Philosopher, artist, scientist, and educator who developed the spiritual science of Anthroposophy, blending occultism, esoteric Christianity, and elements of Zoroastrianism. At one point in his life, Rudolf Steiner faced a serious inner struggle with the forces of darkness.
Steiner was born to Austrian parents on February 27, 1861, in Kraljevic, Hungary. His father, a railway clerk, hoped Rudolf would become a railway civil engineer, but an early manifestation of psychic gifts set him on a different path. Steiner began to experience clairvoyance at the age of eight. When he was 19, an adept whose identity was never revealed initiated him into the occult. Steiner joined the Theosophical Society and was active for about a decade before becoming disillusioned with internal rivalries and pettiness and with its emphasis on Eastern mysticism.
In 1913, Steiner formed the Anthroposophical Society, taking some members with him from the Theosophists. He described his path as one leading to spiritual growth on four levels of human nature: the senses, imagination, inspiration, and intuition. In Dornach, near Basel, Switzerland, he established the Goetheanum, a school for esoteric research, where he intended to produce Goethe’s dramas and his own mystery plays. The building burned down in 1920 but was rebuilt in 1922 and now serves as the international headquarters for the organization.
For the last 25 years of his life, Steiner traveled around Europe and Great Britain, giving more than 6,000 lectures. His published works include more than 350 titles, most of which are collections of lectures. His key works outlining his occult philosophy are Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (1904–05), Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man (1904), and An Outline of Occult Science (1909).
Up to age 40, Steiner devoted himself to pursuing his inner development and forming his spiritual science and philosophy. He developed his inner abilities to experience spiritual realms and beings. He spent time exploring the Akashic Records, the repository of all information in creation.
He was greatly influenced by Johann Willhelm von Goethe, the author of a version of FAUST. At 40, Steiner felt he was ready to speak publicly about his spiritual philosophy, his clairvoyant experiences, and what he learned from them. By this time, he had gained much experience in the nonphysical realms through profound meditation. He said that at one time humankind was more spiritual and possessed supernormal capabilities but lost them on the descent to the material plane. At the lowest point of human descent, Jesus arrived and provided the opportunity to reascend to higher spiritual levels. For Steiner, the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ were the most important events in the history of humankind and the cosmos. However, the Gospels did not contain the complete story.
Steiner envisioned humanity as following a path of higher consciousness, guided by Angels, intelligences, and a host of spiritual beings. One of the most important is the archangel Michael, who guides the way to cosmic enlightenment, through which humanity will respiritualize the earth.
The old Christian spirituality will fall apart. Without a new spiritual vision, humanity will be overpowered and numbed by technology. Higher beings will help humanity form the new spiritual vision by sending impulses, but only if humans ask for help and cooperate. Meanwhile, Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings—forces of darkness and chaos—will constantly challenge angelic forces in human thought, sense, and will, thus making it crucial to learn a discerning spiritual science.
Steiner remarked in a lecture on April 4, 1912, that without new spiritual impulses, technology will not only dominate our outer life, but overpower and numb us. It will drive out the religious, philosophical, artistic, and ethical interests and turn us into “living automata.” Many people today, even highly educated ones, are already unwitting slaves of outer material conditions, he said. Fallen Angels—active in the information and computer technologies and economic networks—spread evil over the earth through racism and nationalism, though their approach is so subtle and intimate that people think they are not influenced by them.
Luciferic and Ahrimanic Beings
Steiner called beings that encourage destruction through vices Luciferic spirits. Still other spirits wish people to remain mired in a materialistic, mechanistic world. These spirits Steiner called “Ahrimanic” beings, after Ahriman, the Persian personification of evil. He links Lucifer with air and warmth, and Ahriman with earth and cold. The changes of seasons reveal the eternal struggle between the two forces.
Steiner faced serious inner battles with evil forces and felt that his ultimate victory over them was his immersion in the esoteric mysteries of Christ. He warned that the spiritual path to higher consciousness entails such battles. He noted that people strongly resist taking responsibility to fight on the inner plane, preferring to project the battle out onto imagined enemies. Every thousand years as a new millennium approaches, Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings make particularly strong attacks on human progress. Our fear and projections make us increasingly susceptible to spiritual debasement, mental slavery, and mass hysteria.
Steiner thought that the greatest challenge of the modern age is to understand the polarity between Lucifer and Ahriman. Modern consciousness understands the polarity between God and the Devil and heaven and Hell. To strive toward either extreme is not good. Humanity must find balance in the middle.
Chaos, in which Luciferic and Ahrimanic forces participate, is necessary for human evolution, but highly antisocial. Steiner’s commitment to “higher civility” spurred his reappraisal of human relations. At Dornach, a sculpture shows the Representative of Man standing between Lucifer and Ahriman. People can achieve this balance by paying attention to those who have educated, befriended, and even injured them. Steiner said on October 10, 1916, that, as a rule, people do not encounter anyone they have not met in previous incarnations. Likes and dislikes are great enemies of real social relations. Condemning a person obliterates a karmic relationship entirely, postponing it to a next incarnation, and no progress can be made. Steiner explains that Ahrimanic beings are highly intelligent, extraordinarily clever, and wise. They act behind the veil of nature and work to destroy the human physical organism by fomenting destruction and hatred. Sensuous urges and impulses are enhanced. They replace thinking by all kinds of lower organism powers, especially the impulse to lie.
The Luciferic beings do everything to foster egoism within people and a passion for creating and bringing things into existence. Steiner insists that future evolution will be endangered if the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings are not recognized and counteracted by spiritual science.
– McDermott, Robert A., ed. The Essential Steiner. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.
– Sheperd, A. P. Rudolf Steiner: Scientist of the Invisible. 1954. Reprint, Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions International, 1983.
– Steiner, Rudolf. An Autobiography. New trans. Blauvelt, N.Y.: Rudolf Steiner, 1977.
———. The Four Seasons and the Archangels. Bristol, England: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992.
———. Planetary Spheres and Their Influence on Man’s Life on Earth and in the Spiritual Worlds. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982.