Was Rudolf Steiner poisoned after all?

One of the most viewed of all the posts on this blog has been “Rudolf Steiner’s last illness and last verse”. It is still getting many hits each week, even though it was first posted on February 26th 2016. It seems as though Rudolf Steiner’s death is still a subject of great fascination for people around the world; though, ironically, my object in writing that post was to concentrate not so much on the manner of his death but rather on the extraordinary efforts he made in the last year of his life, despite being terribly ill, to communicate to his fellow men and women the true nature of what it is to be a human being, and the evolutionary path which the spiritual world intends for us. I quoted the last verse he ever wrote, in which he warns of the ahrimanic beings, who seek to turn us into what Steiner calls “the human thing.”

That was my main purpose but the speculations which have surrounded the topic ever since his death on March 30th 1925 continue to exercise a fascination for many people to this day. Why and how did Steiner die, and who would have wanted to kill him? Was an attempt to poison him made at a New Year’s Day “rout” or tea party on January 1st 1924, as believed by Marie Steiner and Ilona Schubert, who had witnessed him being taken ill, and heard him say that he had been poisoned? Or were Steiner’s own later denials that he had been poisoned, as published in three separate bulletins, to be believed? Was the testimony of the three physicians who attended him and carried out some kind of post-mortem examination, that he had not died from poison, their genuine view or were they denying the truth so as not to let the poisoner know that he had succeeded? Were the statements of Dr Ita Wegman (his personal physician) and Guenther Wachsmuth (his personal secretary) that Steiner had died from causes other than poisoning – was this the truth, or were they also covering up the real reason?

In my post, I came down on the side of those who denied that Steiner had been poisoned, and gave instead other reasons for his death, with particular emphasis on the testimonies of Ita Wegman and Guenther Wachsmuth. The whole topic generated nearly sixty comments, and much disagreement between those wedded to the poisoning theory and those who, like myself, were inclined to different explanations.

It seemed clear to me (or as clear as it was possible to be nearly a century after the event) that Steiner had died from highly unusual natural causes related to the shattering of his etheric body after the burning of the first Goetheanum, to which Ita Wegman added another cause:

“The question that arises again and again: what are we to understand by illness of an initiate, why speak of an illness in the case of Rudolf Steiner? That is what I want to try to answer here. Well, why did he get sick?  The delicate physical body was left behind too much and for too long by the soul-spiritual which was working in its very own homeland. The physical body was left to its own weight and physical laws, so that it became weaker and the digestion failed.”

I found these two causes convincing explanations of Steiner’s last illness and there the matter rested, at least in my own mind. But now I have recently read a book of writings by and about Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, which puts the poisoning theory in a rather different light. I reproduce below the anonymous account which appears on pp. 225-6 of Ehrenfried Pfeiffer – A Modern Quest for the Spirit, which has been compiled by Thomas Meyer and published by Mercury Press (ISBN: 978-1-935136-02-6):

The Background to the Plot for Poisoning Rudolf Steiner on January 1st 1924

(This report has recently been received (1999), from someone who prefers not to be named….)

Toward the end of the 50s, when after recovering from a serious illness Ehrenfried Pfeiffer once again came to Arlesheim and to Dornach, I was called to an internal meeting in the Grandsteinsaal (Foundation Stone Hall) of the Goetheanum. There were only a few present – approximately thirty to forty people. Pfeiffer wished to communicate what had concerned him during his illness and what he still wanted to entrust to a few people; before this he could not leave this Earth. What he said, if I may summarise it, was like a ‘general confession’ of his whole life and striving. From this, the following detail: one reason for his going to America was to contact those with authentic knowledge about mechanical occultism. One such person he found fairly quickly. A trusting relationship developed. One day they discussed various phases in the life of Rudolf Steiner. His poisoning at the tea party after the Christmas Conference (January 1st 1924) was also mentioned. There followed a surprising and dramatic statement by Pfeiffer’s confidant. He said: “Please forgive me, I must say something, alas, which will greatly shock you and could separate us again, although I would deeply regret this: I was the one charged with poisoning Rudolf Steiner! This poisoning, however was not intended to be fatal, but to bring Rudolf Steiner into a condition in which he would no longer control his high occult facilities so that they would be practically extinguished. One would then be able to point to Rudolf Steiner and say: ‘See? When you strive for an occult schooling in his sense, as he describes it, for example in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, then you will end up like this.’ ”

Ehrenfried Pfeiffer did not say whether or not he continued his connection with this macabre occultist. He only indicated that Rudolf Steiner overcame this poisoning attempt with the aid of spiritual forces. The brothers of the left hand did not succeed.

There are of course many questions that could be raised about this extraordinary account. First, why is the person who wrote it “someone who prefers not to be named”? With a topic of such vital interest, for Thomas Meyer to quote from an anonymous source does not inspire confidence in the veracity of this account. But let us suppose for a moment that this story were true – in that case, surely Pfeiffer would not have just let the matter drop?

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Ehrenbrief Pfeiffer (photo via AnthroWiki)

Pfeiffer was, after all, someone who was a very special pupil of Rudolf Steiner; he was, along with Guenther Wachsmuth, the creator of the first of the biodynamic preparations, (P 500 – the cow horn manure) out of indications given by Steiner; he conducted experiments in an attempt to develop a new technology based on the selfless management of etheric energy; he developed the method of “sensitive crystallisation” for the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases, which can also be used for the determination of food quality; and he developed a compost starter and a new heat-resistant strain of wheat with increased protein content. What is more, it was Pfeiffer who, along with Edith Maryon, had stayed with Steiner during the night of the burning of the first Goetheanum – and who had sought to console Steiner, the human being who suffered and whose heart was broken in the night of the fire.

Given this, is it possible that Pfeiffer could have taken such an account of the poisoning of Rudolf Steiner with equanimity? We are told nothing further of his reaction or what he might have said or done subsequently.

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Reuben Swinburne Clymer (photo via http://www.fra.org.br)

Who might this “macabre occultist” have been? My guess, and it is purely a guess from other details in Meyer’s book, is that Pfeiffer’s conversation was with a doctor and occultist called Reuben Swinburne Clymer (1878 – 1966), who since 1905 had been the Supreme Grand Master of the Fraternitas Rosae Crucis, whose headquarters are located at Beverly Hall, Quakertown, near Philadelphia. The conversation, if it indeed took place, is likely to have been in the 1940s, soon after Pfeiffer’s move to the USA.

