GOD



Or So Steiner Said




Who or what is God, according to Rudolf Steiner? Waldorf school students are expected to recite prayers, written by Steiner, that address “God,” “God’s spirit,” and/or the “Creator Spirit.” [1] To whom are these prayers directed?


Steiner spoke of the Godhead, which may be taken as the creative force behind the universe. Most people in the Western world, hearing of the Godhead, think of the monotheistic God recognized in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. But Steiner described a universe populated by a vast number of gods. He said that polytheism is correct; monotheism is only an ideal vision:  


“Monotheism or monism can only represent an ultimate ideal; it could never lead to a real understanding of the world, to a comprehensive, complete view of the world. [2]


In Steiner's view, there is no One and Only God, at least not yet. The reality encompassed by the concept of monotheism is still being evolved: It is a condition the universe may reach eventually, not a condition that exists now, or so Steiner taught.


To repeat, then: To whom are Steiner's prayers directed?



I.

The Godhead



Here is some of what Steiner said about the Godhead. He identified the Godhead as divine will. He characterized the Godhead as a nebulous force that activates good gods, and good humans, and everything else aside, perhaps, from evil gods and all the beings that lack real spirit. The Godhead is the “creator spirit” or the “kingdom” into which the good may enter. In this sense, it is blessedness.


“[A] Christian sees a mirror image of the Godhead, of divine will, in every single thing in the world. The universe contains the sacrificed Godhead, and this reflected image of the Godhead was called in esoteric Christianity ‘the kingdom’. What the kingdom meant to them was the divine will raying back to them multiplied a million times. The kingdom was the creative power of Atma, the living force of Buddhi in us, the creative force working in the outside world.” [3] (In Anthroposophy, true Christianity is Anthroposophy itself.)


Atma, as described by Steiner, is the highest evolutionary stage of human consciousness. Buddhi is a second, lower stage, consisting of the transformed etheric body — one of the three nonphysical bodies that humans possess, according to Steiner. (Manas, not mentioned in this quotation, is the third, still lower stage, consisting of the transformed astral body — another of our three nonphysical bodies). [4] 


Steiner's vision was Christian, in a sense. It was also Hindu, in a sense (Atma, Buddhi...). Steiner placed great emphasis on Christ, teaching that Christ is a key embodiment of divine will. On the other hand, he also said that Christ is the Sun God, one of the vast panoply of gods inhabiting our polytheistic universe. [See "Sun God".] Thus, Christ — like all other beneficent beings — is a fulfillment of the Godhead. Thus, we may find the Godhead in Christ. 


“True existence is the incarnation of the Godhead; the world process is the Passion of the incarnated Godhead and at the same time the way of redemption for Him who was crucified in the flesh....” [5]


The Godhead is a spirit that incarnates in true existence (false existence incarnates evil or it has no spiritual component at all). The Godhead, incarnated in Christ and enduring Christ's Passion (the Crucifixion), sacrificed itself for our sake. We ourselves can follow the world process that, if properly unfolded, will lead to our Christ-informed spiritual evolution — toward our own divinity, which may be considered the ultimate fulfillment of the Godhead.


The Godhead is beyond our current comprehension and, in a manner of speaking, the Godhead is outside our universe. The Godhead may be deemed the mysterious trinity standing above all ranks of gods — it is the transcendent union of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu. In this sense, the Godhead is a union of three separate, highest gods. [See "Trinity".] All that exists — including the gods — arises from the Godhead and aspires to realize the Godhead. But, Steiner said, we cannot expect to understand the ultimate activities or purposes of divine will, at least not yet. [See "Origins".] The Godhead lies beyond. Steiner taught that for our pragmatic purposes, trying to understand how to live and what to think, we should direct our gaze at the gods who are more directly involved in the life of our solar system, our planet, and ourselves.





II.

God the Father



The spirit realm, Steiner said, has few defining lines or distinctions. Entities and essences interweave and overlap. Thus, Christ is a god standing below the Godhead; yet Christ is also, in a sense, a member of the Godhead. The same may be said of God the Father. The Father, according to Steiner, is that fulfillment of divinity toward which we are evolving. We will actually become the Father — not as companions of the Father, but literally as Himself. 


