The planets that we see in the sky now (Saturn and the rest) should not be confused with the phases of evolution that bear the same or similar names (Old Saturn and the rest). Still, the planets and the phases are related. The Saturn that we see overhead is a physical planet; it exists here and now, in the present solar system (i.e., it exists during Present Earth). It is a sort of remnant or miniature reincarnation of Old Saturn, which was an evolutionary state long, long ago. (Steiner's use of language is often a problem. He wrote and spoke as a mystic, using mystical — and, one might suspect, intentionally mystifying — terminology. Thus, he often referred to Old Saturn, Old Moon, etc., as "planets," and he sometimes called them Saturn, Moon, etc., and he even sometimes spoke of life "on" those "planets" when he meant life during those periods... Keeping your bearings as you read Steiner can be a challenge. But buck up. It can be done.)
OK. Back to Old Saturn, our first stage of evolution. Old Saturn was a phase where everything was initially quite undifferentiated, being essentially just warmth. Steiner considered warmth to be a sort of physical substance, but he stressed that "warmth" during Old Saturn was different from "warmth" as we know it now. The "warmth" of Old Saturn was the essence of our being, it was what we were made of. Put it this way: During Old Saturn, we were brought into semi-separate, semi-physical, lukewarm existence in the form of “eggs of warmth.” We got that way under the benign authority of gods of various ranks (Dominions, Mights, and so on). These gods were evolving, like us, only they were much farther along than us, and they elevated themselves further by helping us.
The gods called Spirits of Personality (or Archai or Zeitgeists) were especially important in getting us going during or "on" Old Saturn:
40) [Us, as Eggs]
“What is the power that rules in the Spirits of Personality [gods three evolutionary levels higher than humanity] on ancient Saturn [i.e., during Old Saturn]? It is no other than that which we know in modern man as the power of thought. For in reality, the Spirits of Personality did nothing else on ancient Saturn but exercise the power of their thoughts ... [T]he Spirits of Personality were powerful magicians. They formed those eggs of warmth [i.e., us] on Saturn by the force of their thoughts ... It is perfectly comprehensible that an entity who is really human should take on form from his surroundings (for the eggs that were formed there were constructed out of the surroundings [i.e., substance] of Saturn) and those eggs were bewitched, or chained to a further existence [i.e., the eggs became destined to continue their existence in future, higher incarnations].” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 4, GA 110.
The Spirits of Personality advanced their own evolution by ministering to us during Old Saturn — selflessness and kindness always produce spiritual rewards. "On" Saturn, we were not yet human, by a long stretch of the imagination. In fact, the term “human” can be quite confusing. According to Steiner, being human is not a matter of lineage or species; it is a matter of spiritual evolution — beings at a certain stage of their development are “human.” Generally, beings become human when they reach the fourth stage of their evolution. [See the entry for "human stage of evolution" in the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] Thus, for instance, the gods called Spirits of Personality began their own evolution three incarnations prior to Old Saturn. That incarnation, of course, occurred outside our solar system, which first came into existence during Old Saturn. So, the Spirits of Personality began evolving in a different solar system from ours, in a time before any time we have known. By the time we first came into existence, the Spirits of Personality were in the fourth phase of their own evolution — so they were "human" during Old Saturn. (Besides being "human," they were also gods, which is a little confusing. But so goes Anthroposophical doctrine.) We ourselves, being mere eggs of warmth during Old Saturn, would not become "human" until our own fourth phase of evolution — Present Earth. The whole point of evolution, according to Steiner, is to evolve to higher and higher states, attaining higher and higher forms of consciousness.
Our consciousness "on" Saturn was extremely dull, whereas the various gods above us possessed higher forms of consciousness (the higher a god's rank, the higher that god's consciousness). On or during Old Saturn, we were essentially comatose:
41) [Us, Awfully Dim] (The following is difficult. I will try to help via footnotes.)
“The human being himself can make no use of his luminosity on Saturn.  The luminosity of his sensory germs could not express anything in itself, but through it other more exalted beings are given the possibility to reveal themselves to the life of Saturn.  ... These are exalted beings ... [T]hey now radiate something of their nature out of ‘free will.’  ... These Sons of Twilight develop in the ancestor of man a kind of understanding, of which however, in his dull consciousness, he himself cannot yet make use.  ... Man has now reached the point where he can work unconsciously on his own material body.  Through his activity in the utter dullness of Saturn existence, man produces the first germinal predisposition to the true ‘spirit man.’”  — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1959 ), chapter 14, GA 11.
