Between 1861 and 1925, Rudolf Steiner
lived, mostly in Europe. He was, by any standard, an unusual
man. The terms genius, great initiate, and scientist of the
invisible have been spoken regarding him. He also has his
detractors (see for example:
the Waldorf Critics
). He left behind a vast corpus of
works: over 30 written books and 6000 lectures, the majority of which
were recorded and have
since been published. In addition, he founded, or inspired,
social movements which live on beyond his death: Waldorf Schools,
Biodynamic Agriculture, Goethean Science, Camphill Communties, The
Christian Community, the Anthroposophical Society (with its
international and national groupings), to name but a
few. Many of those who study his life and works have
themselves become quite productive - some rather famous (Saul Bellow,
and Owen Barfield, for example).
Many, who take in some of this work (both Steiner's and those who
his lead), stand in awe of it and for good reason. I am one who
stands in such awe. The plain fact is that much of what I have
been able to accomplish in life, particularly my studies of the social
and political aspects of human existence, would not have been possible
without Rudolf Steiner's influence and mentoring (as well as the work
of many of his students). I owe him (and them) a
great debt, and to honor this debt is (and has been) one of the main
motives in much of my work since my late 50's.
At the same time, there is One who stands above us all, and Who cannot
be ignored if any sense at all is to be made of Steiner's life, my
work, or a great deal else that appears in modern times that is
progressive in a spiritual sense. This is Christ
Jesus. The natural
scientist and the secular humanist may not appreciate this, but those
who have had the kinds of direct experiences of Christ, available in
the present Age, are forever changed, and can
in no way forget to acknowledge that Encounter.
To aid those seeking such an Encounter is the whole point of the modern
work that Steiner created and fostered. Yet, the Anthroposophical
Movement, which Steiner founded, has fallen on hard times and fails
anymore to promote this possibility, so that it then
becomes the unavoidable responsibility of those who understand this to
outline, for the younger people who are drawn to Steiner, the realities
and complexities of this dilemma.
And, at the same time, we must live our own biographies. Neither
Christ or Steiner mean or want to live our lives, but rather know full
well that we must live them and make the choices there to be
found. Whether to seek an Encounter with Christ, or to become a
student of Steiner's - these too are choices we must make and for which
we must accept responsibility.
What I write here is, as well, my own choice.
History teaches us that spiritual movements often suffer a kind of
decay when the founding genius dies. This is true also of
the Church founded on the Rock that was Peter, and defined by the Heart
that was Paul. Everything that is human must endure the forces of
the Fall (that is become Earthly), before they can rise again and
realize their deepest possibilities. Such are the rules of
existence (including our own biographies), and the Anthroposophical
Society and Movement are not free of these same realities.
Anyone who reads the history of the Movement and Society following on
the death of Steiner knows this to be the case.
History also teaches that what Falls can become lifeless, and its
institutional forms rigid, dogmatic and sectarian. As the counter
to this, individuals arise within such institutions who bring the
forces of resurrection - who bring new life and new inspiration.
So it has been with the Church (St Francis, Luther, and so forth), and
so it has been with the Anthroposophical Society.
At the same time, these forces of renewal seldom find sure purchase in
the main institutional body, which really only tolerates them, for the
institution itself becomes more of a home to bureaucrats and
theologians (spiritual bean counters and theorists) than it does to
true creative genius. So we can see in the Anthroposophical
Society and Movement a succession of personalities that come by, but
yet find no true connection to the main institutional structures
(Tomberg, Barfield, Kuhlewind, and Ben-Aharon to name but a few).
Yet, the fire of genius that created the original impulse lives on in
such as these, far more than it does in the institutional forms and its
favorite personalities. Those young anthroposophists, who want to
become current on such matters (as of 2004, the time of the writing of
this essay), need to read Irina Gordienko's book: Sergei O. Prokofieff: Myth and Reality
), for the heart center of the institutional form of the
Anthroposophical Society in Dornach is currently possessed with a cult
of personality. Filled then with bureaucrats and anthroposophical
theologians, Dornach cannot provide either the life giving spiritual
inspiration that young anthroposophists need, nor can the light of true
anthroposophical insight flow out from there to take its right place in
the wider world.
This last is a great tragedy, in a time of great tragedies.
