Steiner’s Spiritual Science

Introduction

Steiner’s ‘spiritual science’ is decidedly not science in the sense that is commonly understood. Its findings contradict those of modern empirical science and its method is based on meditation, clairvoyance and the methods of psychic research. As such, spiritual science technically meets quite comfortably the general definition of what a pseudoscience is. One such definition of the term is, for example, “any body of knowledge, methodology, belief, or practice that claims to be scientific or is made to appear scientific, but does not adhere to the basic requirements of the scientific method” and that “appears superficially to be scientific or whose proponents state is scientific but nevertheless contravenes the testability requirement, or substantially deviates from other fundamental aspects of the scientific method.” [1]

By way of introducing something of the nature of spiritual science, presented below are some typical findings of Steiner’s. How Steiner undertook his spiritual science and an evaluation of it is outlined after that. How you too can become a Steiner scientist is described toward the end of the article.

Steiner science findings

Bizarre and sometimes shocking beliefs, arrived at via Steiner science findings, are often enough in themselves to enable an enquirer into Steiner and Anthroposophy to arrive at a decision as to the usefulness of continuing with their enquiries.

Some typical examples given below are evidenced by quoting Steiner himself. These quotes are quite lengthy and so only a few representative examples of Steiner contra-science are presented. The sources of all the quotes can be found online at the Rudolf Steiner archive, a sort of virtual Steiner library. Footnotes provide the URLs for these quotes.

Be advised that if you are unwell you should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner – the quotations concerning worm infestation and cancer given below are those of Dr (of philosophy) Rudolf Steiner. CHASE is simply reporting them, not endorsing or advocating them in any way.

Carrots cure worms – and as Steiner says in the text next quoted from his ‘Nutrition and Health – Two Lectures to Workmen’ given in Dornach 1924, a child who is weak in the head is likely to have worms:

“And so, gentlemen, if – for instance – a child is becoming weak in his head – inattentive, hyperactive – he will usually have a corresponding symptom: worms in his intestines. Worms develop easily in the intestines if the head forces are too weak, because the head does not then work down strongly enough into the rest of the body. Worms find no lodging in a human body if the head forces are working down strongly into the intestines. You can see how magnificently the human body is arranged! – everything is related. And if one’s child has worms, one should realize the child has become weak in his head. Also – whoever wants to be a teacher has to know these things – if there are persons who at a later age are weak-minded, one can be sure they have had worms when they were young.

And so what must one do if one observes this in the child? The simplest remedy is to give him carrots to eat for a while – with his other food, of course; naturally, one couldn’t just feed him on carrots alone. Carrots are the root of the plant. They grow down in the earth and have a large quantity of minerals. They have the forces of the earth in them, and when they are taken into the stomach, they are able to work up through the blood into the head. Only substances rich in minerals are able to reach the head. Substances rich in minerals, root substances, give strength to a human being by way of the head. That is extraordinarily important. It is through carrots that the uppermost parts of the head become strong – which is precisely what the human being needs in order to be inwardly firm and vigorous, not soft.” [2]

Steiner science claims a remedy for cancer - not by eating carrots but by injecting specially prepared mistletoe – text is from an abridged report of two Steiner lectures given in 1924:

“One may now ask, what is to be one’s attitude towards cancer! We have seen how the etheric body is able to develop over-strong forces from itself in some particular organ. The centrifugal forces – that is, the forces that tend outwards into the Cosmos – become too powerful; the astral body and the Ego are too weak to counteract them. Spiritual knowledge now comes to one’s aid. One can now try either to make the astral body stronger, in which case one administers something from the plant kingdom, or one must restrain the etheric body, and in that case one makes use of the animal kingdom.

