Tag Archives: Anthroposophy

How should we deal with evil?

I’m still reflecting on the phenomenon of evil that was the subject of my last post, and in particular the statement from Rudolf Steiner with which that post ended: “What people in our epoch must learn is the need to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution.”

Steiner was speaking at the time of the First World War. He was undoubtedly looking ahead to all the horrors that were to be visited on human beings in the 20th and 21st centuries and to our present time, in which unspeakable depravities are being committed, often in the name of God.

Rudolf Steiner exhorted people to wake up and to observe what was really going on, not only behind the façade of political and economic events but also beyond our immediate physical reality. Almost exactly 100 years ago, and not long after the Russian revolution, he spoke in terms that are just as relevant today:

“At the present time of severe trials it must be quite natural to anyone who has a heartfelt interest in the endeavours of anthroposophical spiritual science to reflect upon the relations existing between the fact that this spiritual-scientific movement started at the beginning of the twentieth century to send its impulses into the evolution of mankind and the other fact that mankind of the present age has been engulfed by catastrophic events. How catastrophic these events are for mankind has not yet been fully understood, for people are accustomed today to a life without the spirit. To live without the spirit, however, is to live superficially; and to live superficially causes human beings to sleep away the important impressions of the events taking place around them. To sleep through important events is a special characteristic of the human being of the present age. There are few people today who arrive at an adequate conception of the severity and incisiveness of present-day events. Most of them live from day to day.”

Why has there been this intensification, a kind of industrialisation, of the scale of evil on this Earth? And how can we wake up to what is really going on and begin to counteract “the evil that is making its way into human evolution”?

By way of context, I have written in an earlier posting about what Steiner called “the war in heaven” that took place over the period 1840 to 1879 between the Archangel Michael and the dark angels. I won’t repeat it here, except to say that since that time, when these dark forces were cast out of heaven and into the earth, they have been working within the blood and nervous system of human beings in an attempt to reverse both human and angelic evolution.

It is no coincidence that since the fall to earth of these dark angels, humanity has endured what must surely be the most terrible century in the whole of human history.

Rudolf Steiner speaks of the Archangel Michael who maintains the balance in the world between too much disembodied fantasy (dominated by Lucifer) and too much cold intellectuality and materialism (dominated by Ahriman). Lucifer and Ahriman are in Steiner’s view two polarities of evil but they are also actual spiritual beings, who are active within humanity. They are evil in the sense that they both strive to hinder the human being’s spiritual development. But Steiner does not have a simplistic view of Lucifer and Ahriman as merely oppositional to humanity; in a lecture given in Munich on February 17th 1918, he had this to say:

“The spiritual Beings, whose task it was to fight against the Michaelic principle, were the same ones whose task it was to bring differentiation into humanity, to split unified humanity into races and peoples, to bring about all those differences connected with the blood, with nerves, with temperament. This had to happen. We may call these spiritual beings who had to bring such differentiation into humanity “Ahrimanic” Beings. We may call them such, but we must realise that the Ahrimanic principle was a necessity in the whole course of human evolution.” (Schmidt Number S-3482)

Christ and Michael hold the balance between these two polarities and they work closely together, for Michael is known as the Countenance of Christ. By casting down the angels of darkness into the earth, it is almost as though Michael has inflicted a situation in which human beings have had to suffer far, far more than would have been the case if we had been left to our own devices. And here we come to a strange paradox, which is that the forces of both good and evil proceed from God.

This is a powerful reason why many people say they do not believe in God, for how can a god of love who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent allow phenomena such as Islamic State to exist? Yet initiates tell us that God has two aspects, which when understood and viewed correctly, enable us to see the purpose of evil. Evil can be viewed as the unevolved and undeveloped aspect of life, the force which tests us and absorbs and removes that which is unwanted. The illumined soul will not attempt to get rid of evil by attacking it, but by radiating love, light, beauty and truth.

I find this a difficult concept to understand and accept. If I were given the opportunity to prevent an assault on a Yazidi girl by killing the Islamic State fighter who had imprisoned and raped her, then I would choose to shoot him as though he were a rabid dog. I would take on that karma quite willingly. I don’t think that any amount of radiating love, light, beauty and truth would do much to save that young girl in such circumstances. Clearly, and as must be evident to all who know me, I’ve still some way to go before becoming an illumined soul. 🙂

Nevertheless, I can see that the general point holds, and that by fighting evil on its own terms, we are merely strengthening and perpetuating its effects. So what might Steiner have meant when he called on us to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution?

First, we need to understand what is the fundamental trait of all human evil. According to Steiner, speaking in Berlin on 15th January 1914, “all human evil proceeds from what we call egotism. In the whole scope and range of ‘wrong’, from the smallest oversight to the most serious crime, whether the imperfection or evil originates more in the body or in the soul, egotism is the fundamental trait which underlies it all… and that the path which leads beyond evil here in the physical world is the one upon which we combat egotism.”

But there is another paradox here, and it’s a tricky one, to do with the dual nature of the soul: qualities which in our physical sense-world appear as egotism, are the very same qualities which need to be strengthened and intensified if we are to ascend into the world of spirit. Steiner tells us that it is only when the soul has developed a self-rooted ego-strength that it can begin to rise up into the higher worlds of spirit; in other words, the soul in the spiritual world between death and rebirth is mainly concerned with itself and its own destiny resulting from its previous earthly lives. This is necessary because in the spiritual world the more a soul has strengthened itself and developed its potential, the more it can participate and serve the whole – the soul has to draw out from the ego what is inherent in itself, otherwise it has nothing to offer.

This strengthening and empowering of our ego in the spiritual world between death and a new birth is what enables us to prepare an incarnation in the physical world in which our outer thoughts and actions can become as unegotistic as possible. And it is only in the physical world, here on Earth, that we can find the conditions which allow us to overcome egotism. Earth gives us the opportunity to develop altruism and unselfishness, and to break the habit of egotism, so as to become more moral. It is by understanding this paradox that Steiner gives us the key to avoiding the evil that is otherwise inherent in each one of us:

“What does this dual nature of the soul actually mean for us? It means that we must be very careful not to falsely transpose something that has its rightful place in one world – the intensification of inner strength in the world of spirit – to another, the physical world, except when we are attempting to penetrate the world of spirit. It means that only evil will come of the human being allowing his earthly sense-nature to be permeated by this inner intensification and self-consolidation, even though this is exactly what the realm of spirit requires…what is absolutely necessary for spiritual progress, perfecting and intensifying one’s own being, is a source of evil and wrong if transposed directly upon the things of outer, physical life…Whether we enter the spiritual world through self-development or by passing over the threshold of death, we must dwell there within the inner strength of our being. Yet we cannot manage this unless we develop altruism in the physical world. Altruism in the physical world has its mirror-image in the rightful egotism needed in the world of spirit.” (ibid.)

This is quite a tough concept to grasp and to compound the difficulty, Steiner gives us here what seems to be a counter-intuitive understanding of the origin of evil:

“So we can begin to answer the question about the origin of evil and wrong-doing in the world. It comes about when we allow our better, higher nature (not our worst) to descend and be submerged in the physical realm, a realm which cannot as such be evil. It comes about when we develop qualities in the physical realm which do not belong there, which have their rightful place in the realm of spirit. Why do we have a potential for evil? Because we are also spiritual beings! Because we have to be able to develop those qualities when we penetrate into the spiritual world, which become bad when we apply them in the physical…What brings about evil is misapplying spiritual qualities to physical life. If we could not be evil, we could not be spiritual beings either. Without the characteristics which make us evil, we could not enter the spiritual world.” (ibid.)

Steiner also tells us that, since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the propensity for evil lies in the subconscious of every person, and that there is no crime, however dreadful, that each one of us, as people of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, does not have the potential to commit. And he asks:

“What on earth is the reason for these forces in the universe which infiltrate our being? They are certainly not there in order to bring about evil acts in human society. They no more exist to provoke us to criminal actions than the forces of death exist to make us die; they are present in the universe so as to awaken in us a propensity, once the consciousness soul has developed, for opening ourselves to the life of spirit…These forces of evil are active in the universe. We must assimilate them, and by so doing we implant in our being the seed which enables us to have conscious experience of the spirit. In the context of our social order they appear in a perverted form, but they really do not exist to incite us to evil acts. They exist to enable people at the stage of the consciousness soul to break through to the life of the spirit.”