 By “the human being,” Steiner means us (although we were not yet human). We had a sort of potential spiritual/mental light within ourselves, but we couldn’t make use of it “on Saturn.” We were too unevolved. (Don't be thrown by Steiner's use of the present tense. He often did this, perhaps for narrative effect. He was speaking of things long, long ago.)
 We had seeds ("germs") of illumination within us, which eventually would enable us to perceive and affect phenomena outside ourselves. But "on" Saturn, we couldn't use these seeds. However, our seeds enabled higher beings (gods) to reveal themselves — and to act — within the developing life of Old Saturn.
 The gods ("exalted beings") helping us did it by their own free choice, a voluntary act of benevolence that elevated them further in their own spiritual evolution. They imparted some of their divine essence to Old Saturn.
 Among our helpers were “Sons of Twilight” — gods one rank above us. They “developed” a “kind of understanding” within us, i.e., they helped us, the eggs of warmth, to have an early sort of comprehension. (Steiner here refers to us as the ancestors of men — he means us as we were during Old Saturn, when we were still far from becoming human. The eggs of warmth (us), having been enchanted, would reincarnate as higher beings during Old Sun, and higher yet during Old Moon, and even higher yet during Present Earth — when they would become us as we know ourselves now, as human beings.) The understanding the Sons of Twilight gave us was important — it was our first stage of consciousness — but it was so low and dull that we could make no use of it during Old Saturn.
 Despite being so dim, we could start, unconsciously, developing our physical bodies. ("Physical" is another relative term, however. We would not develop physical bodies as we now know them until Present Earth.)
 Dimly, dimly, we started to evolve toward our own true spiritual identity, although attaining that identity was still far, far off. All we could work up, on Saturn, was a germ of a predisposition toward attaining our eventual ‘spirit.’ (“Spirit man” has a specific meaning in Theosophy and, by extension, Anthroposophy: It is atma, which can be considered the god within.)
So, we started our journey. Things went along, and time as we know it (more or less) began: The solar clock started to tick, as it were. Also, Saturn rotated — which caused separations, which would ultimately create openings for Lucifer and Ahriman to get at us. So, there was trouble ahead.
When things during Old Saturn went as far toward materialization as possible under the prevailing conditions of dimness, everything reversed course, disintegrated, and became wholly nonphysical again. Then, after everything had disappeared, there was a period of rest called a pralaya. (Like much of the terminology used by Theosophists and Steiner, "pralaya" is a Hindu term — it means, approximately, melting away):
42) [Time Out]
“No condition of Pralaya could have arisen for Saturn through [the actions of] the Spirits of Personality alone. Higher spirits [i.e., higher gods] had to come into action in order to dissolve Saturn so that a Pralaya, or state of transition, of disappearance and of sleep might take place. Higher spirits, the Thrones [gods seven levels above us]...had to dissolve all this, so that, as the life of Saturn reached its end, the following process was carried out. The Spirits of Personality had attained self-consciousness [i.e., they had become "human"], had breathed in again a part of the warmth, had realised the Self as the centre of their being [i.e., they gained their spiritual egos], and left behind them a lower kingdom [i.e., they evolved higher, leaving behind their previously lowest layers]. Now entered the kingdom of the Thrones and dissolved that which had been left behind, and Saturn entered into a sort of planetary night.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1928), lecture 3, GA 110.
So, we lapsed into sleep and absence, along with all of the solar system. The Thrones (aka Spirits of Will) kindly made this possible. The Spirits of Personality, having been very kind to us in their own special way, graduated to the next stage of their own evolution.
I will now take a pralaya myself. The next episode or two of Steiner Static will go elsewhere. But before long I’ll swing back to Steiner’s cosmic history, and I’ll tell you about life "on" Old Sun.
In leaving, I’d just ask you to meditate on this: Waldorf students are taught by people who think they see good, solid sense in Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. They think that the history we are reviewing is the true story of our existence. What do you think?
Steiner taught that human evolution can occur only if some people are separated out and left behind — perhaps to be saved later, or perhaps not. If not, then the people who are left behind will be permanently lost.