Spiritual investigation has led to the adoption of the former course – that which relates to the astral body. In order to cure cancer, the forces of the astral body must be made stronger. And it may now be admitted that the remedy has really been discovered in the plant kingdom…The tree, which is rooted directly in the earth, makes use of the forces which it absorbs from the earth. The mistletoe, growing on the tree, uses what the tree gives it; the tree is, in a sense, the earth for the mistletoe. The mistletoe, therefore, brings about artificially that which, when it is not present, results in the “swellings” which are due to a hypertrophy of the tree’s etheric organisation. The mistletoe takes away what the tree only gives up when it has too little physical substance, so that its etheric element is excessive. The excess of the etheric passes out of the tree into the mistletoe.

When the mistletoe is prepared in such a way that this superabundant etheric quality which it has taken from the tree is administered to a person under certain conditions, by injection (and, since we are observing all these facts in a spiritual manner), we gain the following information: that the mistletoe, as an external substance, absorbs what is manifest in the human body as the rampant etheric forces in cancer.” [3]

Steiner science proclaims gnomes to be real: they harvest the secrets of the universe from plants, according to a series of Rudolf Steiner lectures given in 1923:

“The plant gathers the secrets of the universe, sinks them into the ground, and the gnomes take these secrets into themselves from what seeps down spiritually to them through the plants. And because the gnomes, particularly from autumn on and through the winter, in their wanderings through ore and rock bear with them what has filtered down to them through the plants, they become those beings within the earth which, as they wander, carry the ideas of the whole universe streaming throughout the earth. We look forth into the wide world. The world is built from universal spirit; it is an embodiment of universal ideas, of universal spirit. The gnomes receive through the plants, which to them are the same as rays of light are to us, the ideas of the universe, and within the earth carry them in full consciousness from metal to metal, from rock to rock.” [4]

Steiner science confirms the Atlantis myth and modifies it; his spiritual science results detail human evolution and diaspora from Atlantis. Here is a part of Steiner’s evolutionary narrative, based on spiritual science observations, taken from his text ‘Cosmic Memory:Prehistory of Earth and Man’

“The ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a region which has disappeared, the main part of which lay south of contemporary Asia. In theosophical writings they are called the Lemurians. After they had passed through various stages of development the greatest part of them declined. These became stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes. Only a small part of Lemurian humanity was capable of further development. From this part the Atlanteans were formed.” [5]

Very many more such examples of the results of spiritual science exist but those given above should suffice to show that factually they run contra to empirical science based findings. Additionally, in the last example cited, the glimmerings of Steiner racism can be seen within his text – all arrived at or validated by his spiritual science. Most of the above quotes above come from the very last few years of Steiner’s life, presumably at a time when he had perfected his spiritual science as best he could. Enquirers into Anthroposophy should be aware that practical applications of Steiner belief often overlap with other applications – Anthoposophical medical practitioners attend Steiner schools for example.

Steiner science evaluated

As has already been mentioned, Steiner’s spiritual science is a pseudoscience. A paper by Sven (now Professor) Ove Hansson [6] evaluated Steiner’s ‘spiritual science’ practically by comparison with empirical (‘normal’) science. Hansson found that predictions made by Steiner when using spiritual science have failed to occur. Hansson also evaluated spiritual science in terms of its potential for intersubjectivity and argued it to be weak.

The Hansson paper is often mentioned by Anthroposophical sympathisers by reference to an article available online [7] (not a paper) that attempts to refute Hansson. However, the article has remained unfinished since CHASE came across it over a year ago and as such it cannot formally be answered.

CHASE endorses the article by Hansson and rather than re-present it here we advise readers to look through it for themselves. The unfinished attempted refutation is offered for balance. Unfortunately it so fractures and distorts the content of Hansson’s paper as to render its intended refutation near unintelligible. It was the only such one found at the time of writing this article and if readers know of or can suggest any alternatives to it then CHASE would be pleased to hear of them.

In the meanwhile CHASE is happy to concede that empirical science itself can, of course, be criticised but that isn’t the point of this article, the subject matter at hand is Steiner’s spiritual science. The salient point of Hansson’s paper in that respect is that Steiner spiritual science is not empirical, that its predictions have failed to materialise and that it has weak potential for intersubjectivity.