[So that understanding can be clear, let me illuminate what I mean by
the bureaucratic and theological impulses as they live in Dornach (and
other places in the anthroposophical world were institutional processes
The bureacratic impulse sees great value in preserving all that Steiner
said and wrote - it focuses on the past, and influences the
institutional structures in such a way that what ought to be living and
vital becomes dead and empty tradition (things are done in the present
mostly because they were done in the past). Even the smallest
acquaintence with life processes would suggest that social forms should
also evolve, live and die, and undergo metamorphosis. But the
bureaucratic impulse holds tight to what was done, and thus strangles
that inspiration that might come from a truly living breath of
spirit. In a somewhat analogous fashion the theological impulse
takes what Steiner said and elevates it to Eternal Truth. Once
elevated to this illusory state, the masters of Steiner-thought then
comment endlessly on the great teacher's insights and indications,
strangling in this way all current and future insight living outside
the corpus (bible) of what are called the
. Someone such as Prokofieff then buries his
own mal-interpretations within long recitations of Steiner-thought,
that become to the reader and listener a kind of sorcerous enchantment
of their minds. Where the bureaucrat kills the social forms with
rigid traditions, the anthroposophical theologian kills the living
spirit of their readers and listeners by promoting the idolatry of a
worship of Steiner through an endless repetition of Steiner-thought.]
What then, given the empty spiritual-calorie nature of institutional
anthroposophy, is a young anthroposophist to do.
Live your biography. The moral heart of spiritual development is
only found there. Life itself is the greatest gift and the
greatest teacher, for in every meeting between one's own I-am, and the
I-am of the Thou lives the potential for the presence of the Third
(wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there also I am).
Chirst is found most directly in life, inbetween I and Thou; and, in
seeking to meet our biography, out of our own moral insight, we do the
essence of the great work of spiritual development.
No text, or written work, nor the words of any teacher, can give us
what is to be learned in our own biography.
Yet, if you want the best of what is written that Christ can give at
this stage, then read the Gospels and, most crucially, work at applying
them in practice in life. There is no better understanding
of the center of moral life than that found in the Sermon on the Mount
If you want the best that Steiner can give in aid of our soul nature
(consciousness soul) in these times then read and practice the
epistemological works: Truth and
; The Theory of
Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception
; and The Philosophy of Freedom
Self knowledge in our time depends upon serious and brutally self
honest introspection. We must come to know both the universals
of our own minds
(soul-spirit nexus), and the particulars
in which can be found the expression of our individuality.
What is involved in the act of
is the great mystery of our time, and the path to that
mystery lies entirely within our own work at self knowledge.
Moreover, this cannot be rushed. We don't learn what needs to be
learned reading the books which Steiner wrote. We only learn it
by looking within - that is by reading the book of the own soul.
We read then two books: the book of life, and the book of our own
inwardness. There is no substitute for this work, and that this
is not said from Dornach, over and over again, reveals clearly how
little has been learned there or is taught there.
In support of such work is this admonition of Ralph Waldo Emerson: In self trust all virtues are comprehended
(from his lecture: The American
For those who feel a need to read more than just the books of their own
life and mind, and who like a book you can hold in your hand, here are
some other works and their relevance.
Tomberg. Here we find, among much else, a discussion of the Seven
Stages of the Passion of the Christ, as outlined in the Gospel of John
(washing the feet; , the scourging; the crowning with thorns; the
carrying of the cross; the crucifixion; the entombment and the
resurrection). The more we live a self-determined moral life in
our biographies, the more the biography takes the shape of a
mini-version of the Seven Stages of the Passion of the Christ.
What Christ lived during Holy Week, we will live out in the course of
our many incarnations, blessed in that we only have to endure that
smaller degree of suffering which arises more gently because it is
spread out in
these multiple lives, thus reducing the intensity of any particular
experience. This consciously chosen moral life then becomes an
alchemical crucible of development that takes the same shape as the
Passion of Christ.
[For some people, Valentin Tomberg is a controversial figure.
S.O. Prokofieff has even written a critical book about him (The Case of Valentin Tomberg
The problem has to do with a book that Tomberg wrote and which he had
published anonymously after his death: Meditations
on the Tarot: a Journey into
. This book, besides looking
favorably on the Catholic Mysteries, and taking a quite different
approach to spiritual development than anthroposophy, was also critical
(in a way) of certain aspects of the anthroposophical movement.
