After my recent blog posting on Coronavirus and the Indwelling Divinity of the Human Being, I received an email from an anthroposophist, someone for whom I have considerable respect:
“I read your blog with interest (…). Thank you, it was stimulating food for thought. However, I’m afraid I don’t set great store by Judith von Halle’s sensational claims. I appreciate that you have obviously found them helpful, and I don’t want to undermine that, but from past experience and from Sergei Prokofieff’s analysis of her seership, I am very cautious. I think the pandemic is more about preparing humanity for the incarnation of Ahriman, the hallmarks are very much of ahrimanic nature. That’s not to say that other beings don’t also have an effect, but does Judith von Halle offer any substantiation of her claims? It’s a very strong statement that individual karma is being thwarted, for instance. When seers dislike being questioned, I become suspicious. She is welcome to offer opinions, but when they are dressed up as facts, I am wary. But it’s good that you write blogs and get people to think more widely.”
Another correspondent wrote to tell me how she attends a regular study group and after reading the blog post, “last week I mentioned Judith Von Halle and was jumped on by each of the others! Sometimes I feel that many people wouldn’t recognise Christ if he walked through their front door!!! “
What these messages show me is that there are many anthroposophists who revere the late Sergei Prokofieff (16 January 1954 – 26 July 2014), who regard him as a star in the anthroposophical firmament and a worthy successor to Rudolf Steiner. They have listened to his criticisms of Judith von Halle and have downplayed her significance accordingly. I don’t share this view but I realise that there are many people who won’t agree with me; if serious anthroposophists such as Peter Selg hold Prokofieff in high regard, then who am I to say that they are wrong? I would, nevertheless, like to explain my views on both Prokofieff and JvH.
Only once did I see Prokofieff in the flesh, and that was when he gave a lecture at Rudolf Steiner House in London. His buttoned-up appearance reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s jokey description of the repressed and reserved T.S Eliot, as “wearing his four-piece suit.” My doubts increased as he was speaking, because he seemed to me to be distorting Steiner’s teachings and drawing from them quite unjustified conclusions. Several other people with whom I spoke afterwards had similar reservations.
Later on, as I acquired copies of some of his books and began to read what he had written, my doubts increased further. I have now given almost all of these books away to Prokofieff enthusiasts, as I did not find them helpful.
Since it was clear to me that Prokofieff was introducing a Luciferic distortion of Steiner’s teachings, I became intrigued as to why he was regarded so highly by many anthroposophists, culminating in 2001 with his being invited to join the Vorstand (Executive Group) at the global centre for anthroposophy at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.
I then came across a very important critique of Prokofieff’s work. This is Sergei O. Prokofieff: Myth and Reality by the late Irina Gordienko. This book crystallised for me all the reservations I had felt about Prokofieff’s work. I won’t say any more about it here, because an excellent review of the book has been provided by Kim Graae Munch on his website and I would urge anyone who is interested to read it:
In his memorial address for Prokofieff given on 29 July 2014, Peter Selg described him as “this most inwardly faithful pupil of Rudolf Steiner and protector of his new revelation of Christ.” It is abundantly clear from Prokofieff’s writings and actions that he idolised Rudolf Steiner and that he wanted to be just like his eminent teacher. Like Steiner, Prokofieff was a prolific writer and lecturer dealing with profound esoteric matters. But I take leave to doubt whether Prokofieff was a high initiate in the same mould as Steiner himself.
In his remarks at the memorial gathering, Selg clearly did not feel it appropriate to make any reference to the controversies surrounding Prokofieff’s interpretations of Steiner’s teachings, nor his attacks on Judith von Halle. He did manage, however, to imply that Prokofieff was not always an easy colleague, recalling that: “In 2001 he was finally called to Dornach to join the Executive Council at the Goetheanum. Looking back on his life in personal conversations, he expressed repeatedly that he should have been called to the Executive Council by 1994 at the very latest so he could work intensely in Dornach for the ‘payment of the debt owed’ to Rudolf Steiner and for the culmination.” (The ‘culmination’ refers to Steiner’s expectation that anthroposophy would be transformed in such a way that it would enter significantly into the global scene of the 21st century as a world-changing creative power.)
