Category Archives: Ahriman

Being human is an Easter experience

Some months ago, I was asked by the committee of the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex to give an address on a theme of my choice at our Easter Festival, which was to be held at Emerson College on Easter Day, 12th April 2020. I was honoured and enthused by this request and decided to give a talk on the theme of ‘Anthroposophy as an Easter experience.’

The inspiration for this theme came from a remark by Rudolf Steiner during a lecture he gave on April 22nd 1924: “Anthroposophy in all its working, is an Easter experience, an experience of resurrection bound up with the experience of the grave.” Steiner was speaking in the context of the deliberate destruction by arson of the first Goetheanum on New Year’s Eve 1922, an event which he was able to relate to the similar destruction of the Temple at Ephesus in the year 356 BC by the arsonist Herostratus.

The Goetheanum had been intended as a modern mystery temple; its burning had been for Steiner a kind of crucifixion.  Steiner now called for a renewal of the Mysteries, saying that: “The Anthroposophical Society must consciously cultivate this renewal. The Society was, after all, witness to an event that, like the burning of the Temple at Ephesus, can be turned to good historical account. In both cases a grievous wrong was perpetrated. However, what is a terrible wrong on one level can turn out to be useful for human freedom on another level. Such harrowing events can indeed call forth a true step forward in human evolution.”

Steiner also recognised that the destiny of human beings is to achieve freedom, “which meant that the Mysteries’ powerful influence had to diminish and for a time leave human beings more or less to their own devices.”  This, of course, in the age of the Consciousness Soul, is where we are today, with many people pulled this way and that because they have no foundational philosophical base on which to gauge their response to world phenomena.

All of this was to have been the context for my talk, which cannot now take place owing to the Covid-19 pandemic which has closed down Emerson College and many of the other aspects of our normal, everyday life. I would also have talked about some of the anthroposophical enterprises which have experienced significant difficulties in recent times, particularly the Steiner schools. I had even found a quotation from Steiner, to the effect that whatever good intention we start off with, it is inevitable that the way of the world will eventually turn it into its opposite. It comes from Lecture 4 in the cycle ‘The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness’, given in Dornach on 6thOctober 1917:

“ ‘Surely’, people will say, ‘it must be a good thing to be more and more perfect?’ And ‘What better ideal can there be but to have a programme that will make us more and more perfect?’ But this is not in accord with the law of reality. It is right, and good, to be more and more perfect, or at least aim to be so, but when people are actually seeking to be perfect in a particular direction, this search for perfection will after a time change into what in reality is imperfection. A change occurs through which the desire for perfection becomes a weakness. Benevolence will after a time become prejudicial behaviour. And however good the right may be that you want to bring to realisation — it will turn into a wrong in the course of time. The reality is that there are no absolutes in this world. You work towards something that is good, and the way of the world will turn it into something bad. We therefore must seek ever-new ways, look for new forms over and over again. This is what really matters.”

But to have confined my remarks to the original theme of this talk would at the time of this pandemic have seemed not only beside the point but even frivolous, given the scale of what human beings are currently facing. It is not only anthroposophy which is having an Easter experience but humanity as a whole.

Each one of us is familiar in these apocalyptic times with what Steiner called ‘the experience of the grave’ . For many areas here in the UK, 2019 ended and 2020 continued with day after day of heavy rain and disastrous flooding. The rain never seemed to stop. On the other side of the world, Australia suffered huge bush fires which were then followed by floods. Climate change, which is affecting all parts of the world, is having a marked effect on weather patterns. Pollution is poisoning our land, seas and rivers and much of nature, including us. Migration and the associated resurgence of nationalism encouraged by populist politicians is undermining our sense of shared humanity and common goals. We know that the Sixth Great Extinction of species is underway, and this and so many other human-made problems are casting long shadows over all life on Earth. And just to add to the Biblical scenes of apocalypse, in Africa we are even seeing a vast plague of locusts, the worst there has been for nearly a century. Now the Covid-19 pandemic has joined these other phenomena to reinforce our sense of all-consuming crisis. For me this is epitomised by the “social distancing” that we are being exhorted to practise – literally to keep our distance one from another.