These are indeed difficult ideas to understand, and they need much thought and reflection before one can begin to make any sense of them. But Steiner helps us by indicating where all these struggles will ultimately lead: the forming of a community of human beings with emancipated, independent and differentiated egos:

“This is the mission of the Earth, expressed through love: that one ego learns to encounter another in freedom. No love is perfect that proceeds from coercion, from being linked or bound together through necessity. Only when each ego is so free and independent that it can choose not to love, is its love an entirely free gift. This is really the aim of the divine plan – to make the ego so independent that it can offer the free, individual gift of love even to God…The ego therefore represents the promise of the human being’s highest goal. But if it does not find love, if it hardens inwardly, it is also the tempter that casts us into the abyss. Then it becomes what separates people from each other, leading them ultimately to the great War of All against All – not only the war of nation against nation (for the concept of nations will then no longer have anything like the significance it possesses today) but the war of each single individual against every other in all realms of life; the war of class against class, caste against caste, the war between different generations and races. In all realms of life, then, the ego will become the focus of strife and contention, which is why we say that it can lead both to the highest and to the lowest possible qualities.”

We are coming up to a very difficult period in human physical existence, which anthroposophists characterise as the actual incarnation in physical form of the great dark archangel, Ahriman. This will be the last of three unique incarnations of which Steiner spoke – the incarnation of Lucifer in about 3000 BC (believed by many to have been as the Yellow Emperor in China, he of the terracotta army); the incarnation of Christ in Palestine two thousand years ago; and the incarnation of Ahriman “before only a part of the third millennium of he post-Christian era has elapsed”, probably in America. Each of these incarnations is prepared for many years, indeed centuries, in advance, and we can see quite clearly already the kind of evil influences that the future Ahrimanic incarnation is bringing to bear upon our human societies. As I said earlier, the past one hundred years has been the most terrible century in the whole of human history and the evil is worsening and intensifying as we approach the actual incarnation. In a lecture given in 1919, Steiner told us the following:

“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.

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 recently attended a talk given at Emerson College by T.H (Thomas) Meyer, in which he reminded us of a passage towards the end of Steiner’s fourth Mystery Drama, The Soul’s Awakening. Thomas drew our attention to a scene between the initiate, Benedictus, and another character whom Benedictus at first does not recognise:

Benedictus:  Who are you, who come to shadow-life from out the chaos of my soul horizon?

Ahriman: (aside) He sees, but yet he does not recognise me and so he will not cause me painful terror when at his side I try to use my power.

(Ahriman then tries to tempt Benedictus with special spiritual knowledge but Benedictus does not take the bait.)

Benedictus: Whoever you may be, you only serve the good, when for yourself you will not strive, or when you lose yourself in human thinking, to rise anew in cosmic revolution.

Ahriman: It is high time for me to turn away in haste from his horizon, for when his sight can think me as in truth I really am, there will arise and grow within his thinking part of the power that will slowly destroy me. (Ahriman disappears.)

So the play is telling us that when we can see Ahriman as he really is, in all his manifestations and influences, then there will arise and grow within our thinking part of the power that will slowly destroy Ahriman. Our best way to prepare ourselves for the evil that is making its way into human evolution is to be alert to what is really going on; and to recognise Ahriman in all his guises and in all the countless ways in which his influence is affecting us and our fellow human beings.

In the same lecture I quoted last, Steiner said:

“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.”

I will be touching upon some of the more grotesquely distorted and evil aspects of our present-day economic life, and how these can affect the free and independent spiritual life, in my next post.

 

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Filed under Ahriman, Angels, Archangel Michael, Evil, Lucifer, Rudolf Steiner

Thoughts from Nice

The anthropopper is enjoying a few days off in France right now, house-sitting for his in-laws. They live in a hill village between Nice and Vence, with views over the Baie des Anges. Sitting here besides the pool, under the shade of an old olive tree, in the warmth of what the poet Apollinaire called “la paix solaire”, I watch a solitary eagle rising and circling on the thermal currents in the cloudless azure sky. The only sounds are the endless chirping of the cicadas and the chime of the clock on the church bell tower marking the hours. Occasionally, a gentle breeze sends a subtle waft of scent in my direction from the climbing jasmine at the corner of the house. An idyllic scene indeed, an earthly paradise.

And yet if I walk to the other end of the pool and look out towards the south-east, just beyond the valley of the Var river, I can see in the distance the artificial promontory into the sea on which sits the runway of Nice Airport, where our plane had landed three days before. Outside the airport, the palm tree and flower-lined Promenade des Anglais runs alongside the sea into the centre of Nice; and it was there, just a fortnight before we arrived, that a hired truck came to a halt outside the Hotel Negresco, unable to proceed further in its murderous rampage because of the quantity of mashed and mangled human bodies choking its running gear.

My wife met someone who knew one of the victims; all that had been found of her, the sole identifying feature, was one of her hands. Apart from the 84 people who were murdered, there are many others who have lost limbs and who will bear the physical and mental scars for the remainder of their lives. Some of the members of the emergency services who had had to deal with the aftermath are themselves suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, after seeing sights that no-one should ever have to witness. After the attacks in Paris, Nice and the even more recent murder in Normandy of an elderly priest celebrating Mass, France itself is in a state of shock and disbelief. La belle France, la douce France, how can it have come to this?

To try to gain some small insight into what is really going on right now, those of us who are anthroposophists will turn to what Rudolf Steiner had to say about the nature of evil. From his spiritual perception, Steiner was able to describe the various forces of evil in our time, as well as their main opponent, the Archangel Michael. In our materialistic and sceptical times, many people will find it difficult to take seriously the concept of spirits of darkness and beings of light; and yet for some of us, it is only when we take these concepts as worthy of serious consideration that we can begin to make some sort of sense of this battle of cosmic dimensions in which we are all involved.

Those of you who are familiar with anthroposophy or who have been reading this blog for some time, will be aware of Steiner’s concept of the two poles of evil, which he calls Lucifer and Ahriman, and which I have written about here. But there are other hierarchies of evil I have previously hesitated to mention because I find them too horrifying and disturbing; yet since it seems to me that what is happening now bears the unmistakeable stamp of these hierarchies, I shall have to face my own fears and go into the area of what St John in the Book of Revelation called “the two-horned Beast.” This two-horned Beast is the antithesis of the Being of Christ, and is designated by the mystical number 666. Rudolf Steiner interprets this number as signifying the name of the Sun Demon, Sorat, the adversary of Christ. It is Sorat’s goal to destroy both the human ‘I’ (the Self or ego) and the earth. 666 is also the number of those human beings who “out of their own cunning free-will have become black magicians by placing spiritual forces in the service of their own egotism.” (GA 104a, 21/05/09)

I am convinced that what we are seeing in the phenomenon of Isis, Daesh, Islamic State or whatever one calls it, is inextricably tied up with the workings of black magic. It is only when what Steiner calls the ABC of black magic is being practiced that humans actually set out along that route which will bring them to Sorat:

“The ABC consists in the pupil of a black magician being taught to destroy life quite consciously, and in doing so to cause as much pain as possible and to feel a certain satisfaction in it…The beginning in black magic is to cut and stab into living flesh … This draws the pupil closer and closer to the being described as the two-horned Beast.” (GA 104, 29/06/08) Steiner also says that: “in certain schools of black magic the followers are taught the horrible and diabolical practice of gashing living animals with a knife at the precise part of the body which will generate this or that force in the wielder of the knife.” (GA 94, 02/06/06).

My suspicion is that IS followers no longer bother to practice on animals but instead go straight to work on their human victims. They are even getting children to learn how to behead their hostages.

Steiner continues: “In no way can one so readily assimilate destructive astral forces as by killing. Every killing of a being possessing an astral body evokes an intensification of the most brutal egotism. It signifies a growing increase of power. In schools of black magic, therefore, instruction is first given as to how one cuts into animals.” (ibid.)

So murder, sex and the infliction of pain (we should note that these are also major preoccupations of our Western entertainment culture) are the essential prerequisites for black magic to unfold. The black magician gains sensual pleasure in cruelty; the urge to kill creates a void around themselves in the astral world in which their egotistic desires can unfold. This void in the astral world is created by acquiring power through seizing the life force of another living being, by deliberately killing or destroying it. The first rule of black magic is: Life must be conquered. (GA 94, 02/06/06)

It is in this context that we should look at the actions of the adherents of Islamic State. We should note first of all that many of the people who get caught up in it are very far from the ideal of the good Muslim. The driver of the Nice truck, a 31-year old Tunisian man, was known to police because of allegations of threats, violence and thefts over the last six years, and he had been given a suspended six-month prison sentence earlier this year after being convicted of violence with a weapon. The man’s father, who lives in Tunisia, has revealed that his son showed signs of mental health issues — having had multiple nervous breakdowns and volatile behavior. The man was also said to have had sex with both men and women, beaten his wife, taken alcohol and used drugs. Similarly, at least two of the men involved in the Paris attack at Le Bataclan music venue were people who smoked drugs, drank alcohol and had convictions for petty crime. So these were people who one could say did not have much of a stake in society and were vulnerable to manipulation by more powerfully-minded individuals.

