The anthropopper is enjoying a few days off in France right now, house-sitting for his in-laws. They live in a hill village between Nice and Vence, with views over the Baie des Anges. Sitting here besides the pool, under the shade of an old olive tree, in the warmth of what the poet Apollinaire called “la paix solaire”, I watch a solitary eagle rising and circling on the thermal currents in the cloudless azure sky. The only sounds are the endless chirping of the cicadas and the chime of the clock on the church bell tower marking the hours. Occasionally, a gentle breeze sends a subtle waft of scent in my direction from the climbing jasmine at the corner of the house. An idyllic scene indeed, an earthly paradise.
And yet if I walk to the other end of the pool and look out towards the south-east, just beyond the valley of the Var river, I can see in the distance the artificial promontory into the sea on which sits the runway of Nice Airport, where our plane had landed three days before. Outside the airport, the palm tree and flower-lined Promenade des Anglais runs alongside the sea into the centre of Nice; and it was there, just a fortnight before we arrived, that a hired truck came to a halt outside the Hotel Negresco, unable to proceed further in its murderous rampage because of the quantity of mashed and mangled human bodies choking its running gear.
My wife met someone who knew one of the victims; all that had been found of her, the sole identifying feature, was one of her hands. Apart from the 84 people who were murdered, there are many others who have lost limbs and who will bear the physical and mental scars for the remainder of their lives. Some of the members of the emergency services who had had to deal with the aftermath are themselves suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, after seeing sights that no-one should ever have to witness. After the attacks in Paris, Nice and the even more recent murder in Normandy of an elderly priest celebrating Mass, France itself is in a state of shock and disbelief. La belle France, la douce France, how can it have come to this?
To try to gain some small insight into what is really going on right now, those of us who are anthroposophists will turn to what Rudolf Steiner had to say about the nature of evil. From his spiritual perception, Steiner was able to describe the various forces of evil in our time, as well as their main opponent, the Archangel Michael. In our materialistic and sceptical times, many people will find it difficult to take seriously the concept of spirits of darkness and beings of light; and yet for some of us, it is only when we take these concepts as worthy of serious consideration that we can begin to make some sort of sense of this battle of cosmic dimensions in which we are all involved.
Those of you who are familiar with anthroposophy or who have been reading this blog for some time, will be aware of Steiner’s concept of the two poles of evil, which he calls Lucifer and Ahriman, and which I have written about here. But there are other hierarchies of evil I have previously hesitated to mention because I find them too horrifying and disturbing; yet since it seems to me that what is happening now bears the unmistakeable stamp of these hierarchies, I shall have to face my own fears and go into the area of what St John in the Book of Revelation called “the two-horned Beast.” This two-horned Beast is the antithesis of the Being of Christ, and is designated by the mystical number 666. Rudolf Steiner interprets this number as signifying the name of the Sun Demon, Sorat, the adversary of Christ. It is Sorat’s goal to destroy both the human ‘I’ (the Self or ego) and the earth. 666 is also the number of those human beings who “out of their own cunning free-will have become black magicians by placing spiritual forces in the service of their own egotism.” (GA 104a, 21/05/09)
I am convinced that what we are seeing in the phenomenon of Isis, Daesh, Islamic State or whatever one calls it, is inextricably tied up with the workings of black magic. It is only when what Steiner calls the ABC of black magic is being practiced that humans actually set out along that route which will bring them to Sorat:
“The ABC consists in the pupil of a black magician being taught to destroy life quite consciously, and in doing so to cause as much pain as possible and to feel a certain satisfaction in it…The beginning in black magic is to cut and stab into living flesh … This draws the pupil closer and closer to the being described as the two-horned Beast.” (GA 104, 29/06/08) Steiner also says that: “in certain schools of black magic the followers are taught the horrible and diabolical practice of gashing living animals with a knife at the precise part of the body which will generate this or that force in the wielder of the knife.” (GA 94, 02/06/06).
My suspicion is that IS followers no longer bother to practice on animals but instead go straight to work on their human victims. They are even getting children to learn how to behead their hostages.