“Evolution is possible only by means of differentiation and separation ... In order for special qualities to develop in human evolution, certain groups of human beings must be separated off for a time." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 25.
"For a time" suggests some hope — maybe the ones left behind can be rescued later. In general, Steiner said this is what happens. But he also taught that some people sink so low that they cease to be human. Their plight is dreadful. They get left behind permanently.
The process of separation began as far back as Old Saturn. But for now, let's consider more recent times and the stories we have told ourselves about ourselves.
“A wonderful legend describes to us the state of development of the soul. The soul is in a different line of evolution than the body of the human being. The difference between soul and racial development can be seen if we look into the past. Souls were incarnated many times in the Atlantean race; all of you were Atlanteans at that time. The souls worked themselves out of that situation and the remaining human bodies belonged to the races that had become decadent and were falling into decline. The [good] souls...rose up to [join] higher races. Human bodies afflicted with fundamental evil will not have souls within them that are striving to rise above their present state to a higher one.” — Rudolf Steiner, READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993), pp. 49-50.
As we have noted previously, reading Steiner can be a trial. Here is a clarifying paraphrase:
The wonderful legend of Atlantis helps us to understand that the soul and the body evolve differently: souls may rise to higher racial forms while bodies stay behind at their original racial levels. When we all lived on Atlantis, we reincarnated several times on that continent. Good souls evolved higher, leaving behind their previous bodies. The remaining, lowly bodies were then inhabited only by races that were decadent and declining. The good souls rose to inhabit newer, better bodies as members of higher races. Lowly, fundamentally evil bodies do not long house souls that work to evolve upward.
This is no mere legend to Steiner. It's what he taught. Good souls rise out of the bodies they possessed when they were members of lower races; they reincarnate as members of higher races, inhabiting new, better bodies. Bad souls, inhabiting lower bodies, either get stuck at one stage of evolution or they move downward. Fundamental evil is incurable, generally. Humans who sink too low become demonic beings or subordinate nature spirits (who have no real spiritual essence). These humans cease to be human; they become literally subhuman.*
And yes, Steiner taught, Atlantis really existed. (We'll look into this in a coming installment.)
Steiner said, many times, that good souls reincarnate in higher racial forms. The existence of, and difference between, high races and low races is one of his basic teachings.
“Souls previously incarnated in quite subordinate races, raised themselves to a higher level and could incarnate in the bodily descendants of the leaders in Europe ... This was the reason that the lower races had fewer and fewer descendants, while the higher races had more and more.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 30.
Souls that had previously incarnated as members of quite low races raised themselves to such high levels that they incarnated as the bodily descendants of Europe's spiritual leaders. This is why lower races shrank while the higher races grew (souls evolved upward from low levels to high levels, depopulating the lower races).
Note the title of the book in which this quotation appears. We are glimpsing Steiner's concept of morality and its foundation — its "spiritual" foundation. Can you spot any morally questionable concepts in it?
Even Europe — home of the highest racial form, the white — has sometimes been overrun by evil, Steiner said.
46) [Demons of Decay and Asiatic Hordes]
“[W]ith the dying out of the worst parts of the ancient population of which I have been speaking, the whole region gradually became filled with demonic beings that represented the products of the decay of what had died out. The whole of Europe and also Asia Minor were thus filled with the spiritual products of decay out of the worst parts of the population. These demons of decay...endured a long time ... Their influence can best be seen at the time of the Great Migrations, when large masses of people, including Attila and his hordes, came over from Asia and caused great terror among the people in Europe. This terror made the population susceptible to the influences of the demonic beings ... As a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia, there gradually developed what manifested during the Middle Ages as the epidemic of leprosy.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 31.
When the worst humans died out, they were replaced by demons; the entire region became filled with demons produced through the decay of those who died out. All of Europe and Asia Minor became filled with these demons, produced through the decay of the worst parts of the population. These demons of decay lasted a long time. Their influence is shown by what happened during the "Great Migrations" when Attila the Hun and others invaded Europe from Asia, spreading terror. The terror caused Europeans in the Middle Ages to be susceptible to the demons. Due to the terror spread by the invaders, an epidemic of leprosy spread across Europe.
