When the anthropopper was a small boy of 3 or 4 years of age, I lived with my family just a few doors down from the house of my Uncle Perce and Auntie Joan. I can still remember how one day Uncle Perce took me to see the chickens in his back garden and offered to shut me up in the hen-coop with the birds. My reply has gone down in family history. Apparently what I said was: “You can’t put me in there, I’m a human bean.”
Evidently, even at that young age, I had a sense that there were certain indignities to which human beings should not be subjected. Perhaps this is why to this day I still have strong feelings about how humans should and should not be treated.
But why are we humans special and worthy of respect? One of the attributes that marks us out is that we are divided beings, carrying the potential for both good and evil within ourselves. In reminding us of this, Rudolf Steiner said: “one does not usually notice that a human being is a duality.”1 And yet it is so; our dual nature symbolises our connection with the dualistic universe we inhabit: spirit and matter, night and day, life and death, hot and cold, young and old etc. Each one of us carries both a light side and a shadow side within us, which reveal themselves in all kinds of ways.
In this, we are different from the angelic realms. Angels are beings with a unified state of consciousness (whether for good or, like the fallen angels, for evil), but they cannot hold both good and evil thoughts within themselves at the same time, as can humans, who are able to live with many different and contrary thoughts and emotions jumbled up together. In this difference lies the reason for all our struggles between the promptings of our higher and lower natures. “Freedom and evil have the same original source”, says Steiner2. This source was the “adversely commanded” angel, Lucifer, who at the event known in the Bible as the Fall, provided for our astral bodies to be permeated by selfishness and egotism. Paradoxically, this also gave us the potential, over many incarnations, to become free through learning to choose wisely between our highest and lowest urges. (For those who are unfamiliar with Steiner’s use of the terms ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Ahriman’ as names for the polarities of evil, please see my earlier posting here.)
Although we are currently at the beck and call of our own lower selves and to the karmic knots we have tied ourselves in as a result, this division between our lower and higher natures allows us countless opportunities (slowly, over many lifetimes), to evolve from our dualistic state into a more unified plane of consciousness that is motivated and permeated by love. This is the goal of human evolution, a transformation that will be achieved through the slow accumulation of wisdom learnt during our many incarnations. It is this that Ahriman is seeking to prevent, by putting us in blinkers so that we cannot see who we really are or where we should be headed.
In all his work, by making us aware of our true nature and destiny as human beings, Steiner was trying to prepare us to withstand the onslaught that the world is currently experiencing as the incarnation of Ahriman comes closer and closer. Steiner’s last verse, which I quoted in my previous post to this one, contains the following:
O joy, when human being’s flame
Is blazing, even when at rest.
O bitter pain, when the human thing
Is put in bonds, when it wants to stir.
Evidence of this onslaught, the attempt to reduce us all to “the human thing”, is all around us. I try to observe as many examples of these attacks as I can, because the more of us who can see and acknowledge what the oppositional forces are up to, the less likely it is that they will be effective. What are they trying to achieve? In a lecture given in 1919, Steiner has told us the following:
“Just as there was an incarnation of Lucifer in the flesh and an incarnation of Christ in the flesh, so, before only a part of the third millennium of the post-Christian era has elapsed, there will be, in the West, an actual incarnation of Ahriman: Ahriman in the flesh. Humanity on earth cannot escape this incarnation of Ahriman. It will come inevitably. But what matters is that people shall find the right vantage point from which to confront it.
Whenever preparation is being made for incarnations of this character, we must be alert to certain indicative trends in evolution. A being like Ahriman, who will incarnate in the West in time to come, prepares for this incarnation in advance. With a view to his incarnation on the earth, Ahriman guides certain forces in evolution in such a way that they may be of the greatest possible advantage to him. And evil would result were people to live on in a state of drowsy unawareness, unable to recognise certain phenomena in life as preparations for Ahriman’s incarnation in the flesh. The right stand can be taken only by recognising in one or another series of events the preparation that is being made by Ahriman for his earthly existence. And the time has now come for individual human beings to know what tendencies and events around them are machinations of Ahriman, helping him to prepare for his approaching incarnation.
It would undoubtedly be of the greatest benefit to Ahriman if he could succeed in preventing the vast majority of people from perceiving what would make for their true well-being, if the vast majority of people were to regard these preparations for the Ahriman incarnation as progressive and good for evolution. If Ahriman were able to slink into a humanity unaware of his coming, that would gladden him most of all. It is for this reason that the occurrences and trends in which Ahriman is working for his future incarnation must be brought to light.”