Steiner continues: “In no way can one so readily assimilate destructive astral forces as by killing. Every killing of a being possessing an astral body evokes an intensification of the most brutal egotism. It signifies a growing increase of power. In schools of black magic, therefore, instruction is first given as to how one cuts into animals.” (ibid.)
So murder, sex and the infliction of pain (we should note that these are also major preoccupations of our Western entertainment culture) are the essential prerequisites for black magic to unfold. The black magician gains sensual pleasure in cruelty; the urge to kill creates a void around themselves in the astral world in which their egotistic desires can unfold. This void in the astral world is created by acquiring power through seizing the life force of another living being, by deliberately killing or destroying it. The first rule of black magic is: Life must be conquered. (GA 94, 02/06/06)
It is in this context that we should look at the actions of the adherents of Islamic State. We should note first of all that many of the people who get caught up in it are very far from the ideal of the good Muslim. The driver of the Nice truck, a 31-year old Tunisian man, was known to police because of allegations of threats, violence and thefts over the last six years, and he had been given a suspended six-month prison sentence earlier this year after being convicted of violence with a weapon. The man’s father, who lives in Tunisia, has revealed that his son showed signs of mental health issues — having had multiple nervous breakdowns and volatile behavior. The man was also said to have had sex with both men and women, beaten his wife, taken alcohol and used drugs. Similarly, at least two of the men involved in the Paris attack at Le Bataclan music venue were people who smoked drugs, drank alcohol and had convictions for petty crime. So these were people who one could say did not have much of a stake in society and were vulnerable to manipulation by more powerfully-minded individuals.
Hitherto-suppressed reports are now starting to emerge from police who were involved in the aftermath of the attack on Le Bataclan in Paris. These police reports found evidence of torture on the bodies of some of the 89 victims. This includes the gouging-out of eyes, the cutting-off of testicles and stuffing them in the mouth of the victim, and the stabbing of female genitals. If these reports are true, they indicate that black magical practices of inflicting maximum pain, horror and humiliation while killing were being used.
While the Islamic State group is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, it is tightening its grip on the estimated 3,000 Yazidi women and girls held as sex slaves. These women were captured in August 2014 after IS overran Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, IS sells the women like packaged goods on smart phone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through IS checkpoints. In June this year, 19 Yazidi women who refused to have sex with IS fighters were burnt to death in iron cages in Mosul. For those that remain, multiple rape and beatings are the reality, these being techniques of black magical practice through which the oppressors can assimilate their victims’ astral energies. IS has actually issued a “rape handbook” to its fighters, with fifteen rules of how rapes may or may not be carried out on “infidel women”.
Steiner says that: “The black magician draws the most powerful forces out of the morass of sensuality. The purpose of sexual rites is to introduce such magic into these circles.” (GA 93a, 17/10/05)
The favoured IS method of beheading its victims (as seen in the UK with the attempted beheading of Fusilier Lee Rigby) or throat-slitting (as done with Fr Jacques Hamel in Normandy) are also standard black magical practices. Fr Hamel is reported to have said: “Va-t-en, Satan!” (Begone, Satan!) to his attacker. This is an exact naming of the force that was possessing his attacker, and by making it clear that he recognised what it was he was facing, the priest was helping to defuse the worst of the effects.
Those people who would seek to turn opinion against Muslims in the wake of such Islamic State atrocities should recall Steiner’s statement that after Christ’s crucifixion in what he calls the “Mystery of Golgotha” which blunted Sorat’s aim 2000 years ago, a second wave of attack came from Soratian forces in the 7th century AD through the Persian academy of Gondi-Shapur but this attack was largely thwarted by the creation of another counterforce – the religion of Islam. According to Steiner:
“Through the appearance of Mohammed and his visionary religious teaching, there was a deadening of the influence that was meant to go out from Gondi-Shapur. Above all, in those regions where it was wished to spread the Gnostic wisdom of Gondi-Shapur, Mohammed took the ground from under its feet…Here you can see the wisdom in world history; we come to know the truth about Mohammedanism only when, in addition to other things, we know that Mohammedanism was destined to deaden the Gnostic wisdom of Gondi-Shapur, to take from it the strong ahrimanically seductive force which would otherwise have been exercised upon mankind.” (GA 184, 12/10/18)
Furthermore, it was only though the convergence of Christianity and Islam during the period from the mid-sixth century to the thirteenth century that it was possible for our modern culture to come into being. In the monasteries of mediaeval Western Europe, Arabian concepts of philosophy and science started to influence Christian clerics.