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Paschal Beverly Randolph – see comment below from Veglio Blavijo. (photo via National Paranormal Society)

Francis Bacon begins his essay Of Truth with the words: “ ‘What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.” I would gladly stay for an answer to the question of whether or not Rudolf Steiner was poisoned, and by whom, but I fear that nearly a century after the event, the truth is now unlikely to be discovered.

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Filed under Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, Rudolf Steiner poisoning

Don’t be evil

I don’t suppose that Rudolf Steiner’s lectures incorporate the use of the word “fun” very often. The words “serious” and “earnest” are much more common. So I was struck by the following passage in which he did use that word – but not in a cheerful context (this is Steiner, after all). Here is the passage, from Lecture Three of the series entitled The Influences of Lucifer and Ahriman:

“The fact that — to use a colloquialism — people in the future are not going to get much fun out of developments on the physical plane will bring home to them that further evolution must proceed from spiritual forces.”

Steiner’s view was that the time when human progress was possible through purely physical means is now over. Human progress will be possible in the future but only through development on a higher level than that of the processes of the physical plane. Speaking just after the First World War, he went on to say: “This can be understood only by surveying a lengthy period of evolution and applying what is discovered to experiences that will become more and more general in the future. The trend of forces that will manifest in the well-nigh rhythmical onset of war and destruction — processes of which the present catastrophe (ie the First World War) is but the beginning — will become only too evident. It is childish to believe that anything connected with this war can bring about a permanent era of peace for humanity on the physical plane. That will not be so. What must come about on the earth is spiritual development…”

In the one hundred years since he spoke, Steiner has certainly been proved right about the impossibility of a permanent era of peace for humanity – this century has been the most terrible in the history of the world. What else did he foresee?

“Just as once in the East there was a Lucifer incarnation, and then, at the midpoint, as it were, of world evolution, the incarnation of Christ, so in the West there will be an incarnation of Ahriman. …This ahrimanic incarnation cannot be averted; it is inevitable, for humanity must confront Ahriman face to face. He will be the individuality by whom it will be made clear what indescribable cleverness can be developed if they call to their help all that earthly forces can do to enhance cleverness and ingenuity. In the catastrophes that will befall humanity in the near future, people will become extremely inventive… Humanity has no knowledge of these things as yet; but not only will they be striven for, they will be the inevitable outcome of catastrophes looming in the near future. And certain secret societies — where preparations are already in train — will apply these things in such a way that the necessary conditions can be established for an actual incarnation of Ahriman on the earth. This incarnation cannot be averted, for people must realise during the time of the earth’s existence just how much can proceed from purely material processes! We must learn to bring under our control those spiritual or unspiritual currents which are leading to Ahriman.”

YBA via antroposofie en apocalypse blog

Yeshayahu Ben Aharon (photo via antroposofy en apocalypse blog)

When is this incarmation likely to occur? Tempting though it is to point to many of today’s phenomena as indicators that the incarnation has already happened, my current sense is that things are going to get quite a bit worse yet before Ahriman himself appears in physical form. I recently read an article called Empty Hearts and Technological Singularity by Yeshayahu Ben Aharon (available for download to subscribers to the Academia website) in which he describes the coming merger of the human being with infinitely intelligent machines, as predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Google’s senior futurist.

“In esoteric terms, this means that the human’s free etheric body from the head to the heart will be totally taken over by ahrimanic, infinitely brilliant, wise and powerful intelligences. I would recommend Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near, to every body interested in the coming future, as an introduction to open your mind and eyes to see where we are going from the ahrimanic point of view. I call this the building of the kindergarten of Ahriman, in preparation for his school that he will build in the 23rd century in America. He will build a school that will work with the etheric forces taken from the rest of the body as well: the head, the heart and the whole thing. This is Ahriman’s kindergarten, the forerunner of his mature school.

The singularity people promise a new kind of immortality. Human beings will be identified with Infinite Intelligence through super computers and so on, and they will experience a sort of immortality for their earthly consciousness, an indefinite life. Your whole soul life, including everything you were thinking and remembering, which you already invested externally in the infinite virtual reality, will be preserved forever. Even if you die physically, it will be preserved and it will continue to evolve and develop through Infinite Intelligence. The idea is that people will not die physically or at least live hundreds of years, since the new technology will overcome the illnesses that medicine could not conquer. But after long years, if they still die at all, all their life will remain as a virtual personality in a tech reality, continuing as it were, a second life. But this will really become the primary life, the life of this individuality as his avatar in virtual reality. If you don’t know this world very well, it will be hard for you to create a picture of it. Look into it; the children already know all about it, they are born into the Matrix, as their parents merge them with the internet immediately. This is the ahrimanic side, because everything is accomplished through Infinite Intelligence, working through virtual reality. In the future, a huge intelligent machine will have been merged into the human body, and humans and infinitely smart, powerful, and all-knowing and all entertaining AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become one and the same…”

It is worth reading the Wikipedia entry about Ray Kurzweil, including his transhumanism (ie the belief that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves through technology into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of  “post-human beings”) and his predictions for the future. Along with Yuval Noah Harari, whom I wrote about here, it is clear that Kurzweil, this highly intelligent man, is nevertheless one of the Useful Idiots preparing the way for Ahriman.

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Ray Kurzweil (photo via Wikipedia)

As part-evidence for my statement that Kurzweil is an idiot, it should be noted that he has joined the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company. In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him. I have written more about the absurd belief and practices of cryonics and Alcor here.

It should also be noted that Kurzweil was personally hired by Google co-founder Larry Page. “Don’t be evil” was the motto of Google’s corporate code of conduct, first introduced around 2000. In Google’s IPO (initial public offering of shares) in 2004, a letter from Google’s founders included the following: “Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways—by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”

However, surprise, surprise – following Google’s corporate restructuring in October 2015, the motto was dropped and replaced in the new corporate code of conduct by the phrase “Do the right thing”. So is AI the right thing for human beings? Is that the way we should be going?

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Elon Musk (photo via Wikipedia)

If the world won’t listen to Rudolf Steiner or to anthroposophists, perhaps they will pay more attention to a billionaire entrepreneur: Elon Musk has warned that AI is more dangerous than the threat posed by dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea. Mr Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, took to Twitter to say: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

He posted the comment along with an image of the anti-gambling addiction poster with the slogan: “In the end the machines will win.” Mr Musk added: “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too.

