Thus wrote Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. In The Philosophy of Freedom he demonstrated that thinking was the power that allowed modern human beings direct access to the spiritual worlds, an access that had once been the privilege of only a handful of mystics.
No longer was it necessary for average human beings to depend on scripture and other forms of religious authority, for they could discover spiritual truth directly through strengthened thinking. This direct knowledge, he argued, was the only foundation for true moral freedom. He went on to develop and teach practical methods by which it could be achieved.
A century later, the Society he founded seems dedicated mainly to preserving and disseminating his nearly 60,000 transcribed lectures [Note: this number seems considerably too large an estimate, since Steiner only lectured actively for about 25 years, which is about 9,000 days - and he did not deliver six lectures every day].
The result of his own spiritual research, these lectures cover everything from gnomes to seraphim, from the history of Atlantis to recipes for compost. "Steiner says" is the constant refrain of anthroposophists, who seem to prefer citations from these lectures to direct knowledge of anything. While Steiner's initiatives in education, biodynamic agriculture, homeopathic medicine and care of the mentally retarded have been lovingly preserved, anthroposophy has, since his death, produced little in the way of social innovation.
Anthroposophists, when they can be understood at all, express superstitions and prejudices that would embarrass a redneck. Fearing injury by everything from rock music to microchips to Jesuits, they have become a society of esoteric hypochondriacs, in neo-Amish withdrawal from modern political and economic life.
How is it that a movement dedicated to strengthened thinking produces so many goofy and morally useless ideas?
How did the author of The Philosophy of Freedom become this ghost to whom his readers so idolatrously surrender their independence of judgement?
That sound and stirring concepts give rise to corrupt and neurotic human organizations is pretty much a summary of the history of all spiritual movements...
From the introduction to Work on what has been spoiled by Catherine MacCoun.
I have been again engaging with Rudolf Steiner - because I regard him as one of the most significant thinkers of all time, and because he is a vital contributor to my deepest understanding of reality. Steiner is essential, but...
Yet again I find myself up against the phenomenon of which MacCoun speaks above. When I read or listen to Steiner's own lectures, or to the best of his followers expounding, I am overwhelmed by a sense of suffocation under such a mass of wrongness that I find it hard to continue.
But I disagree with MacCoun in her specific diagnosis that this is due to the Anthroposophical Society (AS), and the way it dealt with Steiner's legacy. I also disagree with her belief that the AS could - in principle - be reformed... I regard the AS as a symptom of Steiner's deep mistakes, and therefore it is unreformable
The problems lay with Steiner himself, and with his decision to become a spiritual leader of an organised movement. But I repeat myself...
The problems are deep, because Steiner made the serious error of developing a meditative technique that he regarded as intrinsically scientifically valid; and spent two and a half decades, day after day, putting himself into this trance-state and spouting forth in lectures whatever came to him in this state.
Steiner did not live up to his own best understanding - indeed as a matter of daily routine he fell below the standards he himself had understood and explained. Steiner distinguished the Luciferic and Ahrimanic types of spiritual evil - and he fell into both in his late work of lecturing and organising the Theosophical then Anthroposophical societies.
Steiner's focus on meditative technique - and training in this method - was Ahrimanic, materialistic. But (contrary to his own assertion that meditation should be in clear, alert consciousness) the actual meditative method he used was Luciferic - it was (according to multiple descriptions) a dissociated trance state of lowered consciousness, including lucid dreaming. He then took this unconsciously-generated, 'altered state', 'atavistic' material and systematised and taught it as fact - Ahrimanic again.
For many years, Steiner had this working like a machine. Ask him a question, he would go into a trance, and from his unconscious would generate vast masses of material on the subject - and by Steiner's unique intellectual brilliance (he was a genius) this dream-material would be systemised and rationalised even as it emerged in his speech.
The vast bulk of Steiner's work from about 1900 was, then, an exemplification of exactly those errors and evils that he himself first diagnosed as spiritual problems of our time: the backward looking Luciferic trances, and the modern bureaucratic organisation he founded, led and left-behind: the Ahrimanic Anthroposophical Society.