Critics comparing the two approaches, from an anthroposophical
viewpoint, found Meditations
wanting in many regards. In my view this criticism failed in that
it was a comparing of apples and oranges, or to put the matter more
directly, Steiner's teachings were meant for one group of human beings,
for whom reason (thinking) was more important, while Tomberg's final
work was meant for an entirely different group, for whom devotion
(willing) was more important than cognitive work. I could say
more, but here I only wanted to acknowledge that for some Tomberg is
not liked, which in my view is not really justified, this disliking
being based upon a false assumption. What Christ hopes for
humanity cannot possibly be carried by just one teacher and just one
stream. His Love is too profound. At the same time, it
needs to be remembered that Inner
was written at a time when Tomberg was a practicing
Becoming Aware of the Logos: The Way of St. John the Evangelist
by Georg Kuhlewind. Another, but beautifully different, look at
some of the same problems by someone who also (as did Tomberg) is able
from authentic spiritual experience.
The Spiritual Event of the Twentieth
by Jesaiah Ben-Aharon. This book serves two clear
purposes. Early on in our biography it gives us an imaginative
picture of the Return of the Christ, as that has already occured in the
years 1933 to 1945 - something with which we very much need to become
acquainted. As we ripen in our development (which only occurs
over time), this same text can then begin to serve its truer purpose,
which is as a set of instructions for meditation practice that is meant
to lead us to our own direct experience and participation
Event. Yes, that is right: participation
This Event, being Timeless, is always ongoing. As more and more
people learn to actually develop their thinking
in the way pointed to by
Steiner, this thinking then transcends its time and space limitations
to become capable of becoming part of the Event. The Light that
is there then becomes richer and richer over time
, as each of us learns to
and offer our
Event, which not only reveals the Return of the Christ and the Second
Golgatha, but also reveals the participation of humanity in its
unfolding. Yes, there is a paradox here, but it is not something
which we need worry.
These then are books which help us orient our inner development
current stage of the stream of the evolution of consciousness.
Yet, as we all know, our moral life requires our participation also in
the shared social life of all humanity. We only develop that
moral character in life, in conjunction with how we meet and deal with
each other, and how we met and deal with the life of nature upon whom
our own existence depends. In support of this outer social development
, here then
are some other texts, which might serve to help orient us in our
understanding of our shared social existence.
In approaching this we need to keep in mind the modern folk wisdom
found in this saying: think
globally, act locally
. We need to understand the whole (think globally
), in order to see
how to play our part (act locally
America's Global Responsibility: individuation, initiation, and threefolding
by Jesaiah Ben-Aharon. Clearly the modern social political world
is dominated by something that has found a center and an entrance into
humanity's affairs that is most strongly localized in America.
Here is an excellant consideration of modern social conditions, with
some historical background. If you want to think globally
, this is a good
Saving the Appearances: a study in idolatry
Barfield. Here is a study concerning the nature of natural
science, its historical background and the place of all of this within
the ongoing evolution of consciousness. Just as we need to
appreciate the outer historical context in our thinking globally, we
also need to understand how the history of ideas, and the evolution of
consciousness play into that social context.
Also the books of Dennis Klocek should be considered. Here is a
link introducing his writings: http://www.steinercollege.org/consciousness.html
, and here is a link to Doc.
, an important website he created and maintains.
I am next going to refer to my own work. In defense of the
obvious charge that this is somewhat egoistic, I can only offer
this: It is a poor artisan who
doesn't appreciate the true nature of his or her own skills and craft
Being human, my work is flawed (as no doubt are others' efforts), but
nonetheless there are some valid questions I have asked (and struggled
to answer), and while my work is often incomplete, here are two whose
structure is intended to
illuminate our inner and outer social present.
My main website is Shapes in the
, and basically concerns the death, and the resurrection, (the
metamorphosis, the dying and becoming) of Western Civilization.
The Way of the Fool: Christian Enlightenment (initiation) and
the future of Christianity
Along side the general tendencies regarding the
metamorphosis of civilization, there is also an onging metamorphosis of
Christianity, wherein the previous top down hierarchical form of the
Church is passing away, and the next stage of development of
Christianity is to appear bottom up and individualized in the Body of
Christ, born out of the work of individual practioners of Christ's
Teachings. In this next stage (there will be several more), the
once separated Ways of Faith and of Gnosis will re-unite within the
as it begins to realize itself in individual acts of moral grace, freedom and love
Here also is a recent essay of mine on the new thinking: In Joyous Celebration of
the Soul Art and Music of Discipleship
While the young anthroposophist will naturally find their own matters
of interest and concern (and related books and teachers), there are
some additional matters, developed by the healthier parts of the
anthroposophical movement, that ought to have some attention addressed
In his autobiography, Steiner pointed out that he was not able to move
from the Moon Sphere of clairvoyant research onto the Sun Sphere until
after he had formed an appropriate relationship to modern natural
science. While natural science is materialistic in its
fundamental paradigms (points of view), it remains essentially moral in
its recognition that one should only offer to another as true, that
which one can also offer the means to discovering for one's self.