Mr Musk has warned in the past that AI should be better regulated since it poses an “existential threat” to human civilisation. He has also compared developers creating AI to people summoning demons they cannot control. Exactly so.

 

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Filed under Ahriman, Artificial Intelligence, Rudolf Steiner

Food for thought

In March 2009, Professor John Beddington, who was at that time the chief scientific adviser to the UK government, forecast a “perfect storm” of food, energy and water shortages by the year 2030. Jonathon Porritt, the then chairman of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission, was less optimistic than Beddington and predicted that 2020 was more likely. At the time of writing, we are now more than halfway through 2017 so the predicted crunch point is between three and thirteen years away.

Of course, these warnings are only useful if they are able to nudge governments and people into taking co-ordinated action prior to the crunch. Once the crunch point has arrived, no more preparation is possible – crisis prevention then has to give way to crisis management. So far, unless plans are being made in secret in Whitehall, there has been a deafening silence from government. I see no preparation and no awareness – but plenty of signs of crisis.

These signs include climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events; a shrinking land area as the seas rise; and heat, drought and flooding affecting the land that remains. As the oceans acidify, they will less and less be able to provide food or remove carbon. Keystone species such as bees and plankton will continue to die off; and the depletion of the humus and mineral content of our farmland soils will go so far that we will no longer be able to rely on future harvests.

In the face of accelerating disasters such as these, we could begin to see events moving out of the grasp of governments; and if, as seems likely, we are unable to make enough changes to avert the worst environmental effects, this will be followed by economic and social fracture, the breakdown of law and order and large movements of refugees from those parts of the world devastated by climate change and war. Hand in hand with this, much of the infrastructure on which we rely to provide food, water and energy will start to fall apart. Professional skills, such as those needed to prevent disasters in the privatised nuclear industry, may no longer be available.

The ways in which the descent to chaos could develop are so varied that governments seem paralysed by the sheer scale of the problems. As the crisis bites, so will the scale of unemployment; and this in turn will mean that government tax revenues become so reduced that they can no longer support the unemployed, or pay for fundamentals such as education, health and law and order. In the UK, we are seeing early signs of this in the way the government is changing the rules about the state pension, meaning that people will now have to work until they are 68 before they can expect to receive it. As the crisis deepens, the rest of us will also be finding it harder and harder to pay our way, and necessities such as food and even water supplies could be hard to get. The social contract between government and people will eventually be broken.

In an uncomfortable kind of way, all of this may be good news. Communities will have to find out how to provide such things for themselves, or do without. All of us will need to re-discover our locality and local skills, and build a new culture of community to take us through. The power of unfettered capitalism, which now seems so inescapable, may become as irrelevant tomorrow as the divine right of kings seems to us today. The shock of this descent will leave nothing in our lives unchanged. It is probable that we cannot now avoid it, but with determination and courage it can be managed, its worst effects averted, and it can be made survivable. It will be our species’ most difficult challenge ever, but also our greatest opportunity.

Turning now to one aspect of this rapidly approaching crisis, how can we secure our food and farming systems for the future? Conventional industrial agriculture is the short-sighted and short-lived product of abundant cheap energy, which has made it possible for a small number of farmers and landowners and industrial food processors to operate on a very large scale, using industrially-produced fertilisers and pesticides, while also requiring the elimination of natural ecosystems which get in the way. It has brought the whole supply chain, from seed production to supermarket checkout, under the control of a few very large companies.

But glyphosate and genetically modified crops etc have led agri-biz into a technological trap: large-scale monoculture means that the crop is highly vulnerable to pests and diseases, since there is no local ecosystem to support predators or resistance. Agri-biz cannot now do without these chemicals, but continuing to use them brings many other problems, such as the steep decline in soil fertility, the absence of pollinating insects, or the introduction of neuro-toxins into our food. Could the bees be telling us something about the consequences for our own health?

What’s more, concentrating agriculture into just a few giant food production centres removes all our defences against the spread of catastrophic crop failures, as well as any security we may have against famine. The claim that centralised industrial agriculture is the only way of feeding large populations is about as scientific as a belief in the literal truth of the Bible, but rather more damaging. Nor will technological fixes help. Their only effect will be to put off for a time the inevitable consequences, so that the breaking point, when it comes, will be as devastating as possible.

So what options do we have? Where does true food security lie? My own sense is that we need to re-discover localism. Hundreds of small farms and CSA schemes, growing healthy and nutritious food for their local communities, is surely much more sustainable than relying on the toxic, glyphosate-drenched prairie monocultures of conventional industrial agri-business.

Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said at a recent international conference in the USA:

“… at a time when governments are beginning to take action on pollution in transport, with plans for a ban on new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, food producers remain largely financially unaccountable for the terrible damage that current systems are inflicting on the environment and public health.

Mechanisms that could exist to allow future food pricing to be more honest include the introduction of ‘polluter pays’ taxes on chemical fertilisers and pesticides and the redirection of farm subsidies in such a way that producers whose systems of production sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide and improve public health are rewarded for these benefits.”

At the same conference, Tyler Norris of the Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, highlighted how the declining nutritional quality of food has an economic cost. In the US, nearly 18 cents of every dollar is spent on health care services.

Other hidden costs exposed by scientists and economists in the proceedings included:

  • the cost of nitrate and pesticide pollution of ground and river water from agro-chemicals, which in some areas of the US is so high that the water industry is struggling to provide drinking water within legal limits;
  • air pollution from CAFOs are shown to be increasing respiratory infections and other diseases in people living nearby; (a CAFO is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, as an animal feeding operation —a farm in which animals are raised in confinement—that has over 1000 “animal units” confined for over 45 days a year)
  • the loss of biodiversity, including the decline of farmland birds and pollinating insects,
  • soil degradation and erosion from continuous monoculture crop production,
  • the human health costs to employees working in stressful conditions in food processing plants.

All these and other costs are ultimately paid for by taxpayers and society in hidden ways, which include general taxation, insurance, water charges and reduced quality of life. Cheap food comes at a high cost to all of us.

