

A comparison of Steiner's teachings with Christ's

The hidden story


Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism

Steiner's strange ideas about the Lord


The Earth Goddess; and the Theory of Everything: Anthropo-Sophia

What Waldorf faculties aim for

About those "morning verses"

The religion of Anthroposophy in the classroom

Turning students into disciples

Why choose Anthroposophy when there are so many alternatives?


You may also want to consult a few essays 
posted in the first section of Waldorf Watch:

Waldorf's goals

Waldorf's reality

Teachers as priests

Steiner, trying to make Waldorf education seem sensible

The formatting at Waldorf Watch aims for visual variety, 
seeking to ease the process of reading 
lengthy texts on a computer screen. 

Some of the illustrations used here at Waldorf Watch 
are closely related to the contents of the pages 
on which they appear; 
others are not 
— the latter provide general context.  


[1] Rudolf Steiner, ATLANTIS AND LEMURIA (Rajput Press, 1911), p. 4.

Steiner made this statement while he was a Theosophist: Gnosis (secret knowledge) and Theosophy (knowledge of god) are one and the same. As a leading Theosophist, Steiner always advanced his own version of Theosophy, which as early as 1902 he began referring to as Anthroposophy (knowledge or wisdom of man). Thus, in identifying Theosophy as Gnosis, he effectively identified Anthroposophy as Gnosis. 

After Steiner broke from Theosophy to establish Anthroposophy as an independent system, he said he did so because the Theosophy described by others — predominately Helena Blavatsky, the central figure in Theosophy — was faulty. Greater, more complete truth lay in his own teachings, he claimed. 

”It is true that Blavatsky [Helena Blavatsky, the central figure in Theosophy] has in her books put forward important truths concerning spiritual worlds, but mixed with so much error that only one who has accurately investigated these matters can succeed in separating what is significant from what is erroneous.” — Rudolf Steiner, APPROACHES TO ANTHROPOSOPHY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992), p. 7.

[2] Rudolf Steiner, FIRST STEPS IN INNER DEVELOPMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), p. 25.

This is another quotation from Steiner's Theosophical years. Here it is in more complete form: 

“In the Theosophical society, one of the things that we cultivate, in addition to the pursuit of a universal ethics, is occultism, or esotericism, which from this point of view has to do with laws of existence that are hidden from the usual sense of observation in everyday human experience. Occult mean 'hidden' or 'mysterious.'”

[3] See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"

Many Anthroposophists belong to the overtly religious extension of Anthroposophy called the Christian Community. They consider Anthroposophy a science that provides the spiritual knowledge revered in the Community. However, I have argued that Anthroposophy is itself a religion, rooted in faith not knowledge, and practiced in order to gain spiritual blessings. Foremost among the desired blessings is salvation (which is Anthroposophy is spiritual evolution to immortal divinity).

The distinction Anthroposophists try to establish between their "science" and their faith could be asserted by others with reference to their own spiritual practices. Studying any catechism or holy book, or receiving any types of divine inspirations or visitations or messages, might be called "science" — you are gathering truth, not worshipping. You then use the truths you have attained to engage in religious actions such as prayer and worship. If a distinction between science and religion holds for Anthroposophy, it holds for other spiritual movements as well. But the fallacy is obvious. The study and the practice are intimately linked and, in fact, inseparable. They are the twin sides of religion.

[4] “The development of Christian doctrine was to a large extent a reaction against Gnosticism.” — "gnosticism." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 23 May 2008. 

The basic concept in Gnosticism is that salvation is attained through the acquisition of knowledge, not through faith or good works. Steiner taught that religion, as such, will become unnecessary. It will be replaced by his own teachings, spiritual science: Men will have esoteric knowledge and will no longer need faith.

 "Religion is the re-binding of the sensible with the supersensible. In an age of approaching materialism human beings needed religion. But the time will come when they will again be able to experience the supersensible world; then they will no longer need religion. The necessary antecedent of the new vision is that human beings shall be bearers of spiritual Christianity. This is the basis of the sentence of which I would ask you to realize the profound significance: Christianity began as a religion but is greater than all religions.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 283. 

Note that "Christianity" is not greater than all other religions; it is greater than any and all religions. This reflects Steiner's claim that his teachings are not a religion. "True" Christianity, he taught, is gnostic, it consists of secret knowledge. His teachings (Anthropo-sophy: human knowledge) embody the secrets. That is, he possessed true Christianity; churches do not possess it.  

"I also want you to understand what is really religious in the anthroposophical sense ... [R]eligion connected with a specific church is not actually religious.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1998) pp. 44-46. 

In this sense, Anthroposophy is the one true religion, according to the logic of Steiner's assertions.

[5There have been many versions of Christian gnosticism. In some, there is belief in, or “knowledge” of, many Demiurges, who were a band of gods. In others, there was a single Demiurge, but above him stood other gods who were not, as such, Demiurges. Thus, gnosticism has often been polytheistic.

In most gnostic systems, the Creator of the physical realm was described as a lowly god, who created an inferior level of existence. 

