Rudolf Steiner taught that there are three paths or "ways" leading to occult initiation: the way of yoga, the way of Christian Gnosticism, and the way of Rosicrucianism. Only the third is appropriate for modern humans, he said, but he is also reported to have used all three ways himself. Perhaps the most important thing to know about these three ways is that Steiner revised and reinterpreted them to make them compatible with his own teachings, Anthroposophy. Thus, the "Rosicrucian" way he advocated is really the Anthroposophical way, and the Christian-Gnostic way is only slightly distinguishable from it, and — surprisingly — the yoga way is also only slightly different the other two Steiner-affirmed ways. The differences are not insignificant, but there is more overlap than contrast.

Here are the words of one of Steiner's enthusiastic followers. Note the phrase "The yoga way (as interpreted by Steiner)." The yoga discussed in Anthroposophy, like the Gnostic Christianity and the Rosicrucianism discussed in Anthroposophy, is a spiritual system as interpreted by Steiner, not as it actually exists beyond the bounds of Anthroposophy.

“Rudolf Steiner spoke of three ways: what he called the way of ‘yoga’; the ‘Christian’ or ‘Christian-Gnostic’ way; and the ‘Rosicrucian’ way. The three ways are not mutually exclusive but overlap in many ways. They may be said to be distinguishable, but not necessarily divisible ... The yoga path depends upon complete surrender to a living, embodied teacher ... The yoga way (as interpreted by Steiner) begins with the embodied being and uses the breath and different parts of the body (legs, arms, hands, feet, lungs, heart, liver, etc.) in meditation ... Steiner himself practiced and taught all three ways.” — Christopher Bamford, START NOW! (SteinerBooks, 2004), a collection of Rudolf Steiner's writings, introduction and commentary by Bamford.

To put things in context, here are excerpts from the description of yoga given in the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA:

“Yoga,  (Sanskrit: ‘Yoking’ or ‘Union’) one of the six orthodox systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy. Its influence has been widespread among many other schools of Indian thought....

“The practical aspects of Yoga play a more important part than does its intellectual content, which is largely based on the philosophy of Samkhya, with the exception that Yoga assumes the existence of God who is the model for the aspirant who seeks spiritual release. Yoga holds with Samkhya that the achievement of spiritual liberation occurs when the self (purusha) is freed from the bondages of matter (prakriti) that have resulted because of ignorance and illusion....

“Generally the Yoga process is described in eight stages (ashtanga-yoga, ‘eight-membered Yoga’). The first two stages are ethical preparations ... The next two stages are physical preparations...The fifth stage, pratyahara (‘withdrawal’), involves control of the senses, or the ability to withdraw the attention of the senses from outward objects to the mind.

 ... [T]he remaining three are purely mental or internal aids....

“In the course of time, certain stages of Yoga became ends in themselves, notably, the breathing exercises and sitting postures, as in the Yoga school of Hatha Yoga....

“Yoga, in a less technical sense of achieving union with God, is also used, as in the epic poem the Bhagavadgita, to distinguish the alternate paths (margas) to such a union.” — "Yoga." ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Online 15 May. 2011.

Now let's hear from Steiner on the subject of yoga (as interpreted by Steiner):

"The first thing to realise is that Yoga is not a sudden, convulsive event, but a process of gradual training, inner transformation. It does not consist, as is often supposed, in a series of external adjustments and ascetic practices. Everything must run its course in the depths of the soul.

"It is often said that the first steps of Initiation are fraught with perils and grave dangers. There is a measure of truth in this. Initiation, or Yoga, is a coming-to-birth of the higher soul which lies latent in every human being. The astral body is faced with dangers analogous to those attending physical birth; there is travail before the divine soul comes forth from the desire-nature of man. The difference is that the birth of Spirit is a much longer process than that of physical birth.

"Let us take another comparison. The higher soul is closely linked with the animal soul. By their fusion the passions are tempered, spiritualised and dominated according to the strength of man's intelligence and will. This fusion is of benefit to man but he pays for it by the loss of clairvoyance. Imagine to yourself a green liquid, produced by a combination of blue and yellow elements. If you succeed in separating them, the yellow will descend and the blue will rise to the surface. Something analogous happens when, through Yoga, the animal-soul is separated from the higher soul. The latter acquires clairvoyant vision; the former is left to its own devices if it has not been purified by the self and it is then given over to its passions and desires. This often happens in the case of mediums. The ‘Guardian of the Threshold’ protects man from this danger.

"The first condition requisite for the Initiate is that his character shall be strong and that he shall be master of his passions. Yoga must be preceded by a rigorous discipline and the attainment of certain qualities, the first of which is inner calm. Ordinary ‘morality’ is not enough, for this relates merely to man's conduct in the outer world. Yoga is related to the inner man.

"If it is said that compassion suffices, our answer will be: compassion is good and necessary but has nothing directly to do with occult training. Compassion without wisdom is weak and powerless.

"The task of the occultist, of the true Initiate, is to change the direction of his life's current. The actions of man today are impelled and determined by his feelings — that is to say, by impulses from the outer world. Actions determined by space and time have no significance. Space and time must be transcended. How can we achieve this?

"(1) Control of thought. We must be able to concentrate our thought upon a single object and hold it there.