Hitherto-suppressed reports are now starting to emerge from police who were involved in the aftermath of the attack on Le Bataclan in Paris. These police reports found evidence of torture on the bodies of some of the 89 victims. This includes the gouging-out of eyes, the cutting-off of testicles and stuffing them in the mouth of the victim, and the stabbing of female genitals. If these reports are true, they indicate that black magical practices of inflicting maximum pain, horror and humiliation while killing were being used.

While the Islamic State group is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, it is tightening its grip on the estimated 3,000 Yazidi women and girls held as sex slaves. These women were captured in August 2014 after IS overran Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, IS sells the women like packaged goods on smart phone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through IS checkpoints. In June this year, 19 Yazidi women who refused to have sex with IS fighters were burnt to death in iron cages in Mosul. For those that remain, multiple rape and beatings are the reality, these being techniques of black magical practice through which the oppressors can assimilate their victims’ astral energies. IS has actually issued a “rape handbook” to its fighters, with fifteen rules of how rapes may or may not be carried out on “infidel women”.

Steiner says that: “The black magician draws the most powerful forces out of the morass of sensuality. The purpose of sexual rites is to introduce such magic into these circles.” (GA 93a, 17/10/05)

The favoured IS method of beheading its victims (as seen in the UK with the attempted beheading of Fusilier Lee Rigby) or throat-slitting (as done with Fr Jacques Hamel in Normandy) are also standard black magical practices. Fr Hamel is reported to have said: “Va-t-en, Satan!” (Begone, Satan!) to his attacker. This is an exact naming of the force that was possessing his attacker, and by making it clear that he recognised what it was he was facing, the priest was helping to defuse the worst of the effects.

Those people who would seek to turn opinion against Muslims in the wake of such Islamic State atrocities should recall Steiner’s statement that after Christ’s crucifixion in what he calls the “Mystery of Golgotha” which blunted Sorat’s aim 2000 years ago, a second wave of attack came from Soratian forces in the 7th century AD through the Persian academy of Gondi-Shapur but this attack was largely thwarted by the creation of another counterforce – the religion of Islam. According to Steiner:

“Through the appearance of Mohammed and his visionary religious teaching, there was a deadening of the influence that was meant to go out from Gondi-Shapur. Above all, in those regions where it was wished to spread the Gnostic wisdom of Gondi-Shapur, Mohammed took the ground from under its feet…Here you can see the wisdom in world history; we come to know the truth about Mohammedanism only when, in addition to other things, we know that Mohammedanism was destined to deaden the Gnostic wisdom of Gondi-Shapur, to take from it the strong ahrimanically seductive force which would otherwise have been exercised upon mankind.” (GA 184, 12/10/18)

Furthermore, it was only though the convergence of Christianity and Islam during the period from the mid-sixth century to the thirteenth century that it was possible for our modern culture to come into being. In the monasteries of mediaeval Western Europe, Arabian concepts of philosophy and science started to influence Christian clerics.

So for us to turn against Muslims in the wake of IS atrocities is not only unjust and counter-productive, it also fails to recognise how the advent of Islam saved our own societies in the West all those centuries ago. To get through our present crises, fear and hatred are precisely the wrong answers. Instead, France, Germany, Britain and the rest will have to learn how to cherish and better integrate our Muslim citizens.

That is not to deny, however, that some current Islamic beliefs are in serious and urgent need of overhaul, particularly notions regarding paradise. A recent opinion piece by Kamel Daoud in the International New York Times contended that some Muslims, including those drawn to Islamic State, are giving up on any idea of improving life on Earth through independence, egalitarianism, development, wealth creation or justice. Their dreams have been destroyed by the authoritarian regimes, corruption and political failures in the Arab world, and the marginalisation of Muslims within Western societies. In their place, paradise is the new country dreamed of by the poor, the unemployed and the jihadists. Its main selling point is women, who are promised in vast numbers as a reward for the righteous. The women of paradise, the houris, are beautiful, submissive, languorous virgins.

This rather begs the question of what the Islamic paradise offers to women. If men can have dozens of virgins, what do the women get? It seems that the woman’s heavenly reward is to be her husband’s happy wife throughout eternity, the two of them destined to enjoy perpetual conjugal felicity (though presumably the husband is still taking full advantage of the houris).

But it cannot be ignored that this fantasy of eternal bliss requires that, before you can get to heaven, you first have to die. If you don’t have much else going for you here on earth, or if you are angry with the manifold injustices you see around you, then the prospect of a glorious death and entry into paradise may be tempting.

It does, however, take much more than a desire for paradise to turn a human being into the kind of creature that can force children into becoming soldiers who kill and behead hostages; that can throw homosexuals from rooftops; that can enslave and rape Yazidi women and girls in the belief that they are less than human; that can torture and behead its victims, bury them alive or burn them to death inside cages. For this, it takes black magicians who are able to create powerful egregora or thought forms, which can then take over the consciousness of those whose souls have become susceptible. Let us recognise what we are truly dealing with here: Rudolf Steiner speaks of human beings possessed by Sorat to such a degree that one could have every reason to doubt whether they are really members of the human race.

It was only in the twentieth century that humankind was first subjected to the Soratian attacks without the luciferic and ahrimanic masks that were previously used to lead human beings astray in preparation. We saw this with the decisions of politicans and generals in the First World War that led to 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded; we saw it in the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933 (the year when Steiner said more and more individuals would start to become aware of Christ in the etheric body of the earth), and whose racial extermination policies would lead to the death of 6 million Jews and an overall death toll during the Second World War of between 50 to 80 million; we saw it in the rulership of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, who was responsible for the deaths of 20 million of his fellow citizens; or of Mao-Tse-Tung, who between 1958 and 1962 was responsible for the deaths of 45 million people, who were worked, starved or beaten to death; or of Pol Pot whose Khmer Rouge were said to be responsible for the deaths of 2 million Cambodians. We saw it again in the massacre of up to 1 million Tutsis in Rwanda by Hutus in 1994, and in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place there. These examples from the last century could be multiplied and the present century is shaping up to be just as bad.

Whereas Ahriman’s aim is to lead us into an ever-intensifying form of brain-bound, earth-bound materialistic thinking, and Lucifer’s is to tempt us into believing that we are gods, the aim of Sorat the Antichrist, the Sun Demon, is to destroy the human ‘I” (the Self, the bearer of the Christ principle or the indwelling divinity in the human being) and to destroy the earth itself, which the ‘I’ needs for the future development of the human soul. Climate change, war, the sixth great extinction, genocide, materialism, racism, and human degradation – these are all facets of attacks from the same enemy. This is the true scale of the battle with which we are now engaged.

About this, Rudolf Steiner said: “What people in our epoch must learn is the need to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution.” In my next post, I will try to look at this in more detail.

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Filed under Ahriman, Anthroposophy, Black Magic, Evil, Islam, Islamic State, Lucifer, Mohammed, Rudolf Steiner, Sorat

Operation Redemption

In 1984, when I was in my 33rd year, I was at a point of crisis in most areas of my life, including work, marriage and other relationships. It was at this very low ebb of my life that I took a decision that was to change my future direction. I went to spend two weeks in the Findhorn Foundation in the north of Scotland.

I suspect if I had known more about Findhorn at that time I wouldn’t have gone, as I would have dismissed it as a nest of dippy hippies with weird ideas. But for whatever reason, I felt a pull towards Findhorn which in retrospect I think was coming from my higher self. So I enrolled myself in an Experience Week (the orientation programme that all newcomers to Findhorn have to do before they can take part in workshops or courses) and also signed up for the following week, which was Findhorn’s Spring Arts Festival.

During the Experience Week, participants spend the mornings in group work and the afternoons with one of the work departments such as Kitchen, Dining Room, Gardening, Housecare etc. When you arrive, you are asked to attune to which work department is the right one for you. I’m a keen gardener and of course had heard about the wonders of the Findhorn garden with its giant vegetables grown in little more than sand; and so I had thought that I would ask to go to the garden department. But no, try as I might to change it, an inner voice told me that I needed to join the housecare department. So I did, and was put to work cleaning bathrooms and windows. Now I hate housework at the best of times (which is perhaps why I had to do it) but strange to relate, I began to find a certain satisfaction in taking care of bathrooms and making them clean and shiny. At Findhorn, each of the bathrooms has a name and even a kind of personality, which seems to be brought out through the care and attention that it receives and the little touches, such as houseplants or other simple enhancements.

findhorn-gardens

The Findhorn garden

While cleaning bathrooms, I learnt the truth of Peter Caddy’s advice that to make the best of any situation you should love where you are, love who you’re with, and love what you do. This actually works, as it changes your consciousness towards any task, however mundane or tedious. Resentment at having to do menial jobs can be transformed by starting to care about what you’re doing and seeking to do it as well as you can. It helps you to feel better about yourself and your situation and also brings a certain sparkle to those objects with which you are interacting!