In Judith von Halle’s book Illness and Healing, she suggests that in this present age of the Consciousness Soul, many modern illnesses are in fact illnesses of the organism of humanity, ie the totality of all human beings. These illnesses arise from the collective effect of the actions, thoughts and feelings of each one of us and express themselves through human beings in the form of pandemics; but they also manifest in the Earth as extreme weather events, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and so on.

This will, no doubt, strike many people as just fanciful – but as Steiner observed in another context, “Present day materialism will find it very hard to admit that the spirit creates everything material. It is, however, the tragedy of materialism that it understands the nature of matter least of all…”

But could it be, as ‘Midnight Rambler’ recently suggested on this blog, that the current pandemic may have a potentially positive outcome? His view was that, if we can grasp it, this global event could be an example of metanoia – a John the Baptist moment for a re-evaluation of how we want to live and how we want society to function. He also said: “Is everyone noticing how Natura is breathing more easily now that the world is slowing down?”

Let us hope so – we should never waste a good crisis; and unlike the Member of Parliament I heard on the radio the other week, I do not want to “get back to normal as soon as possible” after this crisis is over; because if we do go straight back to how life was before, we will soon have to suffer even more pandemics, extreme weather events, societal breakdowns etc., until we finally learn the lesson.

The lesson we need to learn is actually quite a simple one: how can we meet real human needs and care for each other and all life on Earth through our work? If we are to experience the resurrection as well as the grave, it is human solidarity, which is love expressed in practical action, which will get us through this present crisis and take us on to a better future. We are seeing this now, in the countless deeds of selfless work on behalf of the sick by hospital and health workers; and we see it, too, in the myriad acts of kindness offered towards the elderly and vulnerable by their neighbours.

At my own local level here in Forest Row, I’m often reminded of these simple truths; at Tablehurst Farm, for example, where I work at the farm’s care home, a small residential home for three adults with learning disabilities. I’m reminded of this, too, by the farm’s work in producing biodynamic and organic food for local people while demonstrating strong community values. The farm has recently started home deliveries for the elderly and those who are self-isolating (a service which I’ve just taken advantage of, as my wife Sophia and I are recovering from symptoms of the virus and so unable to leave home). Will this epidemic help society to make these kinds of initiatives part of the new normal, so that we don’t have to go back to what we had before?

Even better, might this experience make it possible for us humans to realise we can change our habits and our expectations without too much pain? Could those of us in the West learn to do with less so that the rest of the world can have a little more?  Can we prolong this welcome mini-break that the Earth has had from our polluting activities? It’s been wonderful to see evidence of reduced air pollution across major cities and I’m sure we’re all enjoying the diminution in aircraft and traffic noise. Could this be maintained into the future? Probably not, unless we can persuade governments that we do not want to resume the relentless emphasis on economic growth, even though it’s obvious that this is the only way for us to achieve the reduction in carbon emissions necessary if the twin crises of climate change and species extinction are to be averted. If change is what we want, then we all need to let our politicians know it, loud and clear.

I’ve been veering towards the positive so far on what this pandemic might mean for us; but there is also a possibility that I am being naïve and that we are all being ‘played’ by forces that are very far from benign towards human beings. One of the many disturbing features of this crisis is the astonishing speed with which our civil liberties have been taken away from us. At Easter time, amid all the other restrictions being placed on us, it is very strange that Covid-19 is making it impossible for churches to be open and for services to be held; and therefore “where two or more are gathered together in my Name, there I am present among them” is also rendered impossible. Sophia, who is a French national, tells me that in France people are now only allowed out of their homes if they are on their own – and only for one hour at a time and they can only go one kilometre from their home. This pandemic has created the circumstances in which all the aspects of a totalitarian dictatorship can be justified by governments and accepted meekly by most of us, not only in France but also in the UK and across the world.

Who would wish to bring about such a situation? Anthroposophists will of course have a ready candidate in mind, the infinitely clever being whom Jesus Christ called the Ruler of this World and whom Steiner called Ahriman.  It would be very much in the interests of Ahriman, whose incarnation may be imminent, to close down Easter and to force every person on the planet to submit themselves to government diktat for reasons that are apparently benign and claimed to be for the greater good.