“[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” [6]


When Steiner's followers pray to God the Father — and when Waldorf students are led in such prayers — the god being addressed is not the Godhead, precisely, nor the One True God of monotheism (which Steiner said is false), but the creative aspect of divinity embodied in our spheres of spiritual activity, a godliness that we see as the Father. Anthroposophical forms of the Lord's Prayer address this power. Steiner used multiple versions of the Lord's Prayer, usually framed to direct focus to the god or gods that enact divine will for our immediate benefit. So, for example, one form of the Lord's Prayer offered by Steiner addresses not “Our Father which art in heaven” but, instead, it addresses the “All-Father of Humanity”: 


"We sense You above in the heavenly heights,

All-Father of Humanity.

Consecrated be Your Name.” [7] 


The All-Father is, in a sense, Odin, the highest god depicted in Norse myths, the father of the gods who was often referred to as All Father. Indeed, the wide pantheon of gods found in Norse mythology is more akin to Steiner's vision than is the single God of the Bible. [See "The Gods".] But in Steiner's teachings, Odin is not the Godhead; Odin is not the sole source of divine creativity. Rather, all the good gods participate in creation, and thus all of the good gods are our fathers, as it were. So another version of the Lord's Prayer used by Steiner — the version that Steiner said underlies the others — addresses not "our Father" but "ye fathers": 


"...humanity

Has separated itself

From Your Kingdom

And forgot your names

Ye Fathers in the heavens." [8] 


We have many spiritual fathers because there are many gods who have assisted us in our evolution, Steiner taught. Creation and evolution, in the broadest sense, are the work of "spirit." We ourselves are spiritual beings when we acknowledge our bonds to spirit: 


“We are spiritual beings only when we recognize spirit as creator — the agent that works on and shapes the material world. It is not the worship of some abstract spirit in the clouds....” [9] 


The gods are all around us and even within us. If the Godhead is distant, the gods are present. 


When we address a single Father, Steiner said, we must understand that we are not praying to Jehovah, the god of the Jews. According to Steiner, Jehovah (or Jahve) is only one of several collegial gods, the Elohim. Like many other gods, Jehovah has played a helpful role in our evolution, but we must see him in his context: 


[The] further evolution of man has only been possible because one of the Elohim, Jahve, accompanied the separation of the Moon [from the Earth] — while the other six spirits remained in the Sun — and because Jahve cooperated with His six colleagues....” [10]


Actually, Steiner said, the god we address as Father is the presiding spirit of Saturn. 


"The highest Ruler of Saturn...appears to us as the Father God, and the highest Ruler of Sun, the Sun-God, as the Christ. Similarly the Ruler of the Moon stage of Earth [see 'Old Moon'] appears to us as the Holy Spirit....” [11]





III.

God the Son



In Christian belief, Christ is one of the three persons of God. Steiner’s conception overlaps this, but it is also extremely different. Christ is, in a way, the Son; but more particularly, according to Steiner, Christ is the Sun God — a god who has dwelled on, and ruled over, the Sun. Steiner said that the Sun God has involved Himself many times in human evolution [see "Christ Events"], and His coming to Earth was foreseen long ago, even while we lived on Atlantis: 


“The Sun oracle [a being/place having the power of prophecy] of ancient Atlantis had already prophesied the coming of Christ, of the Sun-God.” [12]


Steiner taught that the Sun God entered Jesus, the man, for three years, after which He merged with the Earth. Early Christians understood Christ's true nature, more or less, but later Christians forgot. When humanity lost its ancient powers of clairvoyance, the reality of Christ's association with the Sun faded from our awareness: 


“With greater of less understanding, Christ was thus pictured by the Christians of the first centuries as the mighty ‘Sun God’. [paragraph break] But throughout Christendom at this time the faculty of instinctive clairvoyance once possessed by men was fading away. Then they could no longer see in the sun the great spiritual kingdom at whose centre the Christ once had his abode.” [13]


Christ came to Earth and quit the Sun. 


“Christ died to the Sun. He died cosmically, from the Sun to the earth. He came down to the earth. From the moment of Golgotha [Calvary] onwards his Life-Spirit was to be seen around the earth.” [14] 


The life-spirit is the Buddhi, which I mentioned before. Christ "died to the Sun", meaning that he withdrew his spirit from the Sun. He, or his human embodiment, Jesus, later died on the Earth, and Christ the spirit then merged with the Earth.


Dying to the Sun and later merging with the Earth is not quite the same thing as dying to redeem our sins. Christ is not so much mankind's savior as the role model humans should follow, Steiner taught. 


"Christ shows himself to him as the great human Prototype and Example, united with the Earth's true evolution." [15] 


Christ became the inverse of the entire universe, a microcosmic or "inverse macrocosmic" being when he incarnated in human form. He brought All — the Godhead, as it were — into physical existence. 