The mornings spent in group work with around twenty people from around the world and led by two facilitators from the Findhorn community, were sometimes exhilarating and sometimes challenging, as you are brought up (very gently) against your own areas where further growth or development is needed. The American author Paul Hawken, who in the 1970s wrote a book called The Magic of Findhorn, has described Findhorn as being like a greenhouse that accelerates the growth of people, which in my experience is quite true. There were times when I was thrilled and uplifted to be there and other times when for two pins I would have packed my bags and left. It was at one of these dark times when I went into the woods behind Cluny and leant against a tree, wondering why I had come and asking myself whether I should leave. Suddenly a voice came into my mind, which I knew was not from my own thoughts – it was somehow quite distinct and authoritative. There were two sentences, answers to the questions I had been asking: “This (ie Findhorn) is not for you, though it is good for you to see it.” And then: “The yeast is in the dough, let it work in its own time.” These two sentences gave me the courage and resolution to stay with the process and see it through, which I was able to do – and I stayed on for the second week, the Spring Arts Festival.

universal hall via findhorn.org

The Universal Hall at Findhorn (photo via the Findhorn Foundation)

The main venue for concerts, talks and performances during the arts festival was the Universal Hall, an extraordinary building which was constructed by community members. I read somewhere that, after it had been completed, an expert in sacred geometry asked the community whether they had worked consciously with the principles of sacred geometry as it was a perfect demonstration of how such a building should be made. The answer was that none of them had any knowledge or experience in this area but had simply done what seemed to them was needed.

It was in the Universal Hall that I found myself listening to a talk by Sir George Trevelyan, who during his lifetime was often called by journalists “the Father of the New Age.” Sir George was a craftsman furniture maker and adult educationalist who had been born into an aristocratic family with a penchant for radical thought and public service. His uncle was the historian and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, G. M. Trevelyan, a friend and contemporary of Bertrand Russell, another radical and outspoken aristocrat and grandson of the Victorian Prime Minister Lord John Russell. Sir George himself had had to relinquish hopes of inheriting the family property of Wallington in Northumberland when his father, who had been a Labour MP and minister in Ramsay Macdonald’s government, left it to the National Trust.

sir george via galacommunications.co.uk

Sir George Trevelyan – photo via gala communications.co.uk

I can’t from this distance recall the subject of Sir George’s talk but in a sense it doesn’t matter because his subject was always the same whenever he spoke: he was advocating spiritual renewal, which was not a religious revival, but an awakening that is available to those of all religions and those of none. What I do remember very well, though, is that during his talk I found myself thinking: “This man is mad, mad – and what’s more you’re mad for sitting here and listening to him.” At the same time, however, another part of me was saying: “Yes, yes, yes…” I date my own spiritual awakening to this talk. It’s interesting to me also that I’m writing this account 33 years afterwards.

I discovered subsequently that there was a strange parallel here with Sir George’s own spiritual awakening. In 1942, he attended a lecture given by Walter Johannes Stein, who was one of Rudolf Steiner’s pupils. He said later that, as Stein introduced the ideas of Steiner one by one: “Everything in me said yes, yes, yes.”

As Ruth Nesfield-Cookson observed: “Although the work of Rudolf Steiner was what led George into an interest in the spiritual he searched for the truth far and wide, in the work of Shakespeare, Goethe, Blake, Hopkins, the romantic poets etc., and also in the works of more modern thinkers including Teilhard de Chardin, Wellesley Tudor Pole, Grace Cook and the White Eagle teachings etc. And from his close link with Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, the leader of the Sufi movement in this country, he saw that the fruits of Eastern as well as Western thinking had to be considered and represented. He knew there were many routes up the mountain and no one route was right for everybody. However he never doubted that, to quote his own words ‘It is Cosmic Christianity we are about’ “.

caddys maclean via rejteyekszigete.com

Eileen and Peter Caddy with Dorothy Maclean (photo via rejteyekszigete.com)

In later years, I got to know Sir George a little better; his talks had the same awakening effect on thousands of people that I had experienced in 1984 and his book Operation Redemption is still well worth reading. I also met Peter Caddy, who with his wife Eileen and their friend Dorothy Maclean, were the three founders of Findhorn. In my view, both Findhorn and anthroposophy are deeply Rosicrucian impulses and both in their own way are interlinked with positive forces of change in the world. They have set into world consciousness, albeit in homeopathic doses, what will one day lead us away from disaster.

Anthroposophy, in what I call applied anthroposophy, offers many young tendrils of growth for a different and kinder future for us all, while Findhorn continues to offer a new story or narrative of how the world could be. Whether we as human beings will have the courage or imagination to make the necessary changes is not easy to foresee. I suspect that we are going to be brought right up to the brink of chaos and catastrophe before meaningful change can happen.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Findhorn Foundation, Rosicrucianism

Britain and the European Union – should we stay or should we go?

europe-flag via Reuters:Stefan Wermuth

Photo: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth via the Daily Telegraph

On 23rd June 2016 the British people will vote in a referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom should remain or withdraw as a member of the European Union.

This will be the second occasion on which the British people have voted in a referendum on their relationship with Europe (the first was in 1975) and it will be a highly significant moment in the history of the UK. I’ve been wondering about which way I shall vote, and whether anthroposophy can give any pointers to help me in my decision-making. This blog post is the result and is longer than usual, reflecting as it does just a few of the complexities involved in coming to a view on such a historically-charged issue.

The 1975 referendum

I’m old enough to have voted in the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should stay in what was then called the European Economic Community. At that time I voted Out, persuaded by the argument that the EEC was created in the interest of bankers and big business and was fundamentally undemocratic.

As Tony Benn of the Out campaign put it: “My view (of the EEC) has always been not that I am hostile to foreigners but I am in favour of democracy. I think they are building an empire and want us to be part of that empire, and I don’t want that.”

tony benn via the colossus.co

Tony Benn – photo via the colossus.co

However, most Britons came to different conclusions and the 1975 result was a landslide for the pro-Europeans. On a 65% turnout, more than two-thirds of voters backed British membership. Every part of the UK voted to stay in, except for the Shetlands and the Western Isles. It was the most emphatic endorsement of the European project the British have ever given.

The 2016 referendum

Forty years after that first British referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron has called a second referendum on 23rd June to try to quell a rising tide of anti-EU sentiment within the UK. By now, Mr Cameron is probably regretting his decision to hold a referendum, as far from shooting the UK Independence Party’s fox, its main effect to date has been to split his governing Conservative party apart.

cameron via uk.businessinsider

Prime Minister David Cameron – photo via uk.businessinsider

Angus Jenkinson, an anthroposophist and business consultant has written an interesting piece for LinkedIn, called The Fallacy of Brexit, in which en passant he looks at Cameron’s motives for holding the referendum:

“…In the first case, why are we having a referendum at all. Was a majority of the people of Britain calling for a referendum?  We are told not.  There are many people who would like to leave, the polls put it at 39%, but the betting houses are predicting we will vote to stay.  The real reason for the referendum is to deal with the politics of the Conservative Party. Approaching the last election, David Cameron needed to stop the haemorrhage of his fellow conservatives to UKIP.  He promised them a referendum after an election he did not think he would win. To his and the embarrassment of many Conservatives, others now wish to take the opportunity of a mass refugee migration to convince the public at large that it is time to leave. I do not see this as democracy but as the imposition of the internal politics of a party on the nation. It is nasty bureaucracy”.

Angus is firmly in the “Remain” camp and other friends and colleagues to whom I’ve spoken take the same view. We know that Rudolf Steiner felt that it was time for the age of nationalism and nation states to draw to a gradual close, and that would seem to accord with voting to stay within the EU. Probably most people in the circles I move in are also thinking of voting to stay in, on the grounds that we’re all European now and the EU is much better at environmental protection, human rights and general fair-minded decency than a British Conservative government is ever going to be. But is that the main or most important consideration?

What is the real issue?

To my mind, the issue is not Europe, with its great history, incomparable culture and diverse peoples – we shouldn’t confuse Europe with the EU. Nor is it that we in Britain need some European protection from the excesses of an unfettered and reactionary Conservative government. No, the issue is the European Union and the ultimate goal for the EU to become a superstate – the United States of Europe. Anglo-American elitists have been working hard behind the scenes to bring this about for more than a century now, because they see the United States of Europe not only as a bulwark of support for the USA in future struggles with Asia but also as the first phase in the formation of a system of world governance.

Here we come up against something that Rudolf Steiner warned about, which is the agenda of those behind what the first President Bush called in 1990 the “New World Order.” After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, Steiner made the following observation:

“… the actual victor is the being of  the Anglo-American peoples, and…this being…is destined to dominate the world in the future…It will be easy to win external dominion, for this will be done with the help of forces for which the winners can claim no credit. The transfer of external dominion will take place with the relentlessness of a force of nature…Will there be a sufficient number among those impelled to assume external dominion…who feel a responsibility for inserting into this entirely external materialistic dominion…an impetus for spiritual life? What is more, there is not much time in which this can be done. The middle of this century is a very important moment….the dominion of materialism bears within it the seed of destruction. To shoulder external dominion means to take on, and to live within, the forces of destruction, the forces of sickness in the world. Out of the new seed of the spirit will come something that can bear mankind onwards into the future. This seed will have to be nurtured, and those to whom dominion has fallen will be especially responsible for this.”

