Friday, 17 April 2015

Christianity and Rudolf Steiner - a qualified recommendation

I have written before about the strange genius of Rudolf Steiner

In a nutshell, Steiner strikes me as a mixture of amazing and genuine visionary insights, mixed with a mass of material about history, cosmology etc. that is so bizarre, and so complex (and so - I am compelled to say - silly) that I honestly cannot imagine there is or ever has been anybody (including Steiner himself) who could remember it all, wholly believed it all, or could make sense of it all.

(I suppose the poet William Blake is another example of this - with some of his vast,  incomprehensible and mega-dull 'prophetic' poems; although Steiner is utterly un-poetic, indeed strikes me as a poor writer in terms of organisation, emphasis and explanation.)

In the end, whether to expend any time on at all on Steiner depends on an evaluation of his honesty, decency and sincerity. I think he was a basically good man, so I am prepared to spend at least a bit of time sifting the what from the chaff- particularly in what Steiner had to say about Christianity.

Steiner was emphatically self-identified as a Christian in his later life (i.e. during the years of his greatest fame), and regarded the life of Christ as unique and by far the most significant event in the history of the world. He wrote and lectured copiously on Christian subjects and clearly regarded the subject as of vital importance

(Steiner's Christian focus brought him considerable conflict and opposition even when he was alive, lost him influential support; and indeed Steiner's remnant modern followers seem to have all-but abandoned Steiner's Christian focus and assimilated into mainstream New Age-tinged Leftism. All this is, for me, evidence that Steiner's Christianity was absolutely sincere, and that he regarded it as of prime importance.)

Having said that, Steiner's explanations regarding the nature of Christ, the mechanism of his achievement etc are highly idiosyncratic, and apparently contradictory, bound-up with his bizarre account of history.

So I certainly would not recommend Steiner to anyone who was not already a Christian, and had some solidity of faith  - because it would be just too confusing. But if you are already a Christian, and looking to increase your depth of understanding, you might find some inspiration, nudges and hints in Steiner (I say this having only read a small fraction of Steiner's vast published output).

Anyway, I have found myself returning to Steiner from time to time recently, and the process is made far more enjoyable by listening to the (home made) readings of a US college professor called Dale Brunsvold - if you search his name on YouTube, you can find a mass of Steiner material he has contributed free of charge - including some lecture series on the distinctive qualities of the four Gospels.

Brunsvold is gifted with an extremely pleasant, soothing voice which adds greatly to the experience. I find it much easier to let the bizarre aspects wash over me - while listening-out for scattered nuggets of inspired wisdom - than I do when I have to plough through turgid prose for myself, ignoring most of the content.


1 comment:

alexi de sadesky said...


Listening to the St John Gospel lectures now. Wow! Wonderful stuff, and Brunsvold is truly great. Thanks for pointing him out.