As it happens, Patrick Holden is a graduate of Emerson College at Forest Row in the UK, where I currently work. It was Emerson College which, in an astonishing act of public altruism, donated the land now farmed by Tablehurst Farm to St Anthony’s Trust, a local charity whose charitable objectives include the training of biodynamic farmers and growers. This has had the radical effect of removing the Tablehurst farm land from being a tradeable commodity, and allows the farmers to do their work without having huge amounts of mortgage debt around their necks. I also work at Tablehurst, and to my mind it is an inspiring example of a farming model which offers great hope for a sustainable and much happier future.

On behalf of John Swain, a film-maker in the States who is putting together a project around issues of farm ownership, community farms and access to land for young farmers, I recently interviewed several people who were involved with the early days of Tablehurst Farm and the transfer of the land from Emerson College to St Anthony’s Trust. You can hear these interviews, and/or read the transcripts, here. I hope you will enjoy listening to them, as well as finding some food for thought about the future of farming.

 

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Filed under Agriculture, Biodynamic farming, Climate change, Community, Farming, Localism

I have seen the future…

Lincoln Steffens is hardly a household name these days, though perhaps he should be. Born in 1866, which makes him a near-contemporary of Rudolf Steiner, he was a highly influential American journalist during the early years of the 20th century. He knew and interviewed most of the famous people of his time, and was a campaigning and muckraking journalist, whose investigations of corruption in Wall Street helped lead to the creation of the Federal Reserve System.

But Steffens had his blind spots, and the most egregious of these was his embrace of Lenin and the Soviet Union. It was Steffens who reported his first impressions of the Soviet Union with the notorious phrase, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

Lincoln Steffens

Lincoln Steffens (photo via New York Times)

The anthropopper has now come across the Lincoln Steffens de nos jours, and he is an historian called Yuval Noah Harari. He has written a book called Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and it is my contention that Harari is doing for the coming incarnation of Ahriman what Steffens did for Lenin – in other words, in the term invented to describe people who blindly supported the likes of Lenin and Stalin while they committed atrocity after atrocity, he is a useful idiot.

Not that the world at large seems to regard Harari in this light – his book, first published in 2014, has become an international bestseller, endorsed by Barack Obama and considered by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as essential reading. All the most glittering prizes of contemporary fame have been showered on him – TED talks, public lectures, a dedicated YouTube channel, an online course as well as speeches to the futurologists at Google and the Singularity University in Silicon Valley.

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Yuval Noah Harari (photo via Wikipedia)

In Harari’s book, you can see how in our current time the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic influences are working together to deceive human beings about their true nature and their true future. Humans, says Harari, have done great things already and unimaginably greater things are going to be done. Our lifespan, for example, the Biblical three score years and ten, will double to one hundred and fifty as we humans become masters of our own fate and shapers of the natural circumstances of our own existence. The gods once made sport of us, but the future will “upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus.”

According to Harari, scientific and technological innovations issuing from the minds of a visionary technical elite will be writing the story of our future: “History is often shaped by small groups of forward-looking innovators rather than by the backward-looking masses.” (You can see how this might appeal to people like Gates and Zuckerberg.) If humankind of the future is still assailed by new strains of disease or with viruses resistant to all antibiotics, it won’t be because of inadequate science and research, but because of a failure of political will or inadequate resources.

So medicine, if the political classes allow it to get on with its job, is part of the good news. Climate change, environmental collapse and mass extinctions are, of course, part of the bad news; but “we could lessen the danger by slowing the pace of progress and growth”, and as for nuclear weapons, they have compelled the superpowers “to find alternative and peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.” Harari’s vision for the future, however, is not species annihilation but species transformation through science and technology. We will become new kinds of human beings as our bodies, minds and relationships with the environment and with mechanical devices become altered in fundamental ways.

Harari’s prediction is that we human beings will become more god-like as we become more machine-like and as the capacity of machines becomes more god-like. We are nothing special in the animal kingdom, we have no immortal soul, there is no essential human self and our thoughts and emotions are the product of electrochemical impulses which can in the future be modelled by algorithms. Our future lies in the hands of technical experts – in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cognitive and computer science. New tools will become parts of our bodies. We will have bionic hands, feet and eyes, while nanorobots will move through our bloodstream looking out for disease and repairing the damage of age and injury. We shall have wearable and implanted devices to expand our senses and alter our moods, while biological tools will enter our cells, remodel our genes and give us new and better flesh, blood and neurons.

Harari says it is a fact that the “last days of Homo sapiens are fast approaching, and that our species will be replaced “by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds.” Ordinary human beings will become surplus to requirements, as wars will be waged by drones and work will be done by robots: “Some economists predict that sooner or later, unenhanced humans will be completely useless.” Algorithms embedded in silicon and metal will replace algorithms embedded in flesh, which as Harari points out, is what biology and computer science tells us is all we really are anyway. Things have apparently gone so far that some in Silicon Valley already refer to human beings as “meat puppets.”

Things are going still further: Harari says that human beings will cease to be free agents, that their autonomy will be taken over by algorithms – written at first by human beings but ultimately by algorithm-writing machines. As this happens, liberal society will disintegrate as we will no longer be able to sustain belief in the uniqueness of the free human being as the basis of liberal social order. “We – or our heirs – will probably require a brand new package of religious beliefs and political institutions.”

This new religion will be called Dataism. It will be accompanied by the dissolution of the boundaries between animals, machines and social systems, all of which will be seen as algorithmic information processing systems. The concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ will be replaced by the primacy of the free flow of information. The “cosmic data-processing system” will be what God once was: “It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.”

One can see how all of this appeals very much to the would-be masters of the universe, such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Tim Cook (Apple) and all those who believe that human beings are just commodities to be manipulated by those who control the algorithms. It reinforces their sense that they have got it right and that they are the leaders of evolution.

I think enough has now been said to indicate that Harari is completely under the influence of Ahriman and Lucifer. What is disturbing is that his vision is so obviously already well under way, as we move inexorably towards the time of the incarnation of Ahriman. I’ve written before about Rudolf Steiner’s warnings concerning the forthcoming unique incarnation of Ahriman, of which Harari’s book is an obvious precursor:

“Just as there was an incarnation of Lucifer in the flesh and an incarnation of Christ in the flesh, so, before only a part of the third millennium of the post-Christian era has elapsed, there will be, in the West, an actual incarnation of Ahriman: Ahriman in the flesh. Humanity on earth cannot escape this incarnation of Ahriman. It will come inevitably. But what matters is that people shall find the right vantage point from which to confront it.”