Rudolf Steiner, Ideas for a New Europe, lecture series in Dornach Dec 1919 to Feb 1920

Steiner is here saying that the elites of the Anglophone countries will be exerting a dominion in economic, cultural and political life in entirely materialistic terms and that this will lead inevitably to cultural disintegration and disaster. What is really interesting is that he is also saying that it is the people in these English-speaking countries who will have to find a way to counteract these forces by planting the new seed of the spirit that can bear humankind towards a better future.

The European Union and its part in the New World Order

The ultimate goal of these elites is world government, the first phase being the creation of the United States of Europe. This phase started in 1951 with the European Coal and Steel Community, which then became the European Economic Community, and which is currently the European Union. The second phase of the drive to world government is the creation of a Pan-American Union. Preparations for this have already been put in place with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the USA. The third phase, the one which will be most difficult of all to achieve due to the disparity of cultures involved, is to convert the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum into an Asian Union.

This New World Order and the move to world government has been planned by the current elites such as the Bilderberg Group, the World Economic Forum at Davos and their forerunners such as the Pilgrims, the Skull and Bones Club, the Cecil Rhodes/Alfred Milner group for many, many years and has involved many well-known statesmen. Here, for example, is Winston Churchill in a speech at the Albert Hall given on 14th May 1947:

“The creation of an authoritative, all-powerful world order is the ultimate aim towards which we must strive. Unless some effective World-Super-Government can be set up and brought quickly into action, the prospects for peace and human progress are dark and doubtful. But let there be no mistake upon the main issue.  Without a United Europe there is no sure prospect of world government. It is the urgent and indispensable step towards the realisation of that ideal”.

Ironically, Churchill who was an old-fashioned imperialist, never envisaged Britain as part of what became the EU. He felt that the British Empire should endure and, as someone born to an American mother and a British father, saw Britain and America working together to spread Anglo-American values throughout the world. He must have felt betrayed when it became clear after the Second World War that, through the Marshall Plan, the American government was bent upon depriving Britain of its colonies and taking for itself much of the trade with those countries.

Winston Churchil AP Photo

Winston Churchill – photo via AP Photos

Back in 1947, Churchill saw himself as a patrician doing his best for the decent people in the lower orders:

“What is it that all these wage-earners, skilled artisans, soldiers and tillers of the soil require, deserve, and may be led to demand? Is it not a fair chance to make a home, to reap the fruits of their toil, to cherish their wives, to bring up their children in a decent manner and to dwell in peace and safety, without fear or bullying or monstrous burdens or exploitation, however this may be imposed upon them? That is their heart’s desire. That is what we mean to win for them.”

Churchill’s heart was in the right place and those things he listed may well be what millions yearned for; but the ordinary people were not to be allowed to seek for them in their own way, democratically. They were not to be told the ultimate goal but were to be led by a series of little lies and evasions along the path which the international elite had already determined would best satisfy the yearnings of the many – a United States of Europe that would be ‘little sister’ to the USA’s ‘Big Brother’.

The United States of Europe and the road to world government

An example of how this worked in practice was the way in which British citizens were lied to from the 1960s onwards, when the British government first began to try to persuade the British people that joining the EEC would be in our interests because it would make Britain richer and more prosperous; it was presented as merely a kind of economic club, the purpose of which was to increase trade. Had we been told from the beginning that the goal of the EEC was to do away with Britain’s national sovereignty and to incorporate Britain as just one member state of a centralised federal union, we would never have voted for it. But that goal of a United States of Europe – for Winston Churchill, for Jean Monnet (founding father of the EU), for US statesman Dean Acheson, for President John F. Kennedy, for former Prime Minister Edward Heath (who took Britain into the EEC) and many other prominent transatlantic figures – was in fact always the destination, on the long road to a world government.

World government, after all, sounds quite benign – until you look at the words of those who are planning for it. Here’s Brook Chisholm, former director of the UN World Health Organisation, in 1991:

“To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family traditions, national patriotism and religious dogmas.”

And here is the famous French naturalist Jacques Cousteau, also in 1991, quoted in the UNESCO Courier:

“It’s terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilised and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per year. “

UNESCO has previous form here. In 1948, for instance, Julian Huxley, the British scientist and first head of UNESCO (and brother of Aldous Huxley), wrote:

“Even though…any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is handled with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that is now unthinkable may at least become thinkable.”

rockefeller image via beforeitsnews.com

Image via beforeitsnews.com

And in a meeting of the Bilderberg Group in 1991, David Rockefeller, President of the Council of Foreign Relations and of Chase Manhattan Bank said:

“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promise of discretion for almost 40 years…It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practised in past centuries.”

Yes, surely we would all be much happier with an intellectual elite and world bankers deciding everything for us – except that following the financial crisis of 2008 we now know where that leads. We are all still paying for it, while our public services are slashed to pieces or privatised, and by contrast the bankers are unpunished and continue to take huge risks within a financial system that is still largely unreformed.

Rudolf Steiner’s warning about a world dominion based solely on economic advantage

“A fundamental concept for the western areas which are so mired in platitudes must be to see the social organism as something living. And one sees it as living only when it is considered in its threefold nature. It is just those whose favorable economic position allows them to spread an [economic] imperialism over practically the whole world who have the terrible responsibility of recognizing that the cultivation of a true spiritual life must be poured into this imperialism. It is ironic that an economic empire which spread over the whole world was founded on the British Isles and then when they were seeking mystical spirituality turned to those whom they had economically conquered and exploited. [India — Tr.] The obligation exists to allow one’s own spiritual substance to flow into the social organism. That is the awareness which our British friends should take with them, that now, in this worldwide important historic moment, in all the world’s economic institutions where English is spoken, the responsibility exists to introduce true spirituality into the exterior economic empire. It’s an either/or situation: Either efforts remain exclusively oriented towards the economy — in which case the fall of earthly civilization is the inevitable result — or spirit will be poured into this economic empire, in which case what was intended for earthly evolution will be achieved. I would like to say: Every morning we should bear this in mind very seriously and all activities should be organized according to this impulse. The bell tolls with extreme urgency at present — with terrible urgency.”

Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, Feb 22 1920 Lecture 3, The History and Actuality of Imperialism

Britain is told to step back in line

cameron obama via metro.co.uk

President Barack Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron wave from the steps of 10 Downing Street, London before a meeting Friday, April, 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

If we needed any further convincing that the USA is angry with Britain about the referendum, all it will have taken was the recent visit of President Obama to London and his extraordinary threat that Britain would be at the back of a 10-year long queue to negotiate a trade deal should we be foolish enough to vote Leave. Let us put aside for the moment the irony that the leader of a country that was founded after fighting for independence from a foreign empire is now seeking to convince the British that they don’t need their own independence from a latter-day empire. Let us also discount the warnings of no less than eight former US Treasury secretaries of the dangers ahead if Britain leaves the EU. All I will say is that we don’t have a trade deal with the USA at the moment (neither does the EU, although it’s currently negotiating one in secret) and yet we seem to be trading perfectly satisfactorily without one.

The threat of TTIP

And why is the USA so insistent that we shouldn’t leave the EU? Could it be anything to do with the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated in secret between the EU and the USA? There is concern that TTIP will enable companies to sue governments where state measures harm profits.  It will also open up Europe to rapacious US corporations, keen to find new profitable areas to exploit through the privatisation of our health and education services.

Richard House in an excellent article for News Network Anthroposophy has described what is likely to happen to our education system once forced academisation (preparing the ground for TTIP) comes in. However, TTIP is much more about power than about trade, and if national governments are faced with the possibility of very expensive lawsuits from very wealthy corporations should these governments have the temerity to introduce policies that hinder the corporate sector’s pursuit of profit so as to protect the environment or workers’ rights (which is what will be possible through TTIP) then these governments are far less likely to introduce those policies. This will be even more the case in poorer countries.

Iain Dale via LBC

Iain Dale -photo via LBC Radio

The Conservative media commentator, Iain Dale, has just woken up to the dangers of TTIP, and has written in his blog:

“Until this week, we only suspected what its contents are. Its drafting was so secret that the European Commission banned any knowledge of the negotiations. Anyone who revealed the contents were threatened with criminal proceedings. This week, a draft of the agreement was leaked to Greenpeace and it makes for pretty horrifying reading.

One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect, it means that unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically-elected governments.

For example, if the Government introduces an environmental tax on fracking which affects the profit of a US mining company, they can sue for loss of profits. Totally outrageous. It also forces public sector organisations such as the NHS to effectively open up all their services to privatisation. Now that may be a good idea, but it is our Government that should decide to do this – not TTIP.