"Demiurge, Greek Dēmiourgos ('public worker'), plural Demiourgoi, in philosophy, a subordinate god who fashions and arranges the physical world to make it conform to a rational and eternal ideal." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Sep. 24, 2012.

Sometimes, rather than working toward a divine vision, the Demiurge was thought to be an evil spirit. 

"Gnostics taught that the world was created by a demiurge or satanic power." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Jan. 21, 2017.

[6] Steiner typically changed religious teachings to conform to his own vision, or he sought and emphasized teachings consistent with his own. Whereas the Demiurge is usually thought to be a low-ranking god, possibly evil, Steiner depicts him as "a Being dwelling in spheres of lofty spirituality ... a sublime Being" presiding above, and sending forth, subordinate gods. (We will see this quotation, at greater length, presently.) In this conception, the Demiurge becomes essentially the presiding Godhead, the fountainhead creation, from whom ranks of gods issued.

Steiner's conception of the Godhead is complex. The Godhead is, in a sense, the creative force within everything, hence it is immanent everywhere. On the other hand, however, the Godhead generally has no direct involvement with us, and may more truly be conceived as divine will, the divine impulse behind creation, a nebulous force rather than a specific divine presence. The universe as described by Steiner is aswarm with gods who stand below the Godhead; they interact with us as the Godhead does not. In no sense, according to Steiner, do we live in a monotheistic universe. Only in a distant future may the universe become monotheistic — that is, only then will the Godhead become fulfilled in the form of a One True God. We will by then have joined with this God, and we will have been redeemed. In a sense, we ourselves will be this God. If we think of the Godhead as the origin, then God is the goal. [See, e.g., "All", "God", and the entry for "Godhead" in the BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA.]

Concerning the "crystal heaven": 

“That which happened in the beginnings of our evolution, before the Saturn development, we must place outside, beyond the Zodiac. Primeval wisdom called it the Crystal Heaven.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophic Press, 1929), lecture 10, GA 110.

[7] Concerning Steiner's treatment of Jehovah: Steiner’s doctrines contain many traces of anti-Semitism. He said that The ancient Jews were spiritually no more advanced than embryos, and because they clung to their infantile ideas (the Old Testament), they led us to the materialistic, atheistic mess we're in today.

“[T]he ancient Jewish people...did not wish to learn anything in addition to what the human being brings with him as a capacity because of the fact that he was an embryo ... Old Testament thinking [led to] the atheistic science of the modern age.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), pp. 28-33.

[8] Rudolf Steiner, “Gnostic Doctrines and Supersensible Influences in Europe” (ANTHROPOSOPHY - Michaelmas 1931, Vol. 6, No. 3), GA 225.

When he described the beliefs of ancient peoples, Steiner sometimes took the role of a scholar of religion; he explained various belief systems without apparently endorsing them. Sometimes, indeed, he drew distinctions between ancient beliefs and the "truths" he himself set forth. However, Steiner very often effectively did endorse ancient teachings, and in turn he offered such teachings as a sort of endorsement of his own teachings. He argued, in effect, that the parallels between various belief systems indicates the truth of these systems. His basic stance, often, was that ancient peoples had deep — but incomplete or flawed — spiritual wisdom. His own teachings, he claimed, corrected the errors of the past while also perfecting the wisdom of the past.

[9] Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD: THE SEARCH FOR THE HOLY GRAIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1963), lecture 1, GA 149.

[10] Rudolf Steiner,  THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 277-278.

It is enlightening to note that by "pre-earthly existence", Steiner meant life in "the spirit-world of the stars." 

[11] "Salvation" is a tricky concept, in Anthroposophy. Steiner generally taught that the goal is not so much to be saved as to make spiritual, evolutionary progress. Still, we may speak of salvation, as Steiner himself did, as long as we bear the Anthroposophical meaning in mind. E.g., 

"[I]n order that all men might perceive the living God, with their earthly senses, He, the Christ, had to appear upon earth in a way that made it possible for Him to be seen with physical eyes; in other words, He had to take on a form of flesh, because only such a form can be seen with physical eyes. Prior to this, only the initiates could perceive Him through the Mysteries, but now He took on a physical form for the salvation of every soul." — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Anthroposophic Press, 1962), lecture 4, GA 103.

Anthroposophical teachings include occult versions of heaven and hell. Good humans will eventually become gods. This will be "salvation" indeed. But errant humans will pay the price for their errors. Eventually they will arrive at the Abyss: 

“The evil race, with its savage impulses, will dwell in animal form in the abyss.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 103.

[12] Rudolf Steiner, ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1973), #21, “Gnosis and Anthroposophy", GA 26.

The capital-G "Gnosis" Steiner refers to came before the 2nd Century A.D., and is thus, more properly, small-g "gnosis." The distinction tends to get lost in Steiner's statements, in part because in German all nouns are capitalized.


[13] Ibid.

[14] This evolutionary process is tied to the hierarchy of races, as Steiner described it. Some races are higher than others. Good humans evolve upward into the higher races; bad humans descend into the lower races. 