Steiner’s advice was that, although we cannot avoid this incarnation, the best thing we can do is to wake up from our complacent materialistic sleep and observe what is happening all around us:

“Whenever preparation is being made for incarnations of this character, we must be alert to certain indicative trends in evolution. A being like Ahriman, who will incarnate in the West in time to come, prepares for this incarnation in advance. With a view to his incarnation on the earth, Ahriman guides certain forces in evolution in such a way that they may be of the greatest possible advantage to him. And evil would result were people to live on in a state of drowsy unawareness, unable to recognise certain phenomena in life as preparations for Ahriman’s incarnation in the flesh. The right stand can be taken only by recognising in one or another series of events the preparation that is being made by Ahriman for his earthly existence. And the time has now come for individual human beings to know what tendencies and events around them are machinations of Ahriman, helping him to prepare for his approaching incarnation.

It would undoubtedly be of the greatest benefit to Ahriman if he could succeed in preventing the vast majority of people from perceiving what would make for their true well-being, if the vast majority of people were to regard these preparations for the Ahriman incarnation as progressive and good for evolution. If Ahriman were able to slink into a humanity unaware of his coming, that would gladden him most of all. It is for this reason that the occurrences and trends in which Ahriman is working for his future incarnation must be brought to light.”

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harari for showing so clearly what the incarnation of Ahriman will have in store for us, unless we wake up to what is happening and start to work towards some different outcomes. Outcomes are not necessarily independent of the prediction; and if enough people believe that certain things can happen or will happen, they may devote resources and technology to making them happen. So let us try to focus on what the real, intended future for human beings ought to be.

In doing this, we shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of changing course, nor should we ignore the role of our present model of capitalism, which will prevent us from hitting the brakes and steering the car away from Harari’s predicted future. We already have a situation in which Jeff Bezos is ‘worth’ $85 billion, whereas an Amazon delivery driver is just a disposable part in a machine, a component to be thrown away without a moment’s thought as soon as he can’t perform to the standards demanded by the algorithm.

Let us leave the final word to Rudolf Steiner:

“To the extent to which people can be roused into conducting their affairs not for material ends alone and into regarding a free and independent spiritual life, equally with economic life, as an integral part of the social organism — to that same extent Ahriman’s incarnation will be awaited with an attitude worthy of humanity.”

 

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What next after capitalism?

After the results of the UK election, held on 8th June, one thing became very clear: young people have started to lose faith in the way our present society runs, particularly in our current model of capitalism. The situation is even more stark in the USA; Naomi Klein has analysed it brilliantly here.

It is not hard to understand some of the economic pressures which have led young people to conclude that capitalism is not working for them. A study by the Resolution Foundation last year found that people born between 1981 and 1985 are earning £40 a week less in today’s terms than were, at the same age, people born a decade earlier – making the current under-35s the first generation since the industrial revolution to suffer such a reversal. Meanwhile, the cost of housing has gone beyond their reach. Over the past five years, according to the Nationwide Building Society, the rate of home-ownership among 30-34 year olds has plunged from 49.3 per cent to 43.1 per cent – while older people have enjoyed higher rates of home-ownership.

Moreover, high rents have prevented many young people from putting aside any kind of savings. If they cannot win a stake in the capitalist system, in spite of working hard, why should they support it?  Add to that some of the many other issues that Theresa May’s government is either supporting or which are resulting from its policies, eg fracking, foodbanks, stealth privatisation of the NHS and other public services, student tuition fees, constant austerity for ordinary people but not the rich, etc., and it is no wonder that so many young people voted in such numbers for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

For many older people, capitalism was associated with freedom. But there is little reason today for young people to feel the same way, when they are confronted on a daily basis by large, tax-dodging corporations and bankers who wrecked the economy, who escaped without punishment and yet who carried on skimming off vast bonuses. What they see instead are the failures of Conservative industrial policy, such as over-priced trains run by private companies, which have ruthlessly exploited the private monopolies granted to them, in what was surely the most flawed of all the privatisations.

It will not be possible for the Conservatives to continue to preach the benefits of the free market if it is patently not working in favour of an entire generation. By the next election the current generation of under-35s will comprise nearly half the population. If they have a sense that the economic system is rigged against them, they will revolt against it – and so they should.

But it’s even worse than just a system rigged against the young; those of you who are regular readers of this blog may be aware that from time-to-time, I’ve expressed grave doubts as to whether this planet and all the species living on it will be able to survive the consequences of our present system of economics.

Our current model of capitalism, with its emphasis on constant growth and its elevation of money to something which trumps every other argument, is leading us inevitably towards what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction in the history of our planet. The Holocene epoch, the past 12,000 years of stable climate in which agriculture, settled communities, and great civilisations first appeared, has come to an end, and a new epoch has begun. The term “Anthropocene” was coined in the 1970s to describe this new epoch, in which we are seeing significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems.

Another and in some ways better term for the present epoch has been coined even more recently by those who want to focus attention on the role of capitalism in bringing us to this crisis in Earth’s existence, and this is the “Capitalocene”.  We are living in a new and dangerous epoch in Earth history, as identified in overwhelming detail by scientists. It is characterised by the violation of critical planetary boundaries, the unprecedented disruption of our planet’s life-support systems with potentially catastrophic results, including climate chaos, mass extinctions, acidified oceans, poisoned rivers, rising sea levels, over-population and more.

Whatever one calls this new era, it’s clear that most people (with the possible exception of Donald Trump and those who share his attitudes) are prepared to accept that the Earth System as a whole is experiencing unprecedented negative changes caused by recent human action (from the time of the Industrial Revolution onwards). The concept that perpetual, constant, infinite growth without limits is leading us directly to disaster is one that is probably accepted by most sane people these days. The question is: what can be done about it? Who is going to tell voters in a democracy that there are limits to growth? Who will tell a Premier League footballer or a rock star that there should be a limit to the number of Ferraris they own? More to the point, is there any politician with the courage to say to people like me that two cars per family is quite enough?

No doubt most people can see the connection between unlimited numbers of consumer goods and ecological destruction – but which of us is prepared to accept that the limits to growth have to start with you and me?