"(2) Control of actions. Our attitude to all actions, be they trivial or significant, must be to dominate, regulate and hold them under the control of the will. They must be the outcome of inner initiative.

"(3) Equilibrium of soul. There must be moderation in sorrow and in joy. Goethe has said that the soul who loves is, till death, equally happy, equally sad. The occultist must bear the deepest joy and the deepest sorrow with the same equanimity of soul.

"(4) Optimism — the attitude which looks for the good in everything. Even in crime and in seeming absurdity there is some element of good. A Persian legend says that Christ once passed by the corpse of a dog and that His disciples turned from it in disgust. But the Christ said: ‘Lo! the teeth are beautiful.’

"(5) Confidence. The mind must be open to every new phenomenon. We must never allow our judgments to be determined by the past.

"(6) Inner balance, which is the result of these preparatory measures. Man is then ripe for the inner training of the soul. He is ready to set his feet upon the path.

"(7) Meditation. We must be able to make ourselves blind and deaf to the outer world and our memories of it, to the point where even the shot of a gun does not disturb. This is the prelude to meditation. When this inner void has been created, man is able to receive the prompting of his inner being. The soul must then be awakened in its very depths by certain ideas able to impel it towards its source."  — Rudolf Steiner, AN ESOTERIC COSMOLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1978), lecture 6, GA 94.

“[T]he mention of Yoga produces a feeling of slight horror in many people to-day, for only the later Yoga methods are known to history, methods based on human egoism and which seek power in the external world. The older Yoga methods (which can only be discovered to-day through spiritual science, — not through external science,) were ways which men took towards the spirit. They rested on the fact that men instinctively said to themselves: we cannot attain to the spirit by mere reflection, by mere thinking. We must do something which reveals action, activity, in ourselves far more than mere reaction does.

“...Nowadays, since we are differently organised, we cannot copy this Yoga process, nor would it be right for us to do so. For what was the Yogi's aim? He aimed at feeling how the thought process was bound up with the breath process, and in the breath process, which was his mode of cognition, he experienced his humanity. He united thought more intimately with man's whole nature than we do to-day. But our human progress rests on the fact that we have freed thought itself far more, have made it far more intellectual than it was when Yoga nourished. Never could the discoveries of Copernicus, Gallileo, Faraday, Darwin, etc., have been made with a system of thought such as that produced by the ancient Indians when they were Yogis. These achievements have required a thinking reduced to the state of reflection, of image, of intellectuality. And our whole civilisation is based on the fact that we are no longer the same as those who developed the Yoga philosophy. People generally misunderstand this when I describe these things. They believe I wish to lead men back again to the Yoga philosophy. Not at all. On the contrary I wish to treat matters as they have to be treated in the age of Copernicus, Gallileo, Faraday. We must realise that it is through intellectuality that our western civilisation has achieved its greatness. But also we must feel differently from the way the Ancient Indians felt; and feel differently too from the way those who now practice Yoga, feel. To-day we must proceed in a way quite different from that of Ancient Indian times, a more spiritual way. And because it must be a more spiritual way, and because people do not much like spirit nowadays it follows that people do not like the new methods. It is easy, at least it seems easy, to perform Yoga-breathing to-day in order to find entry into the world of spirit. But this is not the means whereby men of to-day should come into spiritual realms. No, modern man must first have had to experience at some time the world of appearance (the unreality) which can be perceived by sheer intellectualism, the image nature of things. Man must for once go through all the suffering which goes with saying: ‘As long as I am merely engaged in intellectual activity, or in observations of that kind, I dwell in emptiness, in mere images. I am remote from reality.’

“What I am saying here seems a small thing; but it is great in terms of inner experience. When one comes to experience that all thinking which is intellectual is unreal, is a mere image, then in one's own soul one experiences what in the body would be faintness: one experiences a fainting of the soul where reality is concerned. Actually, knowledge does not start by man's saying to himself: I can think, and can therefore reflect upon all things. Rather knowledge proceeds from a man's saying to himself: Even if I think about all things with the image thinking that I possess I shall be nothing but a weak, impotent being. The Yogi looked to find his manhood in the breath: we modern men have to lose our manhood, we have become weak and faint in contact with this intellectual image thought. And now we must be able to say to ourselves: We must not now go inwards, as was done in Yoga, into the breathing process. We must now go outwards, must look upon every flower, look upon every animal, look upon every man, and live in the outward environment.“ — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Publishing Co., 1947), lecture 2, GA 305.

— Compilation by Roger Rawlings

[R. R., 2011.]

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

also see "Anthroposophical Christianity"
and "Judaism, The Hebrew Bible"

adepts : putting it to use

all : God and Godhead

basics : where he got it (Theosophy)

breathing spirit : meditations

Buddhism : and Anthroposophy

Clearing House : sneaking it in (cont.)

commandments : Steiner's ten

Father : beginning and end

grail : what's being sought

Islam : Steiner's view

Krishnamurti : disagreement

Manichaeism : and Steiner and Augustine and gnosticism and...

Mithraism : the proto-Christ

Old Testament : the Waldorf interpretation

pagan : not Christian

seances : and mediums

signs : and symbols

Sun God : the Christ you didn't know

trinity : God, gods...

Veda : via Theosophy


Zoroastrianism : and Anthroposophy