“The ‘being’ of Christ should be thought of as the inverse macrocosmic human being, but [also] identical with the second aspect of the Divinity, the Logos.” [16] 


We ourselves are microcosmic men, small reflections of the entire universe, the macrocosm; and we become macrocosmic men when we properly follow Christ, who is the living Word of God, Logos. [See "All".]


Although Christ took up a unique burden when he chose to incarnate on Earth, he was not the only god to descend in one form or another, according to Steiner. [See "Avatars".] Good gods have descended to assist us, but evil gods or demons have come down to do us harm. So, during the time when Christ walked the Earth in the form of Jesus, the dire forces of the demon Ahriman were also abroad. 


“[I]t was also possible for Ahriman to be active side by side with the Christ during the three years in which Christ was active in the body of Jesus of Nazareth." [17] 


Steiner's polytheistic vision encompasses vast numbers of gods, some of whom try to thwart divine will and subvert the actions of the beneficent gods such as Christ. [See "Evil Ones".]





IV.

The Holy Spirit



Let’s consider the third person of the Christian triune God. The most obscure of the three, the Holy Spirit is, in a sense, what Christ bequeathed humanity. Or so Steiner indicated.


“[T]he living spirit speaks to us again. [paragraph break] It is no formula devised by human cleverness, the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is a reality deeply bound up with the whole evolution of the cosmos; and it becomes for us a living, not dead, knowledge when we bring to life within ourselves the Christ Who, as the Risen One, is the bringer of the Holy Spirit.” [18]


Three of Steiner’s devotees may help us, here. 


◊ In one sense, the Holy Spirit is a light beckoning us onward in our evolution: A “light appears from the future ... It is this, so to speak, beckoning light that Steiner speaks of as the Holy Spirit....” [19] 


◊ And, the “individual comprehension of the Christ Impulse is described by Steiner as the gift of the Holy Spirit, the direct reception of which is celebrated at Whitsun.” [20] The Christ-Impulse is the spiritual impetus and ability activated in us by Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us this impulse as a gift. Whitsun or Whitsuntide (or Pentecost) is a celebration of this gift. 


◊ At Waldorf schools, Whitsun is "the festival of awakening, or free individuality, of baptism ... Whitsun/Pentecost is both moveable and fixed [in the calendar], in that it follows fifty days after Easter; that is to say, the experience of death and resurrection leads in due course to the experience of understanding oneself as a spiritual being." [21]


Steiner taught that the Holy Spirit represents the "universal I" — the universal spiritual ego, the cosmic spark of divine selfhood and illumination. During the process of initiation, the human astral body is purified, becoming the perfect receptive human soul with its inborn wisdom: the "Virgin Sophia": 


“Through all that is received during catharsis, the student cleanses and purifies the astral body so that it becomes transformed into the Virgin Sophia. Moreover, when the Virgin Sophia encounters the cosmic, or universal 'I' which leads to illumination, the student is surrounded by spiritual light ... If you prefer, one may say 'overshadowed by the "Holy Spirit," or cosmic, universal "I."'" [22]


On other occasions, Steiner indicated that the Holy Spirit is itself the receptive feminine aspect of spirituality. 


"One could also say that the ‘Holy Spirit’ is the (feminine) ‘Mother’ principle of the (male) ‘Son’ principle, Christ. We owe the development of the ‘Christ in us’ to the ‘Holy Spirit’ (the female creator of Christ)." [23] 


The procreative power of the "mother" finds expression in our souls. 

“Here we have one of the central conceptions of Mystery-teaching, which acknowledges the human soul as the mother of god.” [24] 

In a sense, as we attain divinity and become "what is called in Christianity ‘the Father'”, we will have created God. And we will have done it thanks in large measure to the "mother" of God: Sophia/Artemis/Eve/Mary, who may be thought of as the Holy Spirit. [See "Goddess".]


If all of this is somewhat cloudy, Steiner sometimes gave a more concrete account. As we saw previously, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate gods, Steiner said, and the Holy Ghost is "the Ruler of the Moon stage of Earth.” In other words, the deity we apprehend as the Holy Ghost is the particular god who presided during the Old Moon period of evolution — he was the leader of the Angels before the rebellion of Lucifer and his minions. 