Rudolf Steiner identified the economic, social and cultural aspects of the problem a century ago and put forward Threefolding as an alternative to our headlong pursuit of disaster. These ideas still need to be brought to the world’s attention but my assumption is that there will not be any cut-through to political and public notice by anthroposophical concepts alone, unless they are also accompanied by additional ideas and solutions propounded by other people of goodwill. Sadly, anthroposophy is too strange a word, its ideas are too remote from common attitudes today, and its historical baggage is too cumbersome to enable it to make the necessary difference on its own.

That is why I am proposing, along with a few colleagues, to organise a conference at Emerson College in 2019 to look for a new story, a new narrative about what has to pass away, and what has to come into being, if we are to survive as a species on our beautiful blue planet – and I invite you to help “crowdthink” this conference into a form that will enable it to be most useful. Here are a few ideas to get us started, and I would be most grateful for your own input, such as suggestions for speakers, themes, alternative ways forward and who should be invited to attend and participate. Please send in your thoughts and ideas via the Comment button below.

Conference working title: What next after capitalism?

Conference venue: Emerson College, Forest Row, East Sussex, UK

Proposed date: Around Easter 2019

Basic premise: The world is hurtling towards disaster because of the way we treat the planet and people and this is a direct result of our current economic systems. We are not living with love for one another and the world. Does the conference accept/agree with this? Does the conference accept/agree the concept that the problem is our present model of capitalism?

Duration: 3 days

Day 1: THEME – What’s broken?

Establishing what’s not working and why, using examples from around the world. 20-minute “Ted type” talks on identifying what is broken.

Day 2: THEME – Alternatives

Looking at alternatives from around the world – examples of success and failures

Day 3: THEME – Call to Action

Leaving with determination, purpose and a clear set of realistic actions for each of the 3 themes.

Underlying structure: 3-fold. Cross-cutting themes throughout conference, including Economic, Cultural and Rights spheres, and taking in topics such as the impact of our present model of capitalism on the environment, global economy, banking, agriculture, medicine, company structures, shareholder system, developing countries and relations between people, etc

Our ideal will be to find a backer who will fully fund the conference so that attendance can be by invitation only. Our aim will be to put together a stellar group of keynote speakers and leading thinkers, and to invite top civil servants, social entrepreneurs, pioneers who are already doing the alternatives, academics, influencers and opinion-formers to attend.

I would be very grateful to receive via the Comments below your own thoughts, ideas and suggestions to develop this proposal – please suggest speakers, topics and a structure for each day of the conference. It would be a magnificent achievement if this conference could be a result of “crowdthinking” in action!

 

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Childish things

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, King James Version)

The writer C S Lewis, in his On Three Ways of Writing for Children, extended this thought of St Paul’s a little further:

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

The anthropopper finds that, as he gets older, he thinks more and more often of his childhood. Just lately, I have been remembering the first class in my first school, when I was 4 years old; and in particular I remember two children’s hymns that we sang then, perhaps because I find them to be as meaningful for me now as an adult as they were when I was a little boy.

Our class teacher was Miss Butterworth, whom I adored and intended to marry when I was a grown-up. I can still recall my bitter disappointment when the headmaster told us she had married a Frenchman and become Mrs Gillette.

Firs Farm v3

Class 1, Firs Farm Primary School, London N13 in 1955. Miss Butterworth is on the right and Miss Atkins on the left. The anthropopper is 4th from the left in the middle row.

Outside the house, the sun is shining and on the lawn the daisies and buttercups are strewn in profusion, like silver and gold stars among a grassy firmament. Inside, as I gaze out of the window at the garden, I can also see the classroom assistant, Miss Atkins, who is playing the piano, while Miss Butterworth teaches us the words:

Daisies are our silver,

Buttercups our gold;

This is all the treasure

We can have or hold.

 

Raindrops are our diamonds

And the morning dew;

While for shining sapphires

We’ve the speedwell blue.

More than sixty years later, I remember it all clearly, and sing the words to myself, conscious of moist eyes. You can hear the music, a hymn tune called Glenfinlas by K G Finlay (1882 – 1974), played on a church organ, here.

The hymnbook we used at my first school was called Songs of Praise, and I have wanted for some time to own a copy; so I was delighted on a visit to St David’s Cathedral in Wales to find it, including the music, on sale in the cathedral shop. From the list of credits, it is clear that the people behind Songs of Praise were very distinguished: the Words Editor was the Revd Canon Percy Dearmer (1867 – 1936), an ecumenist, socialist and advocate for the public ministry of women; while the Music Editors were the composers Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) and Martin Shaw (1875 – 1958).

percy dearmer

The Revd. Canon Percy Dearmer

Christopher Howse, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said that “It was brave of Dearmer to recruit the genius of Ralph Vaughan Williams … since the composer was formally an atheist, though he heard even in an errand boy’s careless whistling ‘nothing else than an attempt to reach into the infinite’ ”.

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Ralph Vaughan Williams in the 1920s (photo by E A Hoppe)

It was Martin Shaw who, during his work on Songs of Praise, came upon the traditional Gaelic hymn-tune Bunessan while researching in the British Library and then used it to set the words of Morning is Broken, which he had commissioned specially from his old friend Eleanor Farjeon. This tune and Farjeon’s words became a No. 1 hit for Cat Stevens in 1972.

 

geoffrey_and_martin_shaw

Brothers and composers – Geoffrey and Martin Shaw

Dearmer, Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw brought some of the best of their contemporaries into the hymnal project, including composers such as: Arnold Bax, Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, John Ireland, Arthur Somervell and Herbert Sumsion; and writers including : Laurence Binyon, Robert Bridges, G K Chesterton, Edmund Gosse, Laurence Housman, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield. They also commissioned many new hymns using verses from various great writers such as: Matthew Arnold, John Bunyan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Donne, Goethe, Robert Herrick, John Milton, Christina Rossetti, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Walt Whitman and Wordsworth.

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Jan Struther

One of these contemporaries was Jan Struther, who wrote Daisies are our Silver and several other hymns that were included in the revised 1931 version of Songs of Praise. Her literary name was a compression of her real name, Joyce Anstruther. Joyce had an interesting, rather tragic life and under her married name of Mrs Maxtone Graham was a member of the special committee formed in 1929 to support the work of enlarging the first version of Songs of Praise. During the 1939/45 war, she had much success (that later came to haunt her), with her creation of the character Mrs Miniver, which became a film of that name starring Greer Garson. The film depicted the everyday life and preoccupations of a middle class British family in wartime and was credited with helping to change public opinion in the USA about joining Britain to fight in the Second World War.

