Wednesday 5 August 2015

Is reading Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy bad for Christians, or bad for people-in-general?

I have been reading (and listening to audio readings of) Rudolf Steiner for a few months, under some kind of inner compulsion - while feeling rather little benefit from it, and seeming to waste quite a lot of time.

...But getting no harm, I think - because when Steiner is wrong - as he so often is - he is typically so bizarre, so 'silly'; that I seem to just shed it like water off a duck's back.

It is worth remembering that when CS Lewis died in 1963, both of his two legal and literary executors were utterly dedicated Steinerite Anthroposophists.

(These were Owen Barfield and Cecil Harwood - Barfield was the leading British Anthroposophist intellectual - later mentoring Saul Bellow among many others; Harwood was Headmaster of a Steiner Waldorf School - both had been at Oxford contemporary with Lewis.)

Lewis had no interest in Steiner, and saw no merit in him; but saw no significant harm in him either - and this was after observing the effect of forty years of full-blown Anthroposophy on two very close friends. For those of us who regard Lewis as a beloved and mostly-reliable spiritual guide, this must be significant.

But just recently, after banging my head against Steiner apparently fruitlessly, I have been rewarded by some worthwhile insights and clarifications which I perhaps would not otherwise have received. So my time was not wasted, but well spent!

Which just goes to show that instinct sometimes knows more than reason - or something of the kind...


Rich said...


I think that is an apt description of Steiner. Every couple of years I go back an read some more of him and then tire of him and then go back a few years later. What I have noticed is that as I progress spiritually (mainly by reading you, Lewis, Givens, Arkle) I understand a lot more of Steiner and can see a common thread appear. He and Arkle have some similar things to say, mostly about reincarnation, but more interestingly about the hierarchy of the soul and consciousness.

I think he was a great man with the best of intentions and that is why, even when he seems to be talking nonsense, it is not harmful.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ads - Glad to have my interpretation confirmed. Let's assume we must be right!

Yesterday 'David' asked about my understanding of reincarnation in Arkle and Steiner - this was my reply:

@David - I don't agree with or want to defend everything that Arkle says, but he does place a considerable emphasis on reincarnation so that certainly requires comment.

My understanding is that Arkle (much like Steiner) 'saw' premortal spirit existence, and post mortal spiritual progression, and *misinterpreted* these as reincarnation (not knowing anything about Mormon revelations, as I assume he did not, he would never have even considered these possibilities).

It is easy to misunderstand what you have 'seen' when you lack any theoretical framework for interpretation.

But reincarnation is not ruled out by Christianity, after all John the Baptist was a reincarnate - rather it is portrayed as unusual, and not the norm or the usual.

I see no reason why some people would not be given the chance of a second time around - but I think most people live long enough and get the experiences that they need - because their specific premortal souls were placed by God into circumstances which offered the greatest probability (but no guarantee - because of free will) of the experiences they would most benefit from.