◊ “Rudolf Steiner said...that the Holy Spirit...was the highest Regent of Old Moon.” [25] 


◊ "'The Holy Spirit, the ruler of Ancient Moon with its wisdom, had been displaced at the Fall by Lucifer.'" [26] 


◊ "[D]uring [Old] Moon, those beings that were...the good spirits...[are] those for which the Christian designation is angel ... We have designated the outstanding Leader of these spirits as the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost." [27]





V.

God(s)



Here are some additional statements which may or may not tend toward illumination. Trying to make all Anthroposophical statements consistent with one another is, at a minimum, taxing. Sometimes it is better to just let the words flow.


“We must acquire the possibility of conceiving of the Christ in such a way that we do not identify Him with the Father god. Many of the modern evangelical theologians are no longer able to differentiate between the general concept of God and the concept of the Christ. To be unable to find the Christ in life is a different matter from being unable to find the Father God. You know that it is not here a matter of doubting the Divinity of the Christ. It is a matter of clear differentiation, in the sphere of the Divine, between the Father God and the Christ God. This comes to expression in the soul of man. Not to find God the Father is a disease; not to find the Christ is a misfortune. For the human being is so connected with the Christ as to be inwardly dependent upon this connection. He is, however, also dependent upon that which has taken place as a historical event. He must find a connection with the Christ here upon earth, in external life. If he does not find it is a misfortune. Not to find the Father god, to be an atheist, is an illness. Not to find the Son God, the Christ, is a misfortune.” [28]


•••


“It was by turning their gaze into the past that the men of those ancient times felt the reality of spiritual things. ‘I must look back beyond my birth, far into the past, if I would see the Spiritual. There is the Spirit; out of that Spirit I am born; that Spirit must I find again. But I have departed far from Him.’


“Thus did man feel the Spirit from whom he had departed, as the Spirit of the Father God. The highest Initiate in the Mysteries was he who evolved in his heart and soul the forces whereby he could make manifest the Father in his own external human being. When the pupils crossed the threshold of the Mysteries and came into those sacred places which were institutions of Art and Science and of the sacred religious Rites at the same time, and when at length they stood before the highest Initiate, they saw in him the representative of the Father God. The ‘Fathers’ were higher Initiates than the ‘Sun-Heroes.’ ... Thus in the course of human evolution, in the consciousness of man, the ‘Out of God — out of the Father God — we are born,’ was supplemented by the word of life, of comfort and of strength, ‘In Christ we die’ — that is to say, in Him we live.” [29]


•••


“How are we to think about the Father God with truly spiritual comprehension


“Let us consider human beings, first in day-waking consciousness, then in night-sleeping consciousness, and let us compare the two states. We know that in full waking consciousness individuals are living as they have been placed to live within the order of this physical world. Just as the earth has had earlier stages of evolution — Saturn, Sun, Moon — and will undergo further evolution, so must humans themselves be recognized as the result of those earlier evolutionary periods. In this sense they belong in their waking state to the earth; by their nature they stand within the sphere of the earth. In waking condition they stand on a level with nature.


“It is not the same when human beings sleep. When we are asleep our physical and etheric bodies lie on the bed, and our astral body and ego are outside them. Let us look at the physical and etheric bodies. Of what do we consist, lying there in our physical and etheric bodies? We have — of course, at a more advanced stage — what we received in the old Saturn evolution and the old Sun evolution. That is now further evolved; we have the further development of our Saturn and Sun existence now during sleep. We do not have our Moon existence in what lies there on the bed. Nature has progressed from Moon existence to Earth existence. And the fact that the sleep condition is essential to us means that nature preserves in the sleeping human being a nature that is now below, a nature that only existed during the Saturn and Sun periods. That is subnature. That lies at the foundation of all beings through the fact that there is a human race. Humans fall during sleep into subnature, and from this fall illnesses appear. That is the realm of the Father God. When we sleep we enter the realm of the Father God, we enter subnature, the realm of the Father.” [30]


•••


“For in early Christian times, up to about the third or fourth century, when there was still a good deal of the Oriental wisdom in Christianity, men were occupying themselves intently with the question of the difference between the Father God and God the Son. These fine differences that engaged attention in the early Christian centuries have long ceased to have meaning for modern man, who has been occupied in developing egohood as a result of the influences I have described.