Prokofieff also was “increasingly troubled by the relationship to Rudolf Steiner within the Anthroposophical Society and in Dornach, and he published a book concerning this relationship in 2006. Selg adds that Prokofieff also “felt himself to be increasingly isolated. He knew and accepted that an experience of ‘cosmic loneliness’ was part of modern initiation, but he often had to ask himself where his colleagues in the battle for the culmination were to be found. It pained him that his relationship to Rudolf Steiner—and the reasons he insisted on its significance—were often misunderstood; its inner spiritual dimension was not seen and what he taught and authentically lived remained uncomprehended.” Shortly before his death, Prokofieff told Selg “that he had things to tell the spiritual world and Rudolf Steiner, especially about the conduct of anthroposophy on the earth.”
Clearly, everyone but Prokofieff was out-of-step. No-one can doubt Prokofieff’s devotion to Steiner and anthroposophy and his single-minded pursuit of what he felt was a sacrificial path of martyrdom. But I can’t help wondering what Rudolf Steiner will have said to his disciple when they met in the spiritual world after Prokofieff’s death.
So why am I resurrecting this fairly ancient history? It is because Prokofieff’s attacks on Judith von Halle are still influencing many anthroposophists, such as my correspondent cited above. Anyone who is new to these controversies can find out more by following this link and this to items appearing in Southern Cross Review in 2013:
I would like to say something now about my own feelings concerning Judith von Halle. Up until fairly recently, I had stayed away from the controversies surrounding her and the attacks mounted on her by Prokofieff and others such as T.H. Meyer and Mieke Mossmuller. Then I read a book called The Representative of Humanity – Between Lucifer and Ahriman by Judith von Halle and the late John Wilkes, about the unfinished wooden sculpture by Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon, which is today exhibited at the Goetheanum.
As I read this book, I was seized by an absolute certainty of knowing that Judith von Halle in her previous life had been Edith Maryon. How can one explain these things? I just knew.
This book is a sacred text. In the chapters, written alternately by John Wilkes and Judith von Halle, one is given not only the history of the first Goetheanum as a mystery temple and the central place in it of the wooden model, but also a beautifully clear and simple exposition of what it is to be a human being and an outline of the evolutionary journey on which we are all embarked. If you are looking for a concise and clear explanation of anthroposophy, I don’t think you can do better than to read this book. The photos and illustrations of the first Goetheanum and the artwork inside it are very moving and make one realise what a unique treasure was lost when the arsonist did his work on New Year’s Eve 1922.
It is an extraordinary thing that, just a few days earlier, on 26th December 1922, Rudolf Steiner gave to Edith Maryon a mantric verse that would seem to be a kind of preparation to deal with the shock of what would occur on the last day of the year:
When human beings discovered the way the world
Dispersed endlessly in atoms
They accepted an understanding of the death of nature:
They should now strive to find in spirit what will overcome
The dead remains, and they will direct their understanding
To world becoming.
By giving Edith Maryon this verse, Steiner was showing to her that in the artistic realm one should not cling to the material aspect, because if one had done the work with the right attitude, one would have created something that is imperishable at the angelic level, a lasting spiritual work of art that will then have eternal existence.
John Wilkes was the founder of the Foundation for Water at Emerson College in the UK, where he did much of the mathematical research that led to the creation of flow forms for revitalising water. But he also was instrumental in the saving and restoration of the wax, plasticine and clay models that had been prepared by Steiner and Maryon for the Representative of Humanity, which had been thrown out (some were even wantonly destroyed, including a bust of Rudolf Steiner) when Edith Maryon’s studio was being cleared out in the 1950s. A little while ago I spoke with John Wilkes’ widow, Alfhild, who, although being understandably reluctant to discuss such a sensitive subject, confirmed that my intuition about Judith von Halle’s previous life was also shared by JvH herself. Interestingly, Alfhild also suggested that JvH, in some of her spiritual research, did not always get things invariably correct, which is a theme that Prokofieff, Meyer et al might agree with.
It is, nevertheless, for her spiritual research that Judith von Halle should be celebrated today. She is able to do work that only a very few anthroposophists are capable of doing, ie genuine spiritual scientific research. I know of only a few such people doing distinguished work in their own fields, for example Susan Raven (nature spirits), Ralf Roessner (bees, the light root) and Iain Trousdell (John Wilkes’ successor at the Foundation for Water). There must be others that I’m unaware of, but they are all precious and we should cherish them.