US-manufactured GM food products will be forced on EU countries who currently ban them. I could go on. It’s an issue which even many Remain supporters are uncomfortable with. In essence it’s an affront to democracy. There is some debate about whether national governments have a veto over its final draft. Some say it is subject to Qualified Majority Voting. In my opinion, it’s so important that there should be a referendum on it in each of the 28 countries.”

The European multinationals want us to stay in

The European corporate sector, as represented by the CEOs of Philips, Volvo, Shell, Fiat, Nestle, BP etc, is also very keen that Britain should stay in the EU. They all belong to an organisation based in Brussels called the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT). It’s a private club whose only members are the CEOs of the biggest European multinational corporations.

The ERT was instrumental in forming the single market in the first place, in 1985. The aim of the ERT (and of the single market) is to promote growth and to orient the European economy towards exports, in order to obtain greater global market share for European corporations. ERT members are on very close terms with European Commissioners – they dine at each other’s homes, they meet regularly during work hours and they provide commissioners with places on the boards of their corporations in a classic example of the “revolving door” between government and the multinationals.

Many reports originating from the ERT end up as Commission policy almost word-for-word. For example, the ERT decided that we need to expand the motorway network in Europe, to facilitate growth and exports, and almost exactly the same map that they produced was used by the Commission and adopted by the European Parliament.

The Global Redesign Initiative

But the best-laid plans of these elites can still go awry, partly through increased access by ordinary people to hitherto confidential information via the internet (viz Edward Snowden), and partly by unforeseen world events which are having a massive impact on people’s lives. Recently we can see that at least one of the wheels has fallen off the New World Order project bandwagon. In particular, the prospect of creating a United States of Europe is receding into the distance as the monetary union fiasco and migration disasters have demonstrated the inability of the EU to operate effectively in the interests of its members.   And so the global elites and the corporations have come up with their best – and most scary – idea yet: the Global Redesign Initiative.

Their argument is that when it comes to tackling global problems, nation-states and their public politics are not up to the job. They must therefore be replaced by a much more efficient new system in which ‘stakeholders’ –- that is transnational corporations, a few powerful governments, selected intellectuals and invited members of ‘civil society’ – will henceforth manage the world’s affairs together. Governments will become merely one actor among several running global affairs.

Dr Harris Gleckman via YouTube

Dr Harris Gleckman of the Transnational Institute – photo via YouTube

National governments can no longer control transnational corporations, and can no longer govern their own countries. If they try, in ways that inconvenience multinational corporations and their investors, those investors will remove their money from that country and force it to change direction. There is an excellent video entitled “How do corporations want to run the world in future?” featuring Dr Harris Gleckman of the Transnational Institute, who explains what the Global Redesign Initiative is all about.

The economic arguments for staying in

What about the economic arguments for staying in? The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has been trying to scare us with some truly absurd future scenarios. But what does seem to be the case is that Britain’s annual EU subscription of some £10 billion each year actually gives us nothing in return – yes, nothing, for the figure is calculated after netting off everything British farmers and scientists and others at present receive from the EU.

I’m no economist and I can be pulled this way or that by convincing-sounding arguments put forward by either side. But I’ve recently read a very good and evenly-balanced post on the “Notes on the Next Bust” blog, which comments on the UK Treasury’s report detailing the costs to Britain of leaving the EU. To my mind, it makes it clear that no-one actually knows what would happen and that it is far from certain that leaving the EU would be detrimental to Britain.

Can the EU reform itself?

This has been a longer-than-usual posting and I’ve not even touched upon some other important issues such as: the lack of democracy in the EU structures, the lack of effective measures to deal with security and defence, terrorism, money laundering and tax evasion, immigration, etc. One European response is to say that it just proves how we need “more Europe”: if only the EU had more overall power and less internal squabbling then for example it could maintain its own borders. In theory, perhaps, this is true, but experience is telling us that the EU is, by its constitution and because of its sprawling size, a system of bureaucratic regulation, but not a system of democratic, decision-making government whose citizens can believe in it.

We should always remember that changes in the EU to make it less corporate-centred and less signed up to the neo-liberal agenda are more or less impossible, because they would require changes to the Treaties; and these treaties can only be changed by the unanimous vote of 28 countries.

Rudolf Steiner’s ideas for a new Europe

Rudolf Steiner via Adoc photos - Corbis

Rudolf Steiner – photo via Adoc Photos/Corbis

What did Steiner want for Europe? Steiner 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, a common supranational European cultural life but to the maintenance of national values and traditions in the sphere of rights and law.

That’s what I’d like, too. It can still be worked for, when the moment is right.

We British are not going to be able to reject our corporate-controlled national government quite yet, but on 23rd June we have an opportunity to reject the European version. With luck and a fair wind, that will then provide some encouragement for us to join other people around the world to start creating the new and different story we all need so desperately.

 

 

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Brexit, European Union, New World Order, United States of Europe

The surpassing strangeness of Rudolf Steiner

What a hornets’ nest one brings about one’s ears when trying to write honestly and rationally about Rudolf Steiner and some of the more difficult issues of interpretation concerning his speeches and writings.

When in my last posting on this blog I suggested that Steiner was not seen at his best in the comments he made on French language and culture during his meetings with the teachers at the first Waldorf school, this provoked reactions all round among both pro- and anti-Steiner factions. Some of the pro-Steiner people adopted a tone of regret that I had been so naïve as to go into such troubled territory. One commenter said: “He (Steiner) gives his usual thorough attention to the concern of switching from French to Russian.  The remark in question, concerning the transplanting of the black race into Europe, is being misunderstood.  Unfortunately, it is Jeremy that is instigating it as an indication of Steiner’s racial prejudice”.

Of the anti-Steiner people, Tom Mellett was gleeful to see that there were one or two anthroposophists who were prepared to acknowledge that Rudolf Steiner was a fallible human being as well as a high initiate, while struggling to conceal his relish that there was dissension in the Steiner camp. The real attitude of the antis, however, was displayed by their intellectual guru, Peter Staudenmaier, who commented: “When the denizens of the more clueless corners of the English-speaking anthroposophical world profess themselves shocked, shocked! at discovering some rebarbative passage by Steiner, they have no idea how much else they are missing. Until they learn more about what their founder actually taught, it will be hard for them to make basic sense of their own ideological inheritance”.

Well, mote and beam, Staudi, mote and beam. Though I have in the past expressed gratitude to him for his genuinely useful work in bringing little-known (to me, at least) information about the history of anthroposophy and anthroposophists, Staudi’s weakness is that he does not seem able to move beyond his antipathy towards Steiner so as to see the man as a rounded whole, in his greatness, his strangeness and his humanness.

Add to this Staudi’s unfortunate habit of treating anthroposophists with contempt and scorn when they do not know or agree with everything he knows or thinks he knows, and we end up with very little chance of a reasonable dialogue – which is quite a missed opportunity.

I wonder why it is so difficult for people to take on board the fact that Steiner was not only a remarkable phenomenon, a truly great man with a huge range of achievements but also a human being, which by definition implies fallibility? Human beings are dualities, as Steiner himself taught; that is to say, each one of us has a light side and a dark side. Why is there such a need, among both pro- and anti-factions, for Steiner to have been a perfect human being, incapable of error? Is it an impossible paradox that someone, whose formative years were in the latter part of the 19th century in Central Europe and whose main work was in the early years of the 20th century, should be at one and the same time not only a high initiate with access to extraordinary knowledge and wisdom but also a man of his time, with some of the attitudes of his age and nation?

steiner-marie-rudolf

Marie and Rudolf Steiner

I don’t agree with those anthroposophists who engage in all sorts of casuistry to demonstrate that Steiner didn’t have any racism in his outlook. I do agree with Dr Adrian Anderson, who in his paper Opponents and Critics: Criticism of Steiner and Anthroposophy, says the following:

“… Anyone who can discern the spiritual integrity of Steiner, as evidenced in his teachings on ethics and spirituality, is aware that he was certainly not a person who harbours dislike, and encourages hostility of, people based on their racial characteristics. Those who study Steiner carefully, encounter ideas which have a profoundly spiritual nature. But this argument is of little weight with those who cannot, or do not want to, see the integrity of Steiner.

For example Steiner mentioned, in what amounts to a direct and total breach of modern anti-racism criteria, that the colour of the skin itself is an expression of various etheric and astral energies, and that these give a specific tone to the way the human mind manifests. It is true that when he was talking about this, he emphasised that the worthiness of the human being itself, of any racial origin, is not the theme, and is not being assessed in his lecture. But despite these words, any person today in assessing Steiner’s works against the modern definition of racism, has no option other than to conclude that they are to be defined today as racist; for logically viewed, this is simply the fact of the matter. And students of Steiner need to note this fact well”.