Lizette_Woodworth_Reese

Lizette Woodworth Reese

Martin Shaw’s brother, Geoffrey, was also a composer; and it was Geoffrey Shaw (1879 – 1943) who wrote the music to words by the 19th century American poet Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856 – 1935), Glad that I live am I, which is the second hymn I remember learning with Miss Butterworth and Miss Atkins:

Glad that I live am I,

That the sky is blue;

Glad for the country lanes

And the fall of dew.

 

After the sun the rain,

After the rain the sun;

This is the way of life

Till the work be done.

 

All that we need to do,

Be we low or high,

Is to see that we grow

Nearer the sky.

Such simple words are suitable for a child’s understanding, but also contain sufficient layers and compression of meaning to satisfy an adult’s need for truth. And who is to say that this is not good poetry? I am glad that it still seems to be meaningful for teachers and pupils today: you can hear Oaklands School in Loughton, Essex, singing it on YouTube at their school prizegiving in 2015.

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The UK’s Brexit and anti-globalisation general election

Apart from his efforts to bring about the Threefold Social Order after the First World War, Rudolf Steiner stayed away from involvement with politics. Indeed, he went so far as to say: “The Anthroposophical Society is averse to any kind of sectarian tendency. Politics it does not consider to be among its tasks.”  This is a line that many anthroposophists also take, for understandable reasons.

Despite this, I am going to write here about politics, because the forthcoming “snap” British general election, called by the British prime minister Theresa May to be held on June 8th 2017, is of such a momentous nature, with implications not just for the UK but also for many other countries around the world, that it surely deserves a wider anthroposophical perspective.

We have also just had the result of the presidential election in France, which was won decisively by Emmanuel Macron, leader of a new political party, En Marche! (On the Move!), whose name by a strange coincidence bears the same initials as his own. His defeated opponent, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National party, had one of the most devastating lines in their televised debate, when she said: “France is going to be led by a woman, either me or Frau Merkel” but her aggressive, hectoring style led most observers to conclude that she had lost the arguments.

(As an interesting aside, a respected clairvoyant suggested to me that Emmanuel Macron is an aspect of Napoleon Bonaparte, who has reincarnated to do what he can to compensate for all the death and destruction he caused during his life as Emperor of France. A fanciful notion, perhaps, but put pictures of Macron and Bonaparte side by side and there is a distinct resemblance. I shall watch with great interest how Macron approaches his task of seeking to unite a very divided nation.)

Macron Bonaparte

Macron Bonaparte (image via the blog Conseil dans l’Espérance du Roi)

The Eurozone economic crisis, combined with the cultural and social impact of its open borders policy, has led to the rise of far-right parties not just in France but in many EU nations: the very thing which defenders of the EU say it exists to counter. But discontent with the EU is only one factor; another important one, which applies much more widely than just within Europe, is that the bankers and money-men collectively bankrupted us a decade ago – and got away with it. The resulting surge of rage across the Western world unleashed the Brexit vote in the UK; it smashed the established French party system, so that neither of the main parties there was any longer even in contention for the presidency; and in the USA it carried Donald Trump all the way to the White House. The tide in favour of national self-determination and anti-globalisation appears to be running high in many countries right now.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I voted to leave the European Union during the referendum held on June 23rd 2016, and I gave my reasons here and here. Most anthroposophists I know took a different line, and voted to remain. There has been a lively discussion about all of this in recent issues of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain’s Newsletter. I don’t intend to repeat the arguments I made last year, but will add here a few further observations.

First of all, a glance back at the history of Britain and the European project, together with a question: why was it that Conservative and Labour statesmen such as Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin, as well as the great European Charles de Gaulle, were all against the idea of Britain joining what was to become the European Union? Was it because they all understood what the European project was about and realised that Britain was not a natural part of it?

Churchill de Gaulle

Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle

The case made by those in favour of joining the European Economic Community (such as Harold Macmillan, prime minister from 1957 to 1963) was that Britain’s relative economic and actual geopolitical decline after the Second World War left joining the rest of Europe as the only viable alternative. However, after the war and in the early 1950s, most British politicians were unable to see just how difficult Britain’s position had become; or perhaps some of them could see it, but weren’t prepared to tell the British people that our imperial pretensions could no longer be sustained. It was the Suez War of 1956 that revealed just how far Britain’s economy had weakened, and how dependent it had become on the USA.

Britain after the Second World War and into the 1950s resisted the idea of joining in any moves towards European integration. True, Churchill had publicly supported the idea of a United States of Europe, notably when he made the keynote speech at the Hague Congress that created the Council of Europe in 1948; though whether he ever envisaged Britain being part of any such union is very doubtful. Certainly, he was far less sympathetic to the idea of union by the time he had returned to power in 1951. Nor was the post-war Labour government in favour of any moves towards union that might cede sovereignty in any form. In May 1950 foreign secretary Bevin said that because of links with the USA and the Commonwealth, Britain was “different in character from other European nations and fundamentally incapable of wholehearted integration with them.” In any case, measures towards political union of any kind aroused him to vigorous rejection. ‘I don’t like it. I don’t like it,’ he famously said of the idea of the Council of Europe: ‘When you open that Pandora’s Box you’ll find it’s full of Trojan horses.’

Bevin and Attlee

Ernest Bevin and Clement Attlee

Most Conservative politicians agreed with him. So Britain failed to engage in the creation of the EEC in the Treaty of Rome of 1957, and then later tried but failed to remedy what had come to be seen as a mistake. For Charles de Gaulle had never forgotten that Churchill had once told him that “if we had to choose between France and the US, Britain would always choose the latter.” So when Britain finally tried to join the EEC, first in 1963 and then again in 1967, de Gaulle vetoed our applications. Giving his reasons in 1963 for saying “Non”, he commented: “England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her interactions, her markets and her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has, in all her doings, very marked and very original habits and traditions.”

De Gaulle also believed that Britain would represent American interests: it would be the US’s Trojan horse in the EEC. He had concluded that Britain was not committed to the goals of the EEC because, having withdrawn in 1955 from the original talks that led to the creation of the EEC, Britain had then proceeded to establish its own rival customs union (EFTA – the European Free Trade Association). In addition, he found the British both arrogant and self-important. Was de Gaulle wrong about any of this? I don’t think so.