The attempted refutation mentioned above does not contain any reply to this description of ‘spiritual science’ given by Hansson:

“Steiner emphasized that he was doing “science” [Wissenschaft]. He interchangeably called his undertaking “occult science” [Geheimwissenschaft], “Divine Science” [gottliche Wissenschaft] and – most commonly – “spiritual science” [Geisteswissenschaft]. Spiritual science “would speak of the non-sensible in the same spirit in which Natural Science speaks of the sensible”. It works by developing in the individual an ability to see directly into spiritual reality (“clairvoyance” [Hellsehen]). The process of acquiring this ability is called “initiation” [Einweihung]. Steiner has provided fairly detailed guidelines for the first stages of the initiation process. Some individuals have, according to Steiner, a personality that facilitates the development of clairvoyance.”

The reliance Steiner science has upon clairvoyance is a theme developed in the next part of this article.

Steiner science, how it is done

As is made clear in his autobiography, Steiner considered himself to be a clairvoyant[8] and whether or not it occurs or exists, clairvoyance may be defined as “perception of objective events (past, present, or future) not ordinarily discernible by the senses; a type of extrasensory perception” [9]

In the paper cited above Hansson states that:

“Steiner was a frequent reader of the Akasha chronicle. Significant portions of his voluminous writings consist of exhaustive accounts of historical events. He provided details about Atlantis and other lost civilizations. He corrected the Gospels, revealed the secrets of ancient Egyptian priests, etc. All this he had learnt from the Akasha chronicle – Steiner also taught many other branches of knowledge, such as agriculture, medicine and education. His source of knowledge was always the same: His own clairvoyant visions”

The Akashic Chronicle or Record Hansson refers to is understood slightly differently within different faiths but this entry from the Encyclopaedia Britannica seems a fair appraisal of its meaning:

“in occultism, a compendium of pictorial records, or “memories,” of all events, actions, thoughts, and feelings that have occurred since the beginning of time. They are said to be imprinted on Akasha, the astral light, which is described by spiritualists as a fluid ether existing beyond the range of human senses. The Akashic records are reputedly accessible to certain select individuals e.g., a spiritualist medium who conducts a seance. Akasha allegedly transmits the waves of human willpower, thought, feeling, and imagination and is a reservoir of occult power, an ocean of unconsciousness to which all are linked, making prophecy and clairvoyance possible.” [10]

Use of clairvoyance and clairvoyant derived observations – real or imagined – is, then, key to understanding how Steiner understood himself to be performing what he called spiritual science. Spiritual science, as will be shown in the next part of this article, is the controlled use of clairvoyance via clairvoyants trained in a manner developed and advocated by Steiner. Before looking at spiritual scientific training two supposed resources claimed to be accessed by Steiner – the Akashic Record and arcane knowledge – are described.

Searching Steiner texts available online one can verify that he made use of the Akashic Record, or Chronicle as it is sometimes called. Steiner says in this lecture:

“So it was brought to pass that the Egyptian Initiate met the Cosmic Word and the Cosmic Tones as the elucidators of his own being in the spiritual world. But that was up to a certain point of time only in the old Egyptian period. After that it ceased. There was a great difference – this is shown also by the Akashic Records when one looks back into ancient times – between the experiences of the Egyptian Initiate in the ancient Egyptian temples and what he experienced later on.” [11]

In a series of lectures on the Gospel of St. John, Steiner describes what the Akashic Record is and how it is read. His description fits with that of the Britannica given above. Within the same series of lectures Steiner claims clairvoyant access to the Akashic Record as being a more reliable means of understanding history than one derived from documentary evidence. Historical facts, suggests Steiner, are unreliable:

“…whoever is familiar with such things knows that the less the seer knows from external history on the subject of his investigations, the easier it is for him to read in the Akashic records. External history is a positive hindrance to occult research. When we have reached a certain age, we are influenced in many ways by the culture of our day. The seer, too, brings with him the education of his day, up to the point when he can give birth to his clairvoyant Ego. He has studied history and the knowledge handed down to him in geology, biology, archaeology, and so on. Strictly speaking, all his disturbs his vision and may bias him when he comes to decipher the Akashic records. For the same objectivity and certainty may by no means be expected in external history, as are possible in deciphering the Akashic records. Consider upon what conditions some fact or other becomes `historical’. Certain documents relating to some event or other have been preserved, while others – perhaps the most important – are missing. An example will show how unreliable all history may be… “[12]

There are many instances of Steiner’s use of the Akashic Record in his texts. However, even though, for example, the Akashic Record is used to substantiate much of what Steiner says within the St. John lectures, at no point in them does Steiner explicitly state that his information was obtained by his own direct access of the Akashic Record. In those and in Steiner’s other texts and lectures it is more often implicit or intimated that his access was personal and direct. Given that Steiner’s followers do not reject or question statements to the effect that Steiner accessed the Akashic Record personally then we can say that Steiner used the Akashic Record directly and that he did so clairvoyantly.

In addition to clairvoyance, Steiner also claimed access and use of occult or esoteric knowledge attained via adepts, initiates and preserved by spiritual Masters, this knowledge passed on to a few select people in each generation.

Describing his life in notes, to assist a translator of his work, Steiner wrote “I did not meet the M. [the Master] immediately, but first an emissary.” and later, within the same notes, he says “…I had also reached my fortieth year. Before this time no one must present themselves publicly as a teacher of esotericism in the sense of the Masters.” In a biography of Steiner based on these notes the translator was to write:

“The Master of Rudolf Steiner was one of those men of power who live unknown to the world under cover of some civil state, to carry out a mission unsuspected by any but their fellows in the Brotherhood of self-sacrificing Masters. They take no ostensible part in human events. To remain unknown is the condition of their power, but their action is only the more efficacious. For they inspire, prepare, and direct those who will act in the sight of all. [13]

The Masters are described by Steiner directly in some of his own texts and lectures. An example,

“Thus we have some human beings who are already exalted Leaders and Masters, and others who strive to become such leaders. Within the fifth root-race, therefore, we have Chelas and Masters who have passed through all that our earth has passed through. One of the Masters who has the guidance of the fifth root-race is destined to undertake the guidance of the sixth. The sixth root-race will be the first to be guided by an earthly Brother as its Manu. The earlier Masters surrender the leadership to mankind.” [14]

So, in practice of spiritual science Steiner used a self-acclaimed facility for clairvoyance to observe and record facts from the Akashic Record or Chronicle, a purported etheric tableau of past events. As a ‘Master’ his pseudoscientific findings were presumably supplemented by existing arcane, occult or esoteric knowledge, knowledge known only to a few select individuals and other ‘Masters’. His status as a ‘Master’ would also lend authority to any of his purported findings.

Do-it-yourself Spiritual Science

To become a spiritual scientist one has only to follow the meditative programme supplied by Rudolf Steiner. You won’t need expensive equipment to do this science because the actual scientific results thereof are obtained simply by recording and reporting your own internal visions, a sort of introspection writ large.

According to Steiner’s preface to the 1913 edition of his ‘Occult Science. An Outline':

“Human cognition, like sight, can be strengthened and enhanced. However, methods of strengthening cognition are completely spiritual in character; they are purely inner functions of the soul. They consist of what is described in this book as meditation and concentration or contemplation.” [15]

However, Steiner’s programme is aimed not at improving or strengthening the mind, it is aimed instead at self-transformation, self-evolution and ultimately self-salvation – all to be achieved in three successive stages by following the Steiner programme and application of his meditative technique.