In this passage, Steiner combines racism, quack medicine, and demonology. The demonic beings are ex-humans, products of decay, essentially subhuman byproducts of human evolution. They were the Asiatic hordes, the yellow menace — and their malign effects manifested as leprosy in Europe. [For more of Steiner's racial views, see, e.g., "Races". For his medical teachings, see "Steiner's Quackery".]
Belief in the existence of subhumans is appalling, yet it is part and parcel of Steiner's worst doctrines:
47) [Subhumans; Supernumerary]
“[I]n our time certain supernumerary people are appearing who have no 'I' [i.e., no true spiritual ego] and are therefore not human beings in the full sense of the word." — Rudolf Steiner, THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND THE WORK OF THE PRIEST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 180.
"Supernumerary people" — Steiner is speaking here of people whom he considers unneeded, excess, inhuman, subhuman. They are people who are "not human beings in the full sense of the word." They are essentially worthless. One is reminded of a line from Dickens: "'If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, 'they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'" But Dickens was giving us a sweet Christmas tale. Steiner was offering us something very different.
Such thinking, appallingly, has shown up in Waldorf schools. Steiner injected such thinking into the very first Walsorf school.
48) [Subhumans; Demons in Human Form]
“[C]ases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... [They] are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon ... [T]here are people who are not human beings.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650.
If you are considering a Waldorf school for your children, you can at least take comfort from this: In the same passage, Steiner explains that Waldorf schools are designed for children who are real humans, not demonic subhumans: "We cannot...create a school for demons."
While Steiner's doctrines offer the hope that most humans will evolve upward, they also contain the appalling idea that some people move downward, toward subhuman degradation. Moreover, some people walking the Earth today are already subhuman, Steiner said. There are good humans and demons in disguise, just as there are high races and low races. There are real human beings and there are "people who are not human beings.”
All of man's inhumanity to man is implicit in such thinking. And such thinking forms part of the ideology underlying Waldorf education.
* 44a) [The Subhuman Population of the Earth] People who descend in this way no longer reincarnate, so they no longer evolve from life to life — they enter an unending, subhuman state. Ahriman and his cohorts hope to drag all humans down to such a hellish condition:
“[S]ubhuman entities are subject to the rule of powers I always refer to as ahrimanic. These ahrimanic powers with their diverse sub-spirits — including sprite- and goblin-like beings who dwell in the elements of earth and water — have set themselves a [specific] task ... [These] beings, who have their fortress directly under the earth’s surface, exert influences that rise into our metabolism ... [They] battle to harden us and make us resemble them ... If someone has fallen prey during his lifetime to the ahrimanic powers...these beings can ‘harvest’ this after his death to create a whole population, a subhuman populace of the earth, which does indeed already exist ... And if we ask what such ahrimanic beings intend with this subhuman populace, it is this: to draw this kind of instinctual nature from a human being and make it into a being of earth and water. And beings of earth and water do now actually populate the strata directly below the earth's surface. There they dwell. People who can use spiritual vision to observe mines know such entities very well: they exist there, having been torn from a human being at the moment of his death. And there waits Ahriman, there wait the ahrimanic powers for a person's karma, caused by instincts, drives and passions, to lead him down into an incarnation where he takes special pleasure in such a being, and therefore finds in a particular life on earth that he does not wish to return to the world of spirit. Having left his physical body...he will seek instead to be embodied in a kind of subsensible being of this kind, to remain united with the earth: no longer to die but choosing to remain united with the earth as a subsensible entity ... [A]hrimanic beings...[seek] to entice so many people into their race that eventually the earth will be populated entirely by subhuman ahrimanic entities of this kind.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRIT AS SCULPTOR OF THE HUMAN ORGANISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2014), pp. 108-109.
This passage cries out for a paraphrase, but I will refrain. If you want to penetrate to the occult doctrines behind Waldorf education, you'll need to thrash your way through such material on your own. So give it a shot.
For another practice passage, and to learn more about subordinate nature spirits, see quotation #64, below.
If you send your children to a Waldorf school, some of their teachers at that school may prove to be quite wonderful individuals. But among the faculty members, possibly including those you admire most, there are likely to be deeply committed followers of the occult creed known as Anthroposophy. For this reason, your children may be drawn toward a dark universe of confused, wishful irrationality — which Anthroposophists think is a place of light and love.
