We must relate ourselves intimately with Earth-existence as a whole, know ourselves to be an integral part of it.

from Lucifer and Ahriman (1919)

Portrait of Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner

Occultist, Social Reformer, and Architect
February 25, 1861 – March 30, 1925

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian occultist, social reformer, architect, esotericist, and claimed clairvoyant. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy. Many of his ideas are pseudoscientific. He was also prone to pseudohistory.

In the first, more philosophically oriented phase of this movement, Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science and spirituality. His philosophical work of these years, which he termed “spiritual science,” sought to apply what he saw as the clarity of thinking characteristic of Western philosophy to spiritual questions, differentiating this approach from what he considered to be vaguer approaches to mysticism. In a second phase, beginning around 1907, he began working collaboratively in a variety of artistic media, including drama, dance and architecture, culminating in the building of the Goetheanum, a cultural center to house all the arts. In the third phase of his work, beginning after World War I, Steiner worked on various ostensibly applied projects, including Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical medicine.

Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual approach. He based his epistemology on Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s world view, in which “thinking is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.” A consistent thread that runs through his work is the goal of demonstrating that there are no limits to human knowledge.

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Lucifer and Ahriman

We live in critical, apocalyptic times. In these five lectures, given just after the end of the First World War and in the midst of trying to effect the social-political life of his times with the movement for a threefold social order, Steiner focuses on the vital task of developing a right orientation toward the spirit: a free spiritual life. With great compassion and understanding he shows how humanity must walk a conscious middle path between the two “tempting” powers of Lucifer and Ahriman. He tells of the incarnation of Lucifer in the third millennium BCE, from which flowed not only the wisdom of paganism but also the intellectual consciousness we enjoy today. Ahriman is shown to be approaching humanity through phenomena such as materialism, nationalism, and literalism in preparation for his incarnation in the millennium now opening. It must not be thought, however, that these two powers work apart: on the contrary, they work more and more together. Our task is to hold them in balance, continually permeating the one with the other. Doing this requires a new form of conscious spirituality. Original German title: “Soziales Verständniss aus geisteswissenschaftlicher Erkenntnis” (Social understanding from insights in the humanities) and “Der innere Aspekt des sozialen Rätsels. Luziferische Vergangenheit and ahrimanische Zukunft” (The inner aspect of the social mystery. Luciferian past and Ahrimanic future).

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