What can we do as a form of gentle resistance to this closing-down of Easter and normal life? This Good Friday morning Sophia and I lit a candle and read through the Gospel of John, from the account of the last supper in the Upper Room through to the events of the Crucifixion; this was an incredibly powerful and moving experience for both of us. We will continue to read the rest of the story in the coming days. Outside, the sun was shining, the plants are burgeoning and there was a very strong sense of the Christ-filled elementals celebrating in the garden.

If I could have given my talk at Emerson College on Easter Day, Sunday 12th April, I would have begun with the great Easter poem by the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser. This is Sonnet 68 from the ‘Amoretti’ sequence of 89 sonnets, first published in 1595, which Spenser wrote for his fiancée, Elizabeth Boyle. Now it seems an appropriate way to end this piece:

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,

Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:

And having harrow’d hell, didst bring away

Captivity thence captive, us to win:

This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,

And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,

Being with thy dear blood clean wash’d from sin,

May live for ever in felicity.

And that thy love we weighing worthily,

May likewise love thee for the same again:

And for thy sake, that all life dear didst buy,

With love may one another entertain.

So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,

Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

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Filed under Ahriman, Covid-19 pandemic, Easter

Under the Gaze of Uriel

 The following is the text of an address given as part of the Midsummer Festival organised by the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex, held on Sunday 23rd June 2019 at Emerson College.

 We are now at the Summer Solstice and the St John’s Festival, that time of the year when in the Northern Hemisphere we have our longest day and shortest night. Rudolf Steiner, in a lecture given on 12thOctober 1923, said that the great archangel most associated with this time of year is Uriel: and that Uriel directs his countenance and clear piercing gaze down towards the Earth and perceives disturbing shapes which continually gather and dissolve, gather and dissolve again. These shapes, Steiner says, are “human errors upon which Uriel directs his earnest gaze. Here during the height of summer, the imperfections of mankind are searchingly surveyed and contrasted with the morality implicit in the natural world. Now we see how at midsummer human errors are woven into the regular crystals which are formed in the normal course of Nature. On the other hand, all that is human virtue and human excellence rises up with silver-gleaming lines and is seen as the clouds that envelop Uriel”.

Uriel via wikimedia

Uriel directing his gaze at human errors. (Photo via Wikimedia)

So Midsummer is a time when, under the gaze of Uriel, the spiritual world looks with especial closeness at our human actions and motivations. This is a good time of year for us to do the same and look closely at what we humans are doing in the world.

Almost 60 years ago, someone who was inspired by anthroposophy wrote a book which woke up the world to the dangers of the unregulated use of pesticides. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which was published in 1962. Her book has been rightly acknowledged as one of the all-time great pieces of science writing, detailing the scale of the damage being done by human-applied chemicals to the environment and all its denizens.  It had a huge impact and led to awareness and legislation at least in part controlling the damage caused by pesticides such as DDT.

Rachel Carson photo via BBC

Rachel Carson (photo via BBC)

In a letter written in 1958 to a friend, soon after she began the research that would lead to her book, Rachel Carson spoke about how difficult it had been for her to believe what was happening. She said:

“Some of the thoughts that came were so unattractive to me that I rejected them completely,  for the old ideas die hard, especially when they are emotionally as well as intellectually dear to one…that the stream of life would flow on through time in whatever course that God had appointed for it …And to suppose that, however the physical environment might mould Life, that Life could never assume the power to change drastically – or even destroy – the physical world. These beliefs have almost been part of me for as long as I have thought about such things. To have them even vaguely threatened was so shocking that, as I have said, I shut my mind – refused to acknowledge what I couldn’t help seeing.”

Today, sixty years on, we are witnessing even greater threats to the web of life on Earth and it is perhaps even more difficult for us than it was for Carson to acknowledge and take on board the scale of the challenges now facing all of life. This is the first time in our history, for example, that through the activities of humankind, the entire global climate is shifting to what may be our permanent disadvantage; and we are also in the middle of what scientists are calling the Sixth Great Extinction of species, again caused by our activities.

But if that isn’t enough, there are still other challenges coming up fast to confront us. It was last year, just shortly after Midsummer, that during the annual conference of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, we were shocked by the message that Nicanor Perlas brought about the threats posed by the advent of artificial intelligence. Nicanor has written a book about this, which no doubt many of you will have read, and it has a stark and scary title. His book is called Humanity’s Last Stand and in it he estimates that humanity has about 20 years to find ways in which artificial super intelligence, (ASI) can be aligned with human values; if we are not able to do this, we are likely to be totally overwhelmed by materialistic technology. If Uriel is casting his gaze on the leading advocates for ASI, he will be observing people who believe that humans are nothing more than complex biological machines.