Steiner’s ‘Occult Science. An Outline’ describes his meditative technique in some detail and the text used was drawn on in course of an academic study of Steiner and the Anthroposophy movement. The study, undertaken by Dr Geoffrey Ahern from a comparative religion perspective, involved the Anthroposophical community in the research and after publication the community seemed accepting of the work. [16]

At the time of Ahern’s study (conducted in the 1980’s) a lot of Steiner texts and recorded lectures were difficult to find outside of the Anthroposophical community. Since then many Steiner texts and lectures and a deal of resources relating to Steiner, Anthroposophy and its applications have become available online. Resources relating to the technique of spiritual science endorse the description given of it given by Ahern.

In the introductory pages of Chapter 3 of his study, Ahern lays out Steiner’s spiritual science technique and the reasoning behind it. Ahern quotes from Steiner’s ‘Occult Science. An Outline’ to explain that the aim of the meditational path is, “to wrest the soul free from sense-perception and rouse it to an activity for which the outer impressions of the physical senses are without significance”. Explaining Steiner’s philosophy Ahern continues “The soul itself is subjective but spirit is objective reality; this is the activity to which the soul is aroused.” and, he adds, “Steiner, who had been trained as a conventional scientist, thought his path to be spiritual ‘science’ because, he claimed, it leads to objective truth.”

The meditative technique and programme (as explained by Ahern) aims at achieving three progressive levels of awareness, each level supposedly advancing the practitioner’s perceptive capabilities and awareness. On completing the programme of meditation the individual is transformed into an evolutionary superior ‘spirit-man’, a seer/clairvoyant on a par with Steiner. It is at this level that Steiner claimed it to be possible to access the spiritual domain direct – the objective reality referred to above – and to the Akashic Record.

The three stages of the meditative programme are termed by Steiner as Imagination, Inspiration, and finally Intuition. The stages build on what we already have, a perception of the material world, material knowledge.

Now, should you attempt the programme, you don’t have to reach stage 3 of it before becoming transformed. You won’t of course be a ‘spirit-man’ until stage 3 but even at stage 1 you will, according to Steiner, evolve. Technically this is because according to Steiner the soul is subjective and the spiritual domain is objective truth and you will develop spiritual sense organs in the soul during stage 1.

Here is what Steiner claims to happen during stage 1, Imagination. It’s worth quoting him at length here because this notion of a subjective soul and the belief in a self-transformative potential is central to his beliefs. According to Steiner:

“The state of sleep must first be considered to arrive at any understanding of imaginative cognition…(the) soul truly lives during sleep, yet is incapable of perception in the world in which it dwells in the sleeping state. It is in this world like a blind man among material objects…Now what is it doing during sleep? It must be realized that in waking life the soul is continually active. It takes in the outer sense impressions and works upon them. That is its activity. It stops this during sleep. But it is not idle. While sleeping, it works upon its own body. This body is worn out by the activity of the day. This expresses itself in fatigue. During sleep the soul occupies itself with its own body in order to prepare it for further work when it again awakens. We see from this how essential is proper sleep to bodily well-being. Accordingly, the man who does not sleep sufficiently hinders his soul in this necessary repair work upon the body. The consequence must be that the body deteriorates. The forces with which the soul works upon the body during sleep are the same through which it is active in the waking state. But in the latter case they are applied for absorbing the impressions of the outer senses and working upon them.” [17]

Simply put, Steiner appears to be saying that the soul’s job during waking life is to take in perceptions and work on them. Its job in sleep is to refresh its own body which gets tired after its work during waking life.

Continuing from the above passage, here’s how Steiner describes the stage 1 (Imagination) level of attainment of his meditative programme.

“Now when imaginative cognition approaches in man, part of the forces directed upon the body in sleep must be employed in another way. Through these forces are formed the spiritual sense organs that provide the possibility for the soul not merely to live in a higher world, but also to perceive it. Thus the soul during sleep works no longer merely upon the body, but also upon itself.”