Von Halle herself has said this about her work:
“I am often criticised—it is the main criticism—that my lectures and books only contain the description of the perceptions, of unreflected-upon visions. But that is not the case. The work of investigating the spiritual world, that is my real activity, and it was also the case before the stigmatisation. Together with the stigmata really came experience of the events in the life of Christ and its historical circumstances, but perceptions of concrete historical situations from other times have also been possible for me since then, such as from the time of the Templars or events from other times and their circumstances. That was an amazing experience. However, what was important was that based on these historical events it was possible for me to spiritually investigate, that is to find out by means of spiritual science why just these historical events happened and their esoteric meaning in the overall cosmic plan. And it should be clear to every anthroposophist that such things cannot be found out through mere perception, but only by working for knowledge of them. And that is the kind of work, namely spiritual research, which I also did previously. It is very important that this be understood, because the same error in judgment of my spiritual activity is repeated again and again in public, at least by those people who judge without having been correctly informed about my work by reading my books. Therefore in every introduction to my [Christological] books I write about this – but it is unfortunately often ignored.”
Asked about how she does her spiritual research, JvH said this (and also gave a clue about herself which I followed up): “An indication of what happens in this respect on a higher plane can be found in Rudolf Steiner’s Class lessons for the members of the Free University for Spiritual Science, especially what he says at the beginning of the 11th lesson”.
This is what Rudolf Steiner said in Dornach on 2nd May 1924, at the beginning of the 11th Lesson:
“My dear Friends! You were probably all deeply affected this morning by the news that Miss Maryon has departed from the physical plane, even though this was an event long expected, coming as it has after a very grave illness lasting for over a year.” (Edith Maryon died from tuberculosis.)
“Tomorrow, when all the members of the Anthroposophical Society are present, I shall tell you what I have to say about Miss Maryon’s departure from the physical plane. For today, let me just mention that the First Class has lost a truly devoted pupil, for Miss Maryon was foremost among those who, with devoted work and inner fervour, have been deeply attached to what it has been giving. Despite her severe illness, she not only participated in the esoteric work being developed here but also practised the exercises given, letting them work on her and living with them with exceptional inwardness.”
“In her case this was all founded on the fact that she was actually already an esoteric pupil when she came to us. She belonged to an esoteric school working in quite a different direction before she made the transition to the Anthroposophical Society, and she very rapidly made the complete transition from that esoteric school into Anthroposophy. For her the esoteric element was what really mattered; she lived very intensely within it during the years she was with us on the physical plane, and will now continue to do so, having departed from the physical plane, though most certainly not from Anthroposophy.”
(…) “My dear friends, in esoteric life the essential thing is that a person should at least see and contemplate the ways and means whereby real knowledge in spiritual things comes about. As to how far the one or other among us will progress in following these pathways – this, admittedly, will depend on his karma. It will depend on the conditions he brings with him from former lives on earth.”
The karmic connections between Rudolf Steiner and Edith Maryon lay across many ages and intensified during their work together on the Representative of Humanity. During the winter of 1916, as recounted by Steiner in his funeral address for Edith Maryon, she had saved him from death or serious injury when he almost fell from the scaffolding in the high ceilinged studio built the previous year to accommodate the 9.5 metre high model of the sculpture: “It was fairly near the start of our sculptural activities at the Goetheanum in Dornach when I had to work in the outer studio, that is in the large front studio, up on the scaffolding next to the figure of Christ in our model. That was the moment when, because of a gap in the scaffolding, I ran the risk of falling off, and I would definitely have fallen with my whole body onto a post with a sharp point if Edith Maryon had not caught hold of me.”
For reason of these deep karmic connections between Steiner and Edith Maryon, I am inclined to think that in her current incarnation as Judith von Halle, the I of her being is in close touch with the great Christian initiate who was Rudolf Steiner. I therefore give high credence to her spiritual research and insights and less credence to the criticisms from people such as Prokofieff, Thomas Meyer and Mieke Mossmuller. I speak as I find, and I find their thoughts overly head-centred and intellectual. I wish they could find their way to the kind of heart-centred thinking towards which all anthroposophists should aspire. Like my second correspondent cited above: “Sometimes I feel that many people wouldn’t recognise Christ if he walked through their front door.”