Perlas via Right Livelihood Award

Nicanor Perlas (photo via Right Livelihood Award)

If you believe human beings are nothing more than complex biological machines, then you open up your fellow humans to some disturbing outcomes; we can see, for example what is happening in China right now, where with the power of AI the governing Communist Party is developing extensive new tools for a comprehensive method of political and social control. They have given this a harmless sounding name – they are calling it “social credit.” But what it means is a total surveillance society, in which nothing you can do is hidden from the authorities. If the Chinese state gives you a poor social credit score, then your life becomes very severely constrained. You may be prevented from graduating, or travelling on some train lines, or buying an airline ticket, or buying a property, taking out a loan or even filling your car with fuel.

Now of course, no Western government would dare go so far as they are going in China, though no doubt some of them would like to. The irony of this is that the Chinese social-credit system is based explicitly on a familiar, Western model: the credit score, which we all know about. Data brokers trace the timely manner in which we pay our debts, giving us a score that’s used by lenders and mortgage providers. We also have social-style scores, and anyone who has shopped online with eBay has a rating on shipping times and communication, while Uber drivers and passengers both rate each other; if your score falls too far, you’re out of luck.

The Chinese genius, if you can call it that, was to take credit scoring as a tool of social discipline to its logical conclusion. They have extended their control across the entire range of interactions any member of modern society is more or less compelled to pursue by the very style and structure of contemporary life.

But of course there are many other phenomena of our time that are truly disturbing; there are so many shapes of human error for Uriel to gaze upon – but this evening I would like to focus on just one of them, which is the move to merge humankind with machines and technology.

Rudolf Steiner, of course, foresaw all of this, as far back as 1910. This is what he said in Lecture 12 of the series ‘The Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric’:

(…) “the will is there to harness human energy to mechanical energy. These things should not be treated by fighting against them. That is a completely false view. These things will not fail to appear; they will come. What we are concerned with is whether, in the course of world history, they are entrusted to people who are familiar in a selfless way with the great aims of earthly evolution and who structure these things for the health of human beings or whether they are enacted by groups of human beings who exploit these things in an egotistical or in a group-egotistical sense. That is what matters. It is not a question of the what in this case; the what is sure to come. It is a question of the how, how one tackles these situations. The what lies simply in the meaning of earthly evolution. The welding together of the human nature with the mechanical nature will be a problem of great significance for the remainder of earthly evolution”.

That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? “The welding together of the human nature with the mechanical nature will be a problem of great significance for the remainder of earthly evolution”. And in our time it’s being led not by people who structure these things for the health of human beings but by those whom Steiner describes as exploiting these things in an egotistical or group-egotistical sense.

How are they doing this? It is being presented to us not as a threat to our essential humanity but as a kind of species transformation through medical science and technology. The promise is that 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.

The prediction by futurologists such as Google’s Ray Kurzweil is that we human beings will become more god-like as we become more machine-like and as machines develop more god-like powers. Kurzweil says that we humans 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. Does that sound wonderful to you, or terrifying?

Kurzweil via Wikipedia

Ray Kurzweil (photo via Wikipedia)

Another futurologist, Yuval Noah 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’.

But 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. He says that: “We – or our heirs – will probably require a brand-new package of religious beliefs and political institutions.”

harari via wikipedia

Yuval Noah Harari (photo via Wikipedia)

This new religion will be called Dataism. It will be accompanied by the dissolution of the boundaries between humans, 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.”

Rudolf Steiner has told us what is the true challenge of our age: he says “it is humanity’s task in this period to come to grips with evil as an impulse in the evolution of the world”. The task for the fifth post-Atlantean period, he says, is a particularly difficult one:

“As you see, a great many temptations face humanity. When the powers of evil gradually appear, it is natural that man is more likely under the circumstances to give in to this evil in all realms, rather than taking up the struggle to allow what appears to him as evil to be put in the service of the good in world evolution. Yet this must happen: the evil must to a certain degree be placed at the service of the good in world evolution”.

