Lincoln Steffens is hardly a household name these days, though perhaps he should be. Born in 1866, which makes him a near-contemporary of Rudolf Steiner, he was a highly influential American journalist during the early years of the 20th century. He knew and interviewed most of the famous people of his time, and was a campaigning and muckraking journalist, whose investigations of corruption in Wall Street helped lead to the creation of the Federal Reserve System.
But Steffens had his blind spots, and the most egregious of these was his embrace of Lenin and the Soviet Union. It was Steffens who reported his first impressions of the Soviet Union with the notorious phrase, “I have seen the future, and it works.”
The anthropopper has now come across the Lincoln Steffens de nos jours, and he is an historian called Yuval Noah Harari. He has written a book called Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and it is my contention that Harari is doing for the coming incarnation of Ahriman what Steffens did for Lenin – in other words, in the term invented to describe people who blindly supported the likes of Lenin and Stalin while they committed atrocity after atrocity, he is a useful idiot.
Not that the world at large seems to regard Harari in this light – his book, first published in 2014, has become an international bestseller, endorsed by Barack Obama and considered by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as essential reading. All the most glittering prizes of contemporary fame have been showered on him – TED talks, public lectures, a dedicated YouTube channel, an online course as well as speeches to the futurologists at Google and the Singularity University in Silicon Valley.
In Harari’s book, you can see how in our current time the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic influences are working together to deceive human beings about their true nature and their true future. Humans, says Harari, have done great things already and unimaginably greater things are going to be done. Our lifespan, for example, the Biblical three score years and ten, will double to one hundred and fifty as we humans become masters of our own fate and shapers of the natural circumstances of our own existence. The gods once made sport of us, but the future will “upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus.”
According to Harari, scientific and technological innovations issuing from the minds of a visionary technical elite will be writing the story of our future: “History is often shaped by small groups of forward-looking innovators rather than by the backward-looking masses.” (You can see how this might appeal to people like Gates and Zuckerberg.) If humankind of the future is still assailed by new strains of disease or with viruses resistant to all antibiotics, it won’t be because of inadequate science and research, but because of a failure of political will or inadequate resources.
So medicine, if the political classes allow it to get on with its job, is part of the good news. Climate change, environmental collapse and mass extinctions are, of course, part of the bad news; but “we could lessen the danger by slowing the pace of progress and growth”, and as for nuclear weapons, they have compelled the superpowers “to find alternative and peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.” Harari’s vision for the future, however, is not species annihilation but species transformation through science and technology. We will become new kinds of human beings as our bodies, minds and relationships with the environment and with mechanical devices become altered in fundamental ways.
Harari’s prediction is that we human beings will become more god-like as we become more machine-like and as the capacity of machines becomes more god-like. We are nothing special in the animal kingdom, we have no immortal soul, there is no essential human self and our thoughts and emotions are the product of electrochemical impulses which can in the future be modelled by algorithms. Our future lies in the hands of technical experts – in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cognitive and computer science. New tools will become parts of our bodies. We will have bionic hands, feet and eyes, while nanorobots will move through our bloodstream looking out for disease and repairing the damage of age and injury. We shall have wearable and implanted devices to expand our senses and alter our moods, while biological tools will enter our cells, remodel our genes and give us new and better flesh, blood and neurons.
Harari says it is a fact that the “last days of Homo sapiens are fast approaching, and that our species will be replaced “by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds.” Ordinary human beings will become surplus to requirements, as wars will be waged by drones and work will be done by robots: “Some economists predict that sooner or later, unenhanced humans will be completely useless.” Algorithms embedded in silicon and metal will replace algorithms embedded in flesh, which as Harari points out, is what biology and computer science tells us is all we really are anyway. Things have apparently gone so far that some in Silicon Valley already refer to human beings as “meat puppets.”
Things are going still further: Harari says that human beings will cease to be free agents, that their autonomy will be taken over by algorithms – written at first by human beings but ultimately by algorithm-writing machines. As this happens, liberal society will disintegrate as we will no longer be able to sustain belief in the uniqueness of the free human being as the basis of liberal social order. “We – or our heirs – will probably require a brand new package of religious beliefs and political institutions.”
This new religion will be called Dataism. It will be accompanied by the dissolution of the boundaries between animals, machines and social systems, all of which will be seen as algorithmic information processing systems. The concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ will be replaced by the primacy of the free flow of information. The “cosmic data-processing system” will be what God once was: “It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.”
One can see how all of this appeals very much to the would-be masters of the universe, such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Tim Cook (Apple) and all those who believe that human beings are just commodities to be manipulated by those who control the algorithms. It reinforces their sense that they have got it right and that they are the leaders of evolution.
I think enough has now been said to indicate that Harari is completely under the influence of Ahriman and Lucifer. What is disturbing is that his vision is so obviously already well under way, as we move inexorably towards the time of the incarnation of Ahriman. I’ve written before about Rudolf Steiner’s warnings concerning the forthcoming unique incarnation of Ahriman, of which Harari’s book is an obvious precursor:
“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.”
Steiner’s advice was that, although we cannot avoid this incarnation, the best thing we can do is to wake up from our complacent materialistic sleep and observe what is happening all around us:
“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.”
I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harari for showing so clearly what the incarnation of Ahriman will have in store for us, unless we wake up to what is happening and start to work towards some different outcomes. Outcomes are not necessarily independent of the prediction; and if enough people believe that certain things can happen or will happen, they may devote resources and technology to making them happen. So let us try to focus on what the real, intended future for human beings ought to be.
In doing this, we shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of changing course, nor should we ignore the role of our present model of capitalism, which will prevent us from hitting the brakes and steering the car away from Harari’s predicted future. We already have a situation in which Jeff Bezos is ‘worth’ $85 billion, whereas an Amazon delivery driver is just a disposable part in a machine, a component to be thrown away without a moment’s thought as soon as he can’t perform to the standards demanded by the algorithm.
Let us leave the final word to Rudolf Steiner:
“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.”