"[If a] soul does not make itself evil, it will not be reincarnated in a race that is falling back, but in one that is on the up-grade [sic].” — Rudolf Steiner, INVESTIGATIONS IN OCCULTISM SHOWING ITS PRACTICAL VALUE IN DAILY LIFE (Kessigner Publishing, 1996) p. 138 —  reproduction of a 1920 edition.

[15] Rudolf Steiner. THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING, p. 58.

In some instances, I have drawn quotations from an earlier edition of this book — the content is the same, but occasionally the expression is clearer in one edition than in another. For consistency, I will give the page numbers for the 1996 edition, cited above.

In the 1996 edition, the word "blasphemous" was replaced by "irreverent."

[16] ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Company, 1973), #14, “A Christmas Study: The Mystery of the Logos”, GA 26.

[17] See Rudolf Steiner, THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL: HIS MISSION AND OURS: Selected Lectures and Writings (SteinerBooks, 1994).

[18] “A Christmas Study: The Mystery of the Logos”.


[19] THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES, lecture 5, GA 110.

[20] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1979), p. 310.

[21] The prefatory note can be found in, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), front matter. Multiple repetitions of the note can be found at http://www.rsarchive.org/Search.php.

Concerning the School of Spiritual Science: During the Christmas season, 1923-24, Steiner announced plans for the school. [See Johannes Kiersch, A HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL SCIENCE (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2006).] The primary center for Anthroposophical studies today is located at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland [http://www.goetheanum.org/300.html?L=1].

The School of Spiritual Science was originally meant to include three central "classes," but Steiner created only one before death took him. This First Class may be considered the inner core of Anthroposophy. 

“According to its constitution, the task of the School of Spiritual Science is to conduct research in the field of spirit in ways that can complement and take further the results obtained by mainstream academic research ... In Rudolf Steiner‘s plan, three Classes were to form the core and esoteric practice of the School. This work was to be rooted in mantric and meditative of inner schooling. He was only able to create a First Class. ... The circle of First Class Holders has been conferring on the procedure leading to the appointment of new Class Holders.” — General Anthroposophical Society Annual Report 2002, http://www.goetheanum.org/uploads/media/JB2002en_01.pdf.

[22] Rudolf Steiner, POLARITIES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MANKIND (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1987), pp. 104-105.

[23] Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944). 

In my essay “Inside Scoop”, I discuss initiation as described in this book. I offer a tour through the book in "Knowing the Worlds".

The book is also available in other editions and translations, e.g., HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS  (Anthroposophic Press, 1994).

[24] Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1979). 

For a tour through this book, see "Everything".

This book, too, is available in numerous editions and translations, e.g., AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922) and AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997).


In KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, Steiner is even more explicit about the need for reverence and the inadmissibility of critical thought. He describes a dubious condition of childhood, claiming that it lays a good foundation for adulthood. 

"[Some children] have a respect that forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thoughts of criticism or opposition ... What was once a childish veneration of persons, becomes, later, a veneration for truth and knowledge ... [V]eneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart." [p. 10.] 

Steiner describes an attitude that may or may not be good for children, but that is clearly hazardous for adults. We must use our heads and think critically; hearts are not always reliable; veneration is not always due. Truth and knowledge are not attainable in the manner Steiner prescribes. Even if we school our hearts and souls, as Steiner says we must, our intuitions cannot be the sure guides he wants them to be. The promise he offers is highly appealing, but he provides no substantiation for his claims  — he merely offers the ancient fantasy of direct, sure, heartfelt certainty, a fantasy that has led to innumerable wars and other disasters, when blundering humans have felt sure they knew the divine will. We would like certainty in our souls, but humans have sought this from time immemorial, and often, tragically, our quest has led us astray. Essentially, Steiner advocates clairvoyance, which — sadly — does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".]

[26] I discuss some of these exercises in "Serving the Gods" and "Knowing the Worlds". Also see "Inside Scoop".


[28] I discuss these subjects in various essays here at Waldorf Watch. Please use the Index and Table of Contents, or do Google searches of this site using the “Search Site” option near the top of each page.

[29] Rudolf Steiner, HOW CAN MANKIND FIND THE CHRIST AGAIN? (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 49.

While Steiner generally deprecated intellect and the use of the brain [see, e.g., "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific"], he himself was an intellectual, and his own doctrines are presented, in a sense, as the result of "powerful spiritual thinking." However, he described a time when thinking becomes useless — the materialistic period in which we live now. Our materialistic use of the brain, a physical organ, avails nought; it lacks "the penetration needed to understand the Mystery of Golgotha."


[31] Rudolf Steiner, BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1975), lecture 9, GA 141. 


[33] Ibid., p. 57.

[34] Ibid., pp. 61-63.

[35] Ibid., p. 61.

[36] Ibid., pp. 270-272.

[37] Ibid., pp. 278-280.

[38] “gnosticism." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 30 Sep. 2009


[R.R., 2010.]