As I said in the previous posting, readers today need to come to their own conclusions about which Steiner they are meeting when they read any of the forty volumes of his writings or the thousands of lecture transcripts. Are they reading Steiner the initiate, or Steiner the man of his time, or Steiner the fallible human being? For myself, there are many times when I feel exalted, inspired and humbled by what Steiner has written or spoken and those passages are the ones that I take to have come from Steiner the high initiate. There are other times, but only a few, when I find passages by Steiner to be simply bizarre, plain wrong or even offensive. On occasion, when one looks more deeply into the matter, it’s possible to see that Steiner is unfolding some really interesting and difficult ideas that challenge our present-day attitudes and opinions; and sometimes one thinks he is just way off-beam and the sheer strangeness of his thought seems very remote from our life and times. But my overriding impression is of Steiner’s great love for all humanity, his vision of our future, his genius and his wisdom.

There are some people, of course, who for whatever reason, can never begin to approach the surpassing strangeness and visionary genius of Rudolf Steiner with anything other than antipathy or hatred. Marie Steiner wrote about this after his death:

“… On 30th March, 1925 Rudolf Steiner passed away.

His life, consecrated wholly to the sacrificial service of humanity, was requited with unspeakable hostility; his way of knowledge was transformed into a path of thorns. But he walked the whole way, and mastered it for all humanity. He broke through the limits of knowledge; they are no longer there. Before us lies this road of knowledge in the crystal clarity of thoughts …. He raised human understanding up to the spirit; permeated this understanding and united it with the spiritual being of the cosmos. In this he achieved the greatest human deed. The greatest deed of the Gods he taught us to understand; the greatest human deed he achieved. How could he escape being hated with all the demonic power of which Hell is capable?

But he repaid with love the misunderstanding brought against him”.

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Jeremy Paxman and Rudolf Steiner on French language and culture

Jeremy Paxman, the BBC broadcaster who hosts University Challenge and was formerly the anchorman on the Newsnight programme, has upset French speakers by attacking their language as “useless” and saying that the French nation’s achievements are “long past”. According to Mr Paxman, learning French instead of English, especially in Francophone countries such as Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, sets people back in the modern world. Paxman went on to say:

“No one is going to deny that, historically, France has enhanced civilisation. European culture would be a thin thing without Montaigne, Descartes, Debussy and Cézanne, to say nothing of the dictator’s dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The problem is that it is all long past and the new world is anglophone. In the centuries-long struggle between English and French there is one victor, and to pretend otherwise is like suggesting that Johnny Hallyday is the future of pop.

The outcome of the struggle is clear: English is the language of science, technology, travel, entertainment and sport. To be a citizen of the world it is the one language that you must have.”

Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman – photo via The Guardian

 

Needless to say, Paxman’s attack has riled a great many people, not all of them French. It also reminded me of something I had read in the Conferenzen (the record of Steiner’s meetings with the teachers at the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart) so I went to look it up. Sure enough, in the meeting which took place on Wednesday 14th February 1923, one of the participants, Dr Karutz, brought a proposal to replace the teaching of French with another language such as Russian. Rudolf Steiner responded at some length to this proposal. What he had to say would have been music to the ears of Jeremy Paxman:

“…The fact is that what France is doing today is like the last throes or the last frantic outburst of a declining nation, a nation that is fading out of earth evolution, only in history these last throes last a long time. A spiritual view of European history shows this aspect very clearly, of course. The French character is the first vanguard of decadent Rome, the declining Romanic nations of Europe…

Now this whole phenomenon of decadence in French national culture is not least visible in their language. The French language is one of those languages one can learn in Europe at present which, if I may put it like this, drives man’s soul to the very surface of his being. It would be the one in which, to put it paradoxically, it is easiest to tell lies honestly. It lends itself most easily to telling lies candidly and honestly, because it is no longer connected with man’s inner nature. It is spoken entirely on the human being’s surface.

This determines the soul attitude of both the French language and the French character. The soul bearing is such that the French language takes command of the soul. Whilst with a German person the inner configuration of the language puts the soul under the domination of the will element, the moment you speak French it has a numbing effect and takes over command. It is a language that violates the soul and therefore makes it hollow, and thus under the influence of the language, French culture hollows one out. Anyone who has a feeling for these things can always sense that in fact no soul is forthcoming in the French character, only a culture which has grown formal and rigid. The difference is this, that in French you are dependent on the language taking command over you. In French you have not got that endless freedom that you have in German, and which we ought to make use of, the freedom to put the subject in any position we like, all according to its inner significance.

It is not for pedagogical reasons that French is included in children’s education….The aim was to give French the status which Latin had had at the grammar school. They pretended that French had the same educational value as Latin. But this is not true. Latin always contains an inner logic. If you learn Latin you imbibe logic instinctively. This is not the case with French. The French language is no longer based on logic but has become mere phraseology… – and French no doubt does have a fundamentally alienating effect on the children, so that we would certainly like to see the teaching of it gradually disappearing for reasons of its innate quality. It is also quite obvious that in the future it will go.”

One can imagine Jeremy Paxman nodding his head vigorously in agreement, were he ever to read these things. To me, however, these passages show Steiner in a pretty poor light. One has to enter a caveat here about the Conferenzen transcripts, relying as they do on shorthand records, which may have been of a fragmentary nature. But whenever there was an extensive address by Steiner, as in this case, the transcripts can usually be considered as reasonably authentic. So it seems likely that these were indeed Steiner’s views on the French language and culture.

Here we encounter a difficulty which modern-day readers will come across from time to time, where they will need to decide which Steiner they are meeting. By this I mean:

Is it Steiner the great initiate?

Is it Steiner the man of his time and nation?

Is it Steiner the fallible human being who can make mistakes?

In the passages above, we are not seeing anything of Steiner the initiate, but rather Steiner as a man of his time and nation. We should remember that he was speaking less than five years after the end of the First World War, a war which Germany had lost decisively. Could it be that behind his remarks there lies a kind of anger that the Central European culture of which he himself was such an ornament, had been so overthrown and shattered; whereas the French, on the coat-tails of the British and Americans, had found themselves on the winning side. This is surely Steiner speaking from the “normal” level of consciousness rather than the sublime; it could also be Steiner the man, who sees clearly the same shortcomings in French language and culture that have been identified by Jeremy Paxman, but is expressing himself with a chauvinistic bias that undermines any objectivity that might otherwise be there.

Steiner goes on to express his view that the school will have to teach French for the time being because it is necessary for the pupils to reach examination levels in languages in a sound pedagogical way by the time they are eighteen. He says: “Taking it for granted that it is justified that our pupils have this opportunity of attaining certain educational levels, it is necessary that we plan our language lessons the way we have to. We must swallow the pill until something different arises”.

Steiner, Marie Steiner, Wegman

Rudolf Steiner, flanked on his right by Ita Wegman and Marie Steiner on his left.

 

Steiner then returns to what I can only describe as his prejudiced views:

“As a language French is deader than Latin was in the Middle Ages when it was already a dead language. In the case of Latin there was more spirit alive in it when it was ecclesiastical and dog Latin than there is in French today. It is the French temperament, their blood, that keeps their language going. The language is actually dead, and the spoken language is a corpse. This appears most strongly of all in the French poetry of the nineteenth century. No doubt about it, the soul becomes corrupted through using the French language. It gives one nothing except the possibility of a certain phraseology. And people who speak French with enthusiasm proceed to transfer this to other languages. It is also possible at the present time that the French will even ruin their own blood, the very element which has kept their language going as a corpse. That is a terrible thing the French people are doing to other people, the frightful cultural brutality of transplanting black people to Europe. It affects France itself worst of all. This has an incredibly strong effect on the blood, the race. This will substantially add to French decadence. The French nation will be weakened as a race”.

This is quite shocking stuff from Steiner and of course it is nonsense. Steiner was clearly speaking here as an Austrian of his times and as a fallible human being who makes mistakes. To describe French poetry of the nineteenth century as a corpse, which presumably includes the poetry of Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarme, is simply to be absurd; one suspects that Steiner’s real problem was with the sensual and sexual elements of these poems. He would no doubt have regarded Baudelaire and Verlaine as decadent and depraved, which is rather to miss the point made by St Julian of Norwich that “sin is behovely” (useful or necessary) in our development as human beings, and that ultimately “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” – while in the meantime, the work of these French poets is part of the patrimony of human culture in the West.

The comment on black people is grossly offensive and typical of the prejudices of his times. The man who was speaking here was not the same Steiner who could speak the following out of his higher self: “What must never be forgotten is that the proclamations to the Shepherds and to the Kings contained a message for all mankind – for the earth is common to all. In that the revelation to the shepherds was from the earth, it was a revelation that may not be differentiated according to nationality. And in that the Magi received the proclamation of the sun and heavens, this too was a revelation destined for all mankind. For when the sun has shone upon the territory of one people, it shines upon the territory of another. The heavens are common to all; the earth is common to all. The impulse of the ‘human universal’ is in very truth quickened by Christianity.”