Of course, it’s quite easy for Ahriman. Money, power, lust and violence enthrall human beings. Perhaps I’m just a Grumpy Old Man but I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that what was culturally unacceptable thirty or forty years ago has now become the new normal. But alongside this ratchet effect of continuing cultural and social degradation, Ahriman is also slowly but surely working to make us forget what it is that makes us truly human. Here are a few of the more egregious examples of ahrimanic phenomena that I’ve recently noticed:
In 1965, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland wrote a paper suggesting that a computer-generated visual “display” might one day become so believable it could “literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked”. Half a century on, virtual reality (VR) devices are entering the mass market. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that gaming will be the most lucrative kind of VR software over the next decade, generating $11.6bn in annual revenues by 2025. Facebook has recently bought VR company Oculus and FB founder Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that his ambitions for VR go far beyond games, calling it “a new communication platform.” Quite how VR can be a social enabler when the technology completely isolates users from the people around them, by covering their eyes and ears to replace the real world with a digital one, at the moment escapes me – but Zuckerberg is the one with the money, not me, so I’m sure he knows what he is doing. Nevertheless, I found the photo below utterly chilling.
If you’ve got a dog, it’s possible that it already has a microchip embedded between its shoulders, as a kind of invisible key to owner identity verification. From April 2016, this becomes a legal requirement in England and Wales – yes, that’s right – it will be illegal to keep a dog without having it microchipped. Human microchip implants are not yet widely available but they’re coming – a chip, encased in borosilicate biocompatible glass, will be pushed through your skin near your wrist and will sit there, waiting to engage in all sorts of transactions between you and all sorts of computers and smart devices. The chip will enable you to be located anywhere in the world through a tiny electronic system known as RFID or Radio Frequency Identification. It could contain information such as who you are, how much credit you have, your work ID, whether you’re a criminal out on licence or a migrant who needs to be tracked. I’ve no doubt that Transport for London will already be drawing up plans to replace their Oyster card (which enables you to make journeys by public transport around London) with chip implants (so much more efficient and user-friendly and will never get lost) and at some point they will become compulsory rather than voluntary. Before long, passports and ID cards will be replaced by these chip implants, and you won’t be able to use an airport without having one. It will, of course, be sold to us on the basis that it will improve security, will speed up queues, will make our lives easier, and if we’ve done nothing wrong, we’ll have nothing to fear.
Security checks at airports
Talking of airports, if there is one situation designed to humiliate and strip you of your dignity as a human being, it is the modern experience of air travel. In the words of Frances Stonor Saunders: “At the airport, we advance with the miniature steps of geisha girls, towards the apparatus that sees, sees into, scans and filters us. We yield to verbal instructions issued in what Auden described as the ‘peremptory tone reserved for … children one cannot trust/Who might be tempted by ponds or learn some disgusting/Trick from a ragamuffin’. We remove our jacket, shoes, belt, and hold aloft our cosmetic secrets in a see-through plastic bag. Without protest, we shuffle in our socks towards the pat-down, or into the machine that sees through our clothes without us having to take them off (they’re known as ‘porno scanners’ in the security industry).”
Advanced Western democracy
To observe the progress of plutocratic dynasts such as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton through the American electoral system is to realise that the days when it was theoretically possible for an ordinary citizen to make the journey from log cabin to White House are long gone. Today’s political system, run for the benefit of corporates and financed by them through kickbacks and lobbying, relies on the compliance of a people lobotomised by an ahrimanic media through a focus on bread and circuses and celebrity tittle-tattle. It makes one realise that Clinton and Trump are no better than the arse-cheeks of Ahriman, operating out of lust for power and utter indifference to the real needs of the American people or the wider world. Of course, although the forms of corruption and deceit may vary, it’s a similar story in the UK and in most other countries today.
TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership
The mention of how corporate interests always come first reminds me of TTIP. Under this new deal between the US and the EU, multinational corporations will be able to sue elected governments that introduce any policies that can be shown to reduce their profits – even if those policies are to protect public health or the environment. I haven’t got room here to say any more but there’s a beginner’s guide to TTIP here:
Each of these examples of what is happening, and many, many more, are designed to turn us into the “human thing” and more forgetful of the true dignity and worth of human beings. For me, Rudolf Steiner’s work is an invaluable corrective to Ahriman’s apparently unstoppable progress, because he has identified what will happen and what we need to do to avert the worst effects of it. “Know thyself “or perhaps better, “Know thy Self”, should be our watchword, because as long as we lack self-knowledge, we are prey to the delusions of our lower nature – and hence easy meat for Ahriman. In the same lecture I’ve quoted above, Steiner said:
“To the extent to which people can be roused into conducting their affairs not for material ends alone and into regarding a free and independent spiritual life, equally with economic life, as an integral part of the social organism — to that same extent Ahriman’s incarnation will be awaited with an attitude worthy of humanity.”
So in that spirit of preparation for what is to come, how many other indications of ahrimanic phenomena in modern life have you noticed? Please list them in the Comments and by doing so, let’s see if we can avoid that state of drowsy unawareness of which Steiner warned.
1 In the 4th lecture of the first Course for Doctors.
2 Lecture November 22nd 1906 – The Origin of Suffering: the Origin of Evil, Illness and Death