In the age of the consciousness soul, truth must come to us accompanied
by the appropriate means by which we may ourselves replicate its
discovery. This is why, for example, that Steiner's
epistemological works, with their emphasis on a careful and methodical
introspective practice, are so crucial.
For this reason, those works out of the anthroposophical movement
dealing with natural science and extending it (sometimes called
Goethean Science) are very important. I recommend the
following: Man or Matter
Introduction to a Spiritual
Understanding of Nature on the Basis of Goethe's Method of Training
Observation and Thought
by Ernst Lehrs; The Plant
by Gerbert Grohmann; The Nature of Substance
Hauschka; Radiant matter: Decay and Consecration
Georg Blattmann; Man and Mammals
Toward a Biology of Form
Wolfgang Schad; Sensitive Chaos
The Creation of Flowing Forms in
Water and Air
by Theodor Schwenk; and Weather and Cosmos
Klocek. These are, of course, but a few of what could be studied,
but to which I add the following collection of essays: Evolution and the New Gnosis
: Anti-establishment Esssays on Knowledge,
Science, Religion and Causal Logic
by Don Cruse with Robert
Zimmer, as these essays concern a detailed study of the errors in
reasoning and logic which lead to those processes by which materialism,
as a paradigm, was enchanted into our shared world view.
I don't use the word enchanted
merely as metaphor by the way. The young anthroposophist will
find, as they grow into a deeper understanding of the natural and
social worlds, that enchantment
is a very accurate word for exactly that means by which much that
exists has come to be.
One last encouragement: Rudolf Steiner led us forward in our
development with his scientifically based teachings in epistemology,
wherein we are shown how to have an exact and reproducable means to
this deep philosophical question of introspective self knowledge.
But philosophy is itself incomplete, without an appropriate mathematics
in the sense that number ratios and the like stand behind the art in
nature. This means that a true earthly vision of higher worlds can be
found in music and the often
strange and paradoxical ways in which human social and political
processes transform over time. For us to learn to appreciate
this, we need to add to our self education, to what
Steiner points out for us in his philosophic studies, the study of
The mind (soul-spirit nexus) knows first of itself through
introspection that is coupled with a philosophic discipline. But
the mind only knows part of its whole through such means. Thomas
Taylor, in his wonderful 18th Century text, The Theoretic Arithmetic of the Pythagoreans
tells us of his distress that the teaching of young minds has begun to
exclude the theoreteic aspects of natural numbers, and is replacing
that study with what only concerns itself with accounting and surveying
- no true theory, only the practical. This is unfortunate to
Taylor, for he says that the arithmetical cannot be found in nature,
and is therefore, in that it exists to our minds, only a product of our
soul and spirit. This being the case, what we then find in
mathematics and geometry that is of the sublime and the beautiful is
really a reflection of the true nature of the mind itself. This
means that when we study projective geometry we study that higher
element of our self in which true beauty arises.
Not to make my tale longer, but again to help the young anthroposophist
appreciate the importance of this, let me add the following
story. Abraham Lincoln is said, upon deciding to take up his own
education, to have spent many many hours, days and months in the study
of Euclid's Elements, the basic building blocks of the older
geometry. He thought thereby to train his thinking, and give it
We today have an even greater opportunity with the study of projective
geometry, for here the true
mathematics of life
can be seen, and thus
that within the mind (soul-spirit nexus) that is akin itself to life,
comes before us in geometric forms and movement. We need greatly
to step beyond mere abstract concepts, to the living forces within
ourselves and the natural and social worlds. Here then is the
first step: the study of projective geometry.
The best, in my view, is currently out of print, but is worth being
sought out and photocopied endlessly until those responsible get off
their sorry behinds and return this text to general availability: Projective Geometry
: Creative Polarities in Space and Time
by Olive Whicher. Here we engage the study of projective
geometry, not by the dry methods of abstract symbolism and proofs, but
by the living processes of drawing and inner imagination. There
is no better training for our thinking than this study, with its exact
and precise disciplines regarding the free and metamorphic movement of
form in space and time.
If this is not to be found, then one can substitute Physical and Ethereal Spaces
George Adams Kaufman. This is very introductory, but it will do
in the absence of Whicher's book.
A few final words...
Everyone is engaged in spiritual development, and we dare not let
ourselves suppose we know better what another person should do. I
really do not know what is best for the young anthroposophist, but
rather have simply indulged myself, in the way an older man wants, in
the giving of advice to the young.
Even so, I am very grateful for the e-mail correspondent whose
questions led me to such expression, for it is entirely possible that
one or two matters expressed here might be useful for this or that
person. And, that is all the justification such an exercise needs.
in the season of Easter, 2004,
some small corrections added in the season of Michaelmas, 2006
home page -o-
to source page
appendix - the poll
at the end of Outlaw Anthroposophy - the journal:
- twenty-five questions you
have been dying to answer
about your relationship to
the Anthroposophical Society
Joel A. Wendt
Polling is a favorite
American sport. This, the first,
issue of Outlaw Anthroposophy must, therefore, run straight at this
opportunity. Asking questions is also a way of communicating certain
of ideas, as well as cultivating and communicating a certain kind of
The next issue will be completely devoted to the responses to this poll.
1. Do anthroposophists have a
sense of humor about
anthroposophy or Rudolf Steiner? If so, please send us your favorite
2. Aren't you tired of the
word anthroposophy? I mean,
really, isn't it time we called our society and our work something
means something to people who are not members or friends? Isn't it a
pretentious to have a name, for an organization, you have to explain?
3. Was, or is, Rudolf Steiner
perfect? If not, please
send in examples of flaws you think he had or has.
4. Are there any initiates
now active in the Society?
If you think so, send in their name (or names, as the case may be);
it time for such people to come out of the closet?
5. Anthroposophy has been
active in America for several
decades now. Being that the American has different soul capacities from
the Central European, could you please send in the list of "original"
work that you have observed in America. Not derivative work, not
Schools or any other impulse which first appeared in Europe, but that
is unique to America.
6. How important in your
daily living is the guidance
and lecture material that comes out of the Vorstand in Dornach? Please
give concrete examples.
7. The basis for the
"authority" of the school of spiritual
science is the supposed natural hierarchy of real capacities. What
exists that there is a sufficient differentiation of capacities so that
the Vorstand has a right to lay claim to this natural order?
8. If the anthroposophical
society is dead, with what
do you think we should replace it?
9. Do you think some effort
must be made to reform
the formal Society?
10. How would you suggest we
go about such a task?
11. Have you noticed any of
these questions making
you check out your own assumptions about anthroposophy and the Society?
Please share some of those assumptions with us.
12. Who would you vote for,
as the future Maitreya
Buddha: a) Steiner, b) Tomberg, c) me, d) your choice? Please include
basis for this vote.
13. Are you superstitious?
14. Where do you think Rudolf
Steiner is right now
and what do you suppose he is doing?
15. If you were on the
Vorstand, what would you recommend
to the membership as we enter the 21st century?
16. What question(s) do you
think should have been
added to this poll?
17. Is it possible to define
anthroposophy in some
other way than Steiner did in the First Leading Thought? Please provide
18. What is your favorite
Steiner idea or quote?
19. Have you read, or are you
trying to read, one book
50 times (as recommended by Steiner)?
20. Which book?
21. Will you lend me some
money - include how much?
22. Have you ever had the
thought that the Christian
Community priesthood bears on odd resemblance in its role with regard
the anthroposophical movement to that role played by the Jesuits (the
of Jesus) in the organism of the Catholic Church?
23. In the same vein (we are
now cutting very deep,
so perhaps it should be an artery), doesn't it sometimes seem like the
Spirit of Rome (Steiner, The Challenge of the Times) has taken over our
movement and installed Steiner as a kind of invisible Pope, whose
are infallible? (Dornach = Rome; the Vorstand = the Curia; the Class
= the Cardinals; the National Society leaders = the Bishops;...does it
24. What rights (or
responsibilities) does (or should)
the ordinary membership have in the creation of the future of the
25. Imagine Rudolf Steiner
before you, and Archangel
Michael behind him, what would he (Steiner) say? Or would he just cry?
26. Are not remorse and shame
matters of moral development?
Should we feel any of these emotions when we contemplate the current
of the Society?
27. Yes, I know I said 25
questions. But, I didn't
say I could count.