So the initiate, that’s you if you choose to follow the programme, can expect to develop spiritual sense organs.

Steiner adds, within the same text as that above:

“Meditation, concentration and other exercises bring it about that the soul withdraws for a time from its union with the sense organs. It is then immersed in itself. Its activity is turned inward… What is accomplished by the immersion in the inner life bears fruit first of all in the state of sleep. When at night the soul is freed from the body, what has been stimulated in it by the exercises of the day works on. Organs take shape within it, through which it comes into connection with a higher environment, exactly as through the outer sense organs it had formerly united itself with the corporeal world. Out of the darkness of nocturnal surroundings appear the light phenomena of the higher world….”

The higher world referred to above is the notional spiritual domain given specific detail in many Steiner texts and lectures. The resource linked to above is ‘The Stages of Higher Knowledge’ a small collection in book form of Steiner essays first published in the magazine Lucifer-Gnosis in the first decade of the 20th century.

As to the spiritual science programme of Steiner’s, the actual meditations are simple enough. Holding an imaginary picture in mind is one example, recalling it and so bypassing the usual sensory apparatus. Contemplative meditation on spiritual teachings is another. On following the programme the initiate will ‘rouse the soul’ and travel the road to Stage 2 and, perhaps, even stage 3.

Hopefully the details and other information provided in this article will satisfy reader curiosity as to the nature of Steiner ‘science’. Should you decide to follow the road of spiritual science via Steiner’s meditative programme may you a safe and a happy journey. If nothing else the scenery will be wonderful.

Footnotes

[1] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[2] The quote can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19240731p01.html;mark=210,31,38#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[3] The quote can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/OutMed_report.html;mark=1121,63,69#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[4] The quote can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19231102p01.html;mark=212,36,42#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[5] The quote can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA011/CM/GA011_c03.html;mark=197,0,7#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[6] Sven Ove Hansson, “Is Anthroposophy Science?,” Conceptus XXV no. 64 (1991): 37-49. The Hansson paper is available online at http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Hansson.html (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[7] The attempted and unfinished refutation can be found online at http://hem.passagen.se/thebee/comments/Hansson-commented.htm

[8] Steiner’s autobiography is available online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA028/TSoML/GA028_index.html?rfr=elib (last accessed 01/08/2007).

[9] See http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/clairvoyance (last accessed 01/08/2007) for the definition – it is typical of the many descriptions of clairvoyance to be found online.

[10] The quotation can be found online here http://www.spiritmythos.org/TM/akashic/akashicref.html (last accessed 01/08/2007) and is the same entry as that to be found within the Britannica.

[11] This lecture can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19130205p01.html;mark=468,44,58#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/07). The website carrying the lecture is an online searchable archive of much Steiner material.

[12] The quote is from the second lecture in the series and can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19090625p01.html (last accessed 01/08/07)

[13] The biography can be read online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA010/GA010a/English/HR1960/personality.html;mark=495,17,24#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007).

For the notes that Steiner supplied to the biographer see:

Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner, Correspondence and Documents: 1901-1925 (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988), pp. 9-19.

[14] The example given can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19041007p01.html;mark=228,0,7#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[15] The quotation can be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA013/English/RSP1969/GA013_pref1913.html;mark=230,0,15#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

[16] Ahern, Geoffrey, Sun at Midnight:The Rudolf Steiner Movement and the Western Esoteric Tradition (Aquarian Press, 1984), pp. 50-55.

[17] The quotation vcan be found online at http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA012/English/AP1967/GA012_c01.html;mark=281,17,38#WN_mark (last accessed 01/08/2007)

One Response to “Steiner’s Spiritual Science”

  1. Fullfledge Ecology School Suffolk – a teacher’s view « UK Anthroposophy Says:

    [...] was in my estimation poorly educated himself. An ‘Ecology’ school steeped in pseudoscience (and Steiner’s Spiritual Science) is a negative step. The need for scientific literacy has never been [...]

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