“A kind of untruth has thus found its way into modern religious consciousness. Through inner experience, through his analysis and synthesis of the world, man comes to the Father God. From tradition, he has God the Son. The Gospels speak of Him, tradition speaks of Him. Man has the Christ, he wants to acknowledge Him — but through inner experience he has Him no longer. Therefore he takes what he should apply only to the Father God and transfers it to the Christ God. Modern theology has not the Christ at all; it has only the Father — but it calls the Father ‘Christ,’ because it has received the tradition of the Christ Being in history and, quite naturally, wants to be Christian. If we were honest, we should simply be unable to call ourselves Christians in modern times.” [31]


•••


“Those who know that the progress of mankind depends upon living apprehension of the mighty Event of Golgotha are they who as the ‘Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings’ are united in the great Guiding Lodge of mankind. And as once the ‘tongues of fire’ hovered down as a living symbol upon the company of the apostles, so does the ‘Holy Spirit’ announced by Christ Himself reign as the Light over the Lodge of the Twelve. The Thirteenth is the Leader of the Lodge of the Twelve. The ‘Holy Spirit’ is the mighty Teacher of those we name the ‘Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings’. It is through them that his voice and his wisdom flow down to mankind in this or that stream upon the earth.” [32]


•••


"A Lodge of twelve Bodhisattvas [enlightened beings, Buddhas] is to be regarded as the Lodge directing all Earth evolution. The concept of ‘Teacher’ familiar to us at lower stages of existence can be applied, in essentials, to these twelve Bodhisattvas. They are Teachers, the great Inspirers of one portion or another of what mankind has to acquire.


"Whence do these Bodhisattvas receive what they have to proclaim from epoch to epoch? — If you were able to look into the great Spirit-Lodge of the twelve Bodhisattvas you would find that in the midst of the Twelve there is a Thirteenth — one who cannot be called a ‘Teacher’ in the same sense as the Bodhisattvas, but of whom we must say: He is that Being from whom wisdom itself streams as very substance. It is therefore quite correct to speak of the twelve Bodhisattvas in the great Spirit-Lodge grouped around One who is their Centre; they are wrapt in contemplation of the sublime Being from whom there streams what they have then to inculcate into Earth evolution in fulfilment of their missions. Thus there streams from the Thirteenth what the others have to teach. They are the ‘Teachers’, the ‘Inspirers’; the Thirteenth is himself the Being of whom the others teach, whom they proclaim from epoch to epoch. This Thirteenth is He whom the ancient Rishis called Vishva Karman, whom Zarathustra called Ahura Mazdao, whom we call the Christ. He is the Leader and Guide of the great Lodge of the Bodhisattvas. Hence the content of the proclamation made through the whole choir of the Bodhisattvas is the teaching concerning Christ, once called Vishva Karman. The Bodhisattva who became Buddha five to six centuries before our era was endowed with the powers of Vishva Karman. The Nathan Jesus who received the Christ into himself was not merely ‘endowed’ but ‘anointed’ — that is to say, permeated through and through by Vishva Karman, by Christ." [33]





VI.

Prayers



We began by asking to whom Waldorf students are expected to pray. In some cases, using the words written by Rudolf Steiner, they pray to God or to "God's spirit," however that may be defined. [See "Prayers".] For Westerners, such prayers may seem conventionally — and therefore unobjectionably — monotheistic. But as we have seen, Steiner also advocated prayers that address multiple gods — "ye Fathers in the heavens." Devotees of Eastern religions will likely be comfortable with such prayers; others may not. 


Steiner's vision is of a universe populated by multitudinous gods who have varying ranks. The rank of a group of gods reflects the evolutionary progress made by that group in their ascent toward ultimate divinity. Gods evolve along the same developmental path we humans are traveling, Steiner taught — although he said we may eventually attain a higher rank than any other upward-evolving beings. [See "Tenth Hierarchy".] At present, however, we stand below nine ranks of gods. [See "Polytheism".]


Anthroposophical prayers sometimes address or enumerate the nine ranks of gods above us. Often, if not always, Steiner's followers direct their attention to these multiple divinities:


"In the weaving of the ether
Man's web of destiny
Is received by Angels, Archangels, Archai.

"Into the astral world
The just consequences of man's earthly life
Die into Exousiai, Dynameis, Kyriotetes.

"In the essence of their deeds
The honest creations of man's earthly life
Are resurrected in Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim." [34]

To whom are Waldorf students expected to pray? The answer depends on the instruction individual Waldorf teachers provide to their students. Often, Steiner's complex vision is kept largely hidden from the kids. But sometimes the doctrines of Anthroposophy are revealed, to one degree or another, and the children's conception of the spiritual powers above them is affected as a result. Parents should certainly consider whether they are happy with this result.

 

— Roger Rawlings





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