This is all ancient and unfortunate history, some might say. Eventually, in 1973, Britain managed to join the EEC – but only after de Gaulle had left office. Nearly half a century later, we’re all Europeans and global citizens now, drinking our fairtrade coffee while we wait for our flight to some agreeable holiday destination. We like the idea of being able to move to any EU country for work, and in any case, without all those helpful Eastern Europeans coming to the UK, who will look after the elderly in our care homes or serve us our skinny latte?

Despite such compelling arguments, I voted to leave on June 23rd 2016, and thus opened myself up to accusations of racism, fascism, betraying young people etc from furious Remainers. Even so, I was somewhat bemused to find myself characterised by Michael Eggert, a German blogger, as someone who was siding with “neo-nationalist reactionaries” and “reflecting the internal arguments of the UKIP supporters.” He tells his readers that if they go to the anthropopper blog they will know what to expect if they are “familiar with today’s neo-right and open-fascist conspiracy theories. The ingredients for anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are the same, albeit with the pseudo-occult bluff arguments which so many believing Steiner supporters derive from his statements of 100 years ago.”

Actually, Michael, if I were pushed to define my political position, I would say that I lean towards anarcho-syndicalism with a deep green tinge. I thought I had taken great care in my Brexit essay to set out quite a distinct and principled position from a progressive standpoint – but perhaps the argument was too nuanced to pierce the hard shell of your cultural infallibility.

Leaving the uncomprehending Egoisten aside, I still remain baffled by the poor reasoning exhibited by so many Remainers; why is it, for example, that pro-EU people on the left or Green sides of the argument are so in favour of the European Union? What are they doing, these radicals who like to think of themselves as being in the forefront of the fight against globalisation, by fighting instead for an undemocratic, unaccountable trading bloc which is backed by the world’s banks, multinational corporations, financiers, and heads of governments? To listen to these Remainers, it’s clear that the decision to leave is being treated not as an opportunity to engage more fully with the wider world, nor a throwing-off of economic handcuffs or even simply as a change that must be accommodated after due democratic process, but rather as some kind of a national disaster.

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP and one half of the party leadership

And what is the Green Party thinking of, when it supports the EU? The EU cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as green. Has Caroline Lucas forgotten the continent-wide destruction created by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – the wiping out of hedgerows, forests and wildlife, landscape features, small and family farms, and the promotion of industrial farming and agricultural free trade – which has arguably done more damage to the rural landscapes of Europe in 50 years than any other single instrument in the previous 500? This of course is now being extended to Romania, Poland, Hungary and the other newer members of the EU, where we will once again see the destruction of the peasantry, wildlife and diverse landscapes and the introduction of monocultures and the triumph of agri-business.

As for the Labour Party, I confess I don’t know what their attitude to the EU is today, nor do I understand what their position is on Brexit. What I do know is that they have failed to provide any kind of leadership, or to show that they have any clue about what caused the vote to leave. It seems that they have already given up on any prospect of winning this general election and are now manoeuvring behind the scenes for the leadership election that seems likely to follow a heavy general election defeat for their party.

The weakness of the left and the Greens means that this general election campaign will be more or less entirely about Brexit – and if I am right about most people’s motivations for voting to leave the EU, then in some ways it is also a manifestation of anti-globalisation, as we have seen elsewhere around the world.

The ruthlessness and will to power of the Conservatives have been much in evidence ever since the country voted to leave. We saw this first of all in the leadership contest to succeed David Cameron and then in everything Theresa May has done since becoming prime minister, especially in the way she has called this general election after denying on at least six occasions that there would be any election before 2020. The chances are that we are in for an extended period of Conservative rule. This has huge consequences, most obviously for Brexit and the UK’s future relations with Europe, but also for the futures of Labour’s leadership, public services, and the constitutional outlook for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

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Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker (photo via the Daily Telegraph)

Mrs May has of course been fortunate in her enemies; nothing is better calculated to bring voters over to her side than leaked vindictive accounts from the aides of Jean-Claude Juncker of private dinners at Downing Street, or the threat of charging British taxpayers £100 billion because we were foolish enough to want to resign from the club. This is perhaps one reason why the Liberal Democrats were not able to make any kind of a breakthrough in the British local elections held on 4th May – as the one British political party which is unequivocally for Remain, they are now seen as supporting the vindictive and venal elite of the European project.

For the European Union has always been an elite project. Since it took shape in 1992, its architects have always been reticent about putting their project to the people. Referenda were rare, and if people voted the wrong way, as they did in Ireland or in Portugal, they were told to vote again until they gave the ‘right’ answer. The unspoken but clear aim has been to diminish, if not abolish, the democratic sovereignty of European nations, and to ‘pool’ that sovereignty in the interests of creating a giant, borderless free-trade zone. Of course, it was dressed up with talk of peace, equality and brotherhood, but it was primarily an economic project, as well as an attempt to keep Germany from becoming too dominant. (I wonder what happened to that?) People were not asked to vote on any of this, for a simple reason: it was clear they would say no. People remain stubbornly attached to their national identities, as we have seen in Britain, and as we see across the continent. This has been the EU’s fatal and quite deliberate flaw: it has never carried the people with it.

Were Rudolf Steiner alive today, he would not be giving his backing to the European Union as it has evolved. Why so many anthroposophists are unable to see this escapes me, because Steiner was quite clear about what should happen. He hoped for a threefold association of European nations that would themselves be threefold societies in which the cultural, legal-political and economic spheres would be clearly separated yet inter-related, his diagnosis being that Europe’s ills were caused by the interference of the three spheres with one another: business seeking to dominate the political state and the state seeking to dominate the cultural life (e.g. education). For the European level, Steiner looked forward to a common European economic life (which the EEC had started to provide), a common supranational European cultural life (which over the last fifty years has started to emerge in many ways) but to the maintenance of national values and traditions in the sphere of rights and law. It is this last point that the European Union, in its inept attempts to become a superstate, has completely failed to understand, and this is why Brexit became a necessity.

If Macron and others could begin to help the EU to reform itself along the lines indicated by Steiner, I would not hesitate to seek to rejoin such a community – and I think this would apply to many other people as well, not just in Britain but throughout Europe.

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