Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Evaluating Rudolf Steiner - and his post-1900 corruption

My interest in Rudolf Steiner is focused mainly on his early three philosophical works culminating in The Philosophy of Freedom (1894).

However, I believe that post 1900-ish Steiner became (I have to say) corrupted by his later situations - and that he reverted to extensive use of what he termed Atavistic Clairvoyance (or, what Owen Barfield termed Original Participation) - in other words the post-1900 Steiner increasingly employed mediumship, or what we now term channelling.

This is quite explicitly described in passages of his later works (although Steiner strenuously denied that it really was atavistic clairvoyance - nonetheless, he describes visualisation and hearing words; much like Jung's hallucinatory Active Imagination); it is described in eyewitness accounts of Steiner's behaviour (eyes closed, frequent trance-behaviours); and it accounts for the vast and indiscriminate productivity of his later years: a vast productivity of (let's be honest...) mostly-nonsense; albeit highly-systemised* nonsense.

(All this behaviour is in stark contrast to the purposive, alert, aware thinking so convincingly explained and advocated in Philosophy of Freedom.)

My position is therefore that Rudolf Steiner was a great man, a genius of historic stature, originator of among the most important and relevant truths vital for our situation - yet, taken in total, he was mostly wrong about most things.

And for all their good work - this wrongness has been accentuated by the Anthroposophical movement - who have in practice taught almost everything except his core and essential philosophical insight.

This failure of the Anthroposophy movement was indeed made almost inevitable by Steiner's own errors in trying to systemise spiritual development into a (wholly-conjectural, on his part) process of 'initiation' and formal cognitive exercises. He should instead have pointing at the goal (which he had already done, in Philosophy of Freedom) and recognised that each person must find their own path to reach that goal; by trial and error (and repentance); as Steiner himself had done. 

I believe we need (and I mean literally need) to take Steiner's insights from PofF and apply them in our lives and in our civilisation - and we should (pretty much, but not entirely) ignore the truly vast structure of Spiritual Science he generated after writing Philosophy of Freedom^.

...With the exception of recognising that Steiner became a Christian in 1898 - and we too must have a Christian framework for our spiritual work on transforming consciousness.

We know this by experience of the multitudes who have tried to be spiritual but not religious (often implicitly anti-Christian), and observing the feebleness of the results. Our proper lineage includes William Blake, ST Coleridge, Owen Barfield and William Arkle - all of whom were serious Christians - as well as mystics or esotericists. 

   *Steiner was a genius of quite astonishing intelligence and knowledge - and he was culturally German - so had capacities for systemisation far beyond normal, perhaps unique in history. My understanding is that he took information derived partly from channelling, and substantially information from reading, and incrementally elaborated these into his massive ideological system by addition and interpolation.
    ^Although there are indeed many nuggets of insight scattered throughout the post-1900 work which I would not wish to be without - for instance I am amazed and fascinated by the prophecy in lecture The Work of the Angels in Man's Astral Body, of 1918. Half of the lecture is 'nonsense' (harsh, but I mean it is incorrect and inessential) - but the other half is the only absolutely compelling example of prophecy I have ever encountered. 

1 comment:

William Wildblood said...

All of which just goes to show how important it is that we never abandon our own powers of discrimination and intuition, not to mention common sense of course, when we read any spiritual teachings.

I think this is a good thing because then we learn to sharpen our own spiritual faculties as opposed to leaving them undeveloped which would be the case if we were presented with something that was wholly true.

So we need to have faith but also good judgment to get the best from spiritual teachers and teachings. Nothing in this world is perfect.