Trying to have a meeting of the minds with Anthroposophists is often difficult, and sometimes it is impossible. Unless you happen to share some of their doctrines, you will likely find that true-believing Waldorf teachers occupy a very different mental space from your own. Their conception of clear thinking, truth, and even morality may have few points in common with yours.
In trying to understand the Waldorf ideology, it is always best to consult Rudolf Steiner — not because he said things clearly, but because he is the source Waldorf teachers themselves consult. Here is the complete version of a passage I excerpted in "The Moral View", above. The passage is not easy to grasp, and it deals with a nastier subject than Steiner often addressed. But in various ways it is a good example of the kind of thinking and language you may confront if you try to discuss something with an Anthroposophist.
Concerning the gradual withering away of "lower races" and the enlargement of "higher races," Steiner said the following:
46) [Demons of Decay and Asiatic Hordes, Redux] “This is a very specific process, which we must understand. The souls develop further, but the bodies die out. That is why we must distinguish so carefully between soul evolution and racial evolution. The souls reappear in bodies belonging to higher races, while the bodies of the lower races die out. Such a process does not occur however without having effects of its own. When something like this occurs over large regions, when something disappears, as it were, it does not disappear into nothing, but rather disperses and is then present in a different form. You will understand what I mean if you consider that with the dying out of the worst parts of the ancient population of which I have been speaking, the whole region gradually became filled with demonic beings that represented the products of the decay of what had died out. The whole of Europe and also Asia Minor were thus filled with the spiritual products of decay from the dying out of the worst parts of the population. The demons of decay, which were contained in the spiritual atmosphere, as it were, endured for a long time and later exerted an influence in such a way that they permeated people's feelings. Their influence can best be seen at the time of the Great Migrations, when large masses of people, including Attila and his hordes, came over from Asia and caused great terror among the people in Europe. This terror made the population susceptible to the influences of the demonic beings that still persisted from earlier times. As a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia, there gradually developed what manifested during the Middle Ages as the epidemic of leprosy. This disease was nothing other than the consequence of the conditions of fear and terror that the people experienced at this time. But these conditions could have had this effect only with people who had been exposed to the demonic forces from the past.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY (SteinerBooks, 1995), pp. 30-31.
To most rational adults, a passage like that is reprehensible both for its racist content and for its foolishness. What planet is Steiner describing? What universe did he inhabit? It isn’t our Earth, situated in the real galaxy we call the Milky Way. It is an imaginary, alternate reality — it is fantasy, and in this instance, a fantasy of a distinctly nasty sort.
If you can, put aside your revulsion at Steiner’s racism and focus simply on the quality of his “reasoning” and rhetoric. To susceptible individuals — gullible spiritualists, mainly — such thinking and language are mesmerizing. But notice how slippery and vague they are. Notice how the sentences often stretch out and wander. Notice the hypnotic repetitions ("products of decay," "products of decay," "demons of decay," "demonic beings," "demonic beings," "demonic forces," "hordes," "hordes," "terror," "terror," "terror," "fear and terror"). Notice the weasel words ("as it were", "as it were"). Notice how the words occasionally refer to something knowable in the real world, anchoring the spiel, but then the words launch out into extraordinary fantasies. Notice the lack of evidence and careful argument — Steiner’s words are wholly unsupported; no evidence is offered to support anything. Yet notice the underlying assurance that cosmic secrets are being revealed — the assurance that Steiner and his devotees, the wise spiritual seekers, are privy to cosmic insights denied to other, less enlightened, less evolved sorts like you and me.
Huge whoppers can be more persuasive than small, simple lies that we can immediately see through. Big lies stun — their very audacity can be compelling. We're tempted to respond "Wow! I never knew that! Amazing!" And when the lies are worked out in great detail, apparently piecing together many disparate parts, we may think that a coherent structure has been created. For some people, in other words, Steiner’s thoughts and language can be beguiling. How do they strike you?