So for us to turn against Muslims in the wake of IS atrocities is not only unjust and counter-productive, it also fails to recognise how the advent of Islam saved our own societies in the West all those centuries ago. To get through our present crises, fear and hatred are precisely the wrong answers. Instead, France, Germany, Britain and the rest will have to learn how to cherish and better integrate our Muslim citizens.
That is not to deny, however, that some current Islamic beliefs are in serious and urgent need of overhaul, particularly notions regarding paradise. A recent opinion piece by Kamel Daoud in the International New York Times contended that some Muslims, including those drawn to Islamic State, are giving up on any idea of improving life on Earth through independence, egalitarianism, development, wealth creation or justice. Their dreams have been destroyed by the authoritarian regimes, corruption and political failures in the Arab world, and the marginalisation of Muslims within Western societies. In their place, paradise is the new country dreamed of by the poor, the unemployed and the jihadists. Its main selling point is women, who are promised in vast numbers as a reward for the righteous. The women of paradise, the houris, are beautiful, submissive, languorous virgins.
This rather begs the question of what the Islamic paradise offers to women. If men can have dozens of virgins, what do the women get? It seems that the woman’s heavenly reward is to be her husband’s happy wife throughout eternity, the two of them destined to enjoy perpetual conjugal felicity (though presumably the husband is still taking full advantage of the houris).
But it cannot be ignored that this fantasy of eternal bliss requires that, before you can get to heaven, you first have to die. If you don’t have much else going for you here on earth, or if you are angry with the manifold injustices you see around you, then the prospect of a glorious death and entry into paradise may be tempting.
It does, however, take much more than a desire for paradise to turn a human being into the kind of creature that can force children into becoming soldiers who kill and behead hostages; that can throw homosexuals from rooftops; that can enslave and rape Yazidi women and girls in the belief that they are less than human; that can torture and behead its victims, bury them alive or burn them to death inside cages. For this, it takes black magicians who are able to create powerful egregora or thought forms, which can then take over the consciousness of those whose souls have become susceptible. Let us recognise what we are truly dealing with here: Rudolf Steiner speaks of human beings possessed by Sorat to such a degree that one could have every reason to doubt whether they are really members of the human race.
It was only in the twentieth century that humankind was first subjected to the Soratian attacks without the luciferic and ahrimanic masks that were previously used to lead human beings astray in preparation. We saw this with the decisions of politicans and generals in the First World War that led to 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded; we saw it in the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933 (the year when Steiner said more and more individuals would start to become aware of Christ in the etheric body of the earth), and whose racial extermination policies would lead to the death of 6 million Jews and an overall death toll during the Second World War of between 50 to 80 million; we saw it in the rulership of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, who was responsible for the deaths of 20 million of his fellow citizens; or of Mao-Tse-Tung, who between 1958 and 1962 was responsible for the deaths of 45 million people, who were worked, starved or beaten to death; or of Pol Pot whose Khmer Rouge were said to be responsible for the deaths of 2 million Cambodians. We saw it again in the massacre of up to 1 million Tutsis in Rwanda by Hutus in 1994, and in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place there. These examples from the last century could be multiplied and the present century is shaping up to be just as bad.
Whereas Ahriman’s aim is to lead us into an ever-intensifying form of brain-bound, earth-bound materialistic thinking, and Lucifer’s is to tempt us into believing that we are gods, the aim of Sorat the Antichrist, the Sun Demon, is to destroy the human ‘I” (the Self, the bearer of the Christ principle or the indwelling divinity in the human being) and to destroy the earth itself, which the ‘I’ needs for the future development of the human soul. Climate change, war, the sixth great extinction, genocide, materialism, racism, and human degradation – these are all facets of attacks from the same enemy. This is the true scale of the battle with which we are now engaged.
About this, Rudolf Steiner said: “What people in our epoch must learn is the need to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution.” In my next post, I will try to look at this in more detail.