To return to the teacher-meeting: after all this, a teacher says that French has been abolished in Bavarian state schools and Steiner comments: “If it suggests itself here (i.e. were the Bavarian decision to be repeated in Wurttemburg), we shall shed no tears over the French language. Perhaps the French teachers will say something?” One can imagine the poor French language teachers who had had to listen to this demolition of their subject and who must have felt as though they had been absolutely flattened, both in terms of self-worth and in the eyes of their colleagues, just recovering themselves sufficiently to stammer out a feeble response: “We could not do it just on the spur of the moment”.

What do French teachers in today’s Steiner Waldorf schools make of all this, I wonder? In the meantime, I note that one of the new publicly funded schools, the Steiner Academy Frome, does not teach French, nor even German, but only Spanish and Mandarin. Jeremy Paxman would no doubt approve.

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Thoughts on Easter

Tablehurst sheep and lamb

Proud mother and 10-minute old lamb at Tablehurst Community Farm

 

After a hectic but very enjoyable Lambing Day on March 19th, with hundreds of visitors at Tablehurst Farm, we went in the evening to Lewes, the county town of East Sussex, for an inspiring performance of Bach’s St John Passion. To go from little lambs to the Lamb of God is a wonderful way to get into the Easter mood; and it also got me reflecting on Easter as the festival of death and resurrection, the death of Jesus Christ and his subsequent rebirth into a new life.

When I was a child and indeed for many years afterwards, I could never understand what was meant when teachers and priests said things like “Christ died to save our sins” and “Christ died that we may live”. And actually, I’m not sure that those teachers and priests knew what they meant, either. How could someone dying a horrible death 2000 years ago have had any practical effect on our lives today? And how did that death redeem my small sins or help me to live? There is a mystery here and I didn’t receive any explanation that made sense to me while I was growing up.

As I got older and particularly as I began to enquire more widely into esoteric matters, I started to get a glimmer of understanding into these questions. Rudolf Steiner’s works have been particularly helpful in this respect.

From his youth, Steiner possessed complete clairvoyance so that the spiritual worlds were as open to him as the material world is to us. Having developed this power of exploring higher worlds he set about his investigations and was able to research back to the dim past of human and planetary evolution. To his astonishment, he discovered that the descent of the Christ into physical existence was the absolutely central event of evolution, what he sometimes called “the turning point of time”. Of this period in his life Steiner writes in his autobiography: “I stood before the Mystery of Golgotha in a most profound inward festival of knowledge” and it is a fact that from about 1910 onwards Steiner’s entire teaching is Christo-centric.

Naturally this teaching does not always conform to church dogma, for Steiner’s spiritual research enabled him to arrive at esoteric truths and then express them without the need to pay lip service to what was taught by the churches. Some of you may remember David Jenkins, who was Bishop of Durham from 1984 to 1994. He enraged newspapers like the Daily Mail and the more thick-headed rent-a-quote type of MP by saying that the resurrection was not of a physical body, an idea which he described as “conjuring tricks with bones.” The poor bishop was trying to give out information from esoteric Christianity rather than the fairy story that the Church hitherto had thought was all we could understand – but clearly there were still some people who didn’t want to take off their baby shoes.

It’s also disappointing to have to spell out the following but if I don’t do so, there are people who will try to drive sectarian wedges between Steiner and others. So let it be understood that behind everything Steiner says is the concept that life is a divine oneness and that humankind is one great family. The Christ impulse illumines every race, creed and nation, and there is nothing sectarian about it – Truth and Love are there for every human being, of whatever race and whether atheist or believer.

Esoteric Christianity sees the man Jesus as the human vehicle for the cosmic being of the Christ. What do we mean by the Christ and why did this cosmic being need a human vehicle? The name “Christ” comes from the Greek “Christos” and it refers to an exalted being of the spiritual Sun. We need to re-think materialistic science’s view that the celestial bodies are just balls of gas or types of nuclear reactor in the skies – the solar system as seen with Steiner’s spiritual knowledge is a huge living organism filled with living thought. Here we have to try to encompass the concept of a solar system filled with spirit and being. This is not the time to go into Steiner’s picture of the evolution of the solar system and the way in which the celestial bodies became related to each other but those who are interested can read more in Steiner’s book, An Outline of Esoteric Science. If we can nevertheless hold on to this picture of the celestial bodies as spheres of activity for spiritual beings, then we might also see that evolution has both a spiritual and a physical aspect.

Steiner says that the overlighting of Jesus of Nazareth by the Cosmic Christ took place at the time when the 30-year old Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. This was when the Christ incarnated into the body of Jesus. In the Gospel of St Matthew we read: “and lo, the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him.” For three years after the Baptism, the Christ lived in this body of Jesus until his death on the cross.

Turning now to Steiner’s comments on Easter, he says here something about the true significance of the Festival for us:

“When a mighty individuality like that of the Christ Jesus comes to the aid of entire humanity, it is his sacrifice in death which permeates the karma of mankind. He helped to carry the karma of the whole of humanity, and we may be quite sure that redemption through Christ Jesus was absorbed and assimilated by the totality of human karma.”

An amazing thought, and one which to me helps to make sense of the saying that Christ died to save us from our sins. What Steiner is conveying here is that when Christ died on the cross he took on a huge part of the karma of humanity, which had it not been redeemed in this way, would have led us into more and more darkness and materiality. Instead, Christ’s deed began the slow but sure upward ascent away from materialism in which we are now engaged. Now, this materialism still has a long way to run, apparently for another 2,500 years or so, and indeed it has not yet reached the peak of its intensity – but we are all now on an upward path.

Unusual and startling as some may find Steiner’s insights, personally I find them very helpful in understanding the true meaning of Easter. Steiner goes on to talk about the enormous significance of Easter for human evolution:

“Christ Jesus experiences death, as commemorated by Good Friday. He remains in the grave for the period of three days, this representing His coalescence with earthly existence. This period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is celebrated in Christendom as a festival of mourning. Finally, Easter Sunday is the day on which the central being of Christianity arises from the grave. It is the memorial day of this event. That is the essential substance of Easter: the death, the interval in the grave, and the Resurrection of Christ Jesus.”

“The essential point is that in the thirtieth year of His life… the primal Being of the Sun, the Christ Himself…took up His abode in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. That is what underlies the Mystery of Golgotha as the primal fruit of the whole life of the Earth.”

“It is, however, characteristic of the modern evolution of Christianity that the thought of Good Friday (i.e. the Crucifixion)…has come ever more to the fore, and the thought of the Resurrection — the true Easter thought — has gradually retired. Thoughts on Easter must point especially to a time in which man must experience the resurrection of his being through the Spirit. We have need of Easter thoughts, and of a full understanding of such thoughts…It is the Christ we have need of, however, the Christ Whom we can seek in our own inner beings, and Who at once appears when we do seek Him…We have need of the vivid consciousness of the eternity of the Spirit.”

Notice there that Steiner has said that the true thought of Easter is Resurrection and not the concentration on the Crucifixion. In other words, the more important aspect of Easter is not death and mourning but the possibility of new life and the return of awareness of the spirit to human consciousness. He says:

“We will never be able to grasp the true thought of Easter unless we realise that in speaking of the Christ we must look upwards from what is merely earthly to what is cosmic….Christ came down among men in order to unite the souls of men with the Cosmic Spirit. Only a true expounder of the Gospel of Christ points out that what we see in the physical sun is the outward expression of the Spirit of our universe — the resurrecting Spirit of our universe.”

And in fact Steiner gives us the most tremendous thought, one which I find changes my conception of what it is to walk this Earth. He says that since Christ’s descent into hell and resurrection, Christ has lived in the etheric body of the Earth and can be experienced by those who have developed the necessary supersensible perception. Steiner says that there will be no Second Coming of Christ in a physical body. There is no need for the Christ to incarnate again and live through a physical body and so pass through death. That was done once and for all and will not be repeated.

So if the Christ really is in the etheric body of the Earth, what does that mean for us? Well, it certainly can make a difference to how you walk on the earth itself. If the Christ is there, then you are literally treading on holy ground every time you take a step, wherever you may be. And if He is indeed present invisibly throughout the whole etheric field of the Earth, then He is truly within the etheric body of every form, every tree and plant, every animal. Christ came for the benefit of all creation, not just human beings. But with our normal intellectual processes we cannot consciously experience this. If we can raise our thinking and awareness, however, there we shall find Him.

Now, here’s another thought – what would it mean for the world if instead of dashing about heedlessly, we walked with the awareness that we are treading on the etheric body of Christ, and that by doing this with loving consciousness, we are helping to release the spiritual substance locked up in matter and thereby transforming it – what might that do to the world? What might that do to our selves?

Happy Easter!

Easter languages

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