And it does seem as though we are indeed at a new point in world and human evolution. In this connection I remember a quotation from the late visionary poet and playwright Christopher Fry, who in his play, A Sleep of Prisoners, has one of the characters say the following:

The human heart can go the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this is no winter now.
The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move.
The thunder is the thunder of the floes, the thaw, the flood,
the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now, when wrong comes up,
to face us everywhere
Never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul
men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size,

The enterprise is exploration unto God.

So that is what we are about in this age – we have chosen to be here at this time when human beings are making a massive evolutionary shift. This is a terrifying but also really exciting time to be here on Earth; and adopting a Luddite approach to emerging technology is not the required response. Steiner tells us:

“It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves from Ahriman by cutting ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy for this is not to let the forces of the modern soul weaken and cut themselves off from modern life, but to make the forces of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life. A courageous approach to modern life is necessitated by world karma, and that is why true spiritual science possesses the characteristic of requiring an effort of the soul, a really hard effort”.

Alongside courage and hard effort, we also need hope, what Steiner in one of his verses refers to as “all-sustaining hope”. So here are a few reasons why, despite everything, I’m still hopeful and optimistic.

On a personal level, I’m encouraged by listening to the speakers who come here to give talks at Emerson; we have had some wonderful speakers who are alerting us to what is going on in the world and who are giving us real pointers to the future. I was particularly impressed recently by a representative of the Youth Section from Dornach, and the work that that Section is doing on a research project into young people’s attitudes towards spirituality across 23 different countries. I’m also blessed to work on these Emerson talks with some fine young colleagues. And in Liz Attwell’s inspirational talk 2 weeks ago, we heard of her intuition that it is the young people of today who are birthing a new Christ impulse. She also said that many of the dark things we are experiencing are just the inevitable flotsam and jetsam thrown up by this new impulse – and I’m sure she’s right.

Because of all this and so much more I am conscious of how lucky we are to live here and to know that Emerson College, Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch farms, Michael Hall School, Peredur, Tobias and Nutley Hall are all here. We live in an island of sanity amongst the surrounding seas of illusion and although we have some adjustments to make so that we can look the modern world square in the face (what is happening to the Waldorf schools is a case in point here), we are nevertheless strong and resolute.

And beyond our locality, I see all sorts of hopeful developments happening. Just this week, for example, we heard that an American billionaire has given £150 million to the University of Oxford to fund a new centre to look into the ethics of artificial intelligence. His name is Stephen Schwarzman and he said: “I think the scientists agree that they want AI introduced in an ethical way, because they don’t want to experience the downsides. I think this is one of the major issues of our age, because AI is going to come, it’s really unstoppable. It’s not just AI, it’s robotics and all other kinds of computer science innovations”. That echoes what Steiner said back in 1910. And on 12th June the UK government committed us to zero net emissions by 2050, which is definite progress – and there are now 18 out of 28 EU countries which have also pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2050.

I am also amused by and take pity on the idiocies of our atheistic futurologists.  Ray Kurzweil, for example, that incredibly clever man and chief futurologist of Google, is also, rather endearingly, an idiot. He believes in cryonics, which for those of you who don’t know about it, is a technique of freezing dead bodies in the hope that science in the future may find a way to bring the corpses back to life. Ray Kurzweil has booked himself a place for when he dies with a leading American cryonics company, which charges $200,000 to deep-freeze a full body or, if you’re a cheapskate, $80,000 for just a head. The process involves getting to the patient as soon as possible after clinical death has been pronounced and then cooling the body over the next few days to bring it down to -196C using nitrogen gas. Your corpse is then placed in a shiny steel capsule with a bullet-proof viewing window and stays there until the day when science has sufficiently advanced to bring you back to life. I am not making this up – this is genuinely what cryonics is about; and Ray Kurzweil has signed up for this. The poor man doesn’t realise that he is already immortal! If he’d just read Steiner and informed himself about what a human being really is, he could have saved himself $200,000!

I comfort myself with the thought that in the final analysis, Ahriman and his minions will always lose. They always lose because they lack the capacity to love or understand those who can love. Nicanor Perlas in his book repeats a story that Bernard Lievegoed says was given by Steiner in a