Here's how they strike me: Steiner was a fraud. He pretended to be such a deeply insightful, clairvoyant sage that ordinary language could hardly contain his meaning. So he offered us a version of the mystic doublethink and double-talk that self-appointed spiritual guides usually serve up. He was considerably less obscure than his mentor, the Theosophist Helena Blavatsky, but this is like saying that the midnight sky is brighter than the depths of a coal mine. It’s true, perhaps, but it doesn’t make much difference. Steiner didn’t want to convince anyone, rationally; he wanted to overwhelm everyone with a verbal avalanche of strange conceptions clothed in bamboozling circumlocutions: far-out, spacey cant.
Logic, rationality, sweet reason — these were not Steiner’s strong suit. His lectures ramble disjointedly (the later ones more so than the earlier ones — he moved in the wrong direction as he aged). Maybe we should excuse the confusions in his lectures — after all, Steiner often spoke more or less extemporaneously. But Steiner’s books, which he presumably worked on carefully, also meander and hop (again, the later ones are worse than the earlier ones). Steiner typically failed to begin with the premises needed to support his statements — he left those for later, or he skipped them altogether. He wandered around, raising topics briefly and dropping them, making strange linkages without much explanation, doubling back on himself, and then launching out in new directions. If you want to learn about any given topic he raised, you will probably need to consult several different Steiner texts, trying to piece together what Anthroposophists refer to as “indications” — Steiner rarely gave fully explanations in any one place. (Two partial exceptions: Steiner's earlier work tends to be more organized and coherent than his later; and Steiner occasionally lectured working men, whom he patronized by using what was — for him — simple language. In these cases, he is easier to follow — but he is also presenting something less than his most "mature" thinking.)
One result of all this is that conscientious parents who try to read Steiner’s work in order to understand the thinking behind Waldorf schools often stagger away none the wiser. Reading Steiner is a chore — generally an unrewarding one. He was clearly quite smart, and he could spin a heck of a yarn, but he was rarely clear and he was almost never reasonable. You see, Steiner didn’t place much value on logic or intellect. He said that real knowledge comes from clairvoyance, which is not centered in the physical brain but in invisible, disembodied “organs of clairvoyance." Logic and intellect, he said, are damaging; they kill the spirit. I deal with this subject in my essay “Steiner’s Illogic” and elsewhere, so I won’t rake it over here. The point to focus on, here, is that the thinking behind Waldorf schools is deeply irrational and occult. [See, e.g., "Occultism", "Thinking", and "Steiner's Specific".]
I took quote #46, above, from the book THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF MORALITY. Steiner began the first lecture in the book by mentioning his motive for discussing morality: "a certain impulse of mine, about which we may be able to speak further." [p. 3.] But as a footnote by the editors says, "During these lectures Steiner does not, in fact, explicitly speak further about his impulse for discussing the topic of morality." [p. 73.] This is par for Steiner’s course. He promised a lot, but he rarely if ever delivered. In this small instance, not much is lost. But overall, in Steiner's teachings as a whole, a great deal can be lost: reality, and our grasp of it, and the ability to see and think clearly. Waldorf teachers rarely relate Steiner's specific doctrines to their students, but they often steer students toward Steiner's way of thinking. Any educational program that leads children in such a direction has the potential to inflict terrible harm.
A final point: Consider what quote #46 tells us about the Anthroposophical conception of morality. Steiner’s statement, with its references to higher and lower races and Asian hordes, is itself immoral — deeply so. No spiritual truths can emerge from a system that contains such concepts. Steiner made his statement in 1912. SteinerBooks unapologetically republished the lecture containing it in 1995. Thoughts of the kind we see in this statement remain current in Anthroposophical circles today.
One of Steiner's early books is THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, first published in 1894. In most of his teachings, Steiner stresses the value and significance of human freedom, yet the concept sits uneasily in the context of occultism. People are constrained in multiple ways, according to Steiner, not least by the consequences of their own actions, producing karma. If our original actions, establishing our early karma, were free, then the subsequent constraints put on us by karma would have been freely chosen, as it were. But Steiner said that we attained the possibility of freedom not at the beginning of our evolution but rather late, as a result of Lucifer's actions. (49) “Freedom is the result of the Luciferian influence.” — Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE (Kessinger Publishing, 1998: reproduction of 1922 edition), pp. 229-230.
We became potentially free, Steiner said, because Lucifer worked to lure us from the proper course of our evolution. Thus, Lucifer gave us the option of choosing how to proceed — as we should, or as we shouldn't. That is, we can freely choose to make a grievous error that will possibly ruin us for all eternity, or we can freely decline to make this grievous error. If we decline, then we freely choose to stay on the right path (which we were on, anyway, thanks to the gods' supervision).
Philosophers have long debated the concept of free will. If we are biologically or otherwise determined by forces or conditions in the physical realm, we do not have free will. Likewise, if we live under the control of spiritual beings (such as an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God), we are not free. Yet we prize freedom, and our concept of justice, to give one example, depends on it. We are responsible for our own actions, and thus logically we should be liable to punishment, only if we freely choose to act as we do. If forces beyond or control compel our actions, they and not we are responsible.
So is human freedom possible or not? It's a conundrum. Steiner's doctrines are caught in this difficulty, perhaps no more than many other philosophies, but certainly no less. And his solution is not quite convincing. For instance, he said (50) ”The spirit...must not stand as a slave-driver over the soul, dominating it with laws and commandments; the soul must rather learn to follow these laws and duties out of its own free inclination. The student must not feel duty to be an oppressive power to which he unwillingly submits, but rather something which he performs out of love.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 96. (By "spirit" he meant the human essence that represents the divine spiritual realm; by "soul" he meant the nonphysical human identity that alters during the process of reincarnation.)
The nub of Steiner's position is that we must learn to willingly, freely accept spiritual laws and commandments. He said that, spiritually, this makes all the difference. Perhaps it does. Yet if we were already on the right path, and if we live in a universe of spiritual laws and commandments, veering from the right path and/or violating spiritual laws and commandments would be, at a minimum, foolish. And, if the laws and commandments are truly what these words indicate — i.e., inescapable cosmic requirements — then we cannot veer unless the laws and commandments somehow provide for this, in which case we remain under the laws and commandments even when we seem to depart from them.
It's a conundrum. In quotation 50, for instance, Steiner does not say that we can escape the laws and commandments, only that we should accept them freely, out of love. Is this just a variation of the old notion that we must learn to love our servitude, perhaps singing in our chains? Steiner doesn't mean it in this way, yet accepting cosmic necessity is the inherent requirement in his occult conception of freedom. (His earlier, more humanistic ideas, in early editions of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM, are less constricted — but Steiner turned to occultism, and the gods' divine cosmic plan became paramount. Later editions of THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM bend in the direction of such occult concepts.) Steiner's emphasis is on our subjective response to the laws and commandments, not on the laws and commandments themselves. We should follow the gods' plan of our own free will — but we should follow it (and our use of our free will was part of the gods' plan, so in acting "freely" as the gods want, we obey the gods).
Freedom is important in Steiner's doctrines; indeed, it is necessary for our ultimate evolution. he said. But the concept of necessary freedom, or a freely accepted necessity, is self-contradicting. Steiner was not unique in tripping over this difficulty, but he did trip, and as a result his evolutionary scheme is badly weakened. Certainly the concept of free inquiry stands at odds with his indication that (51) "every criticism, every adverse judgment passed, disperses the powers of the soul for the attainment of higher knowledge." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 11. This is a prescription for obedience, not freedom: put aside your critical intelligence; don't think, don't dabble in criticisms and judgments. Venerate — and obey.
In Steiner's occult teachings, we really have only one choice, and it isn't much of a choice: We can walk the white path to divinity or slip down the black path to destruction. Now, let me think. Which path do I prefer? I know! I'll take the black path! And the result? (51a): "The purified world will develop above and beyond thee, and thou shalt be excluded from it. Thus thou wouldst tread the black path, while the others from whom thou didst sever thyself tread the white path." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1994), p. 152. Some choice. Freely choose suicide or freely choose life. Now, which path do I prefer?
For more on freedom as conceived by Steiner and pursued in Waldorf schools, see "Freedom".
Let’s continue with the story of our evolution. If you’ll recall, Steiner said that we were created somewhat mysteriously, in a process that cannot really be explained. [See "Origins", above.] We emerged into a vague, very mildly physical (i.e., "warm") existence on/at/during Old Saturn. [See "Old Saturn", above.] Then we and the solar system went away for a pralaya — what we might call a siesta or breather.
That is how Steiner usually described our beginnings. The next chapter of our evolution occurred at/during/on Old Sun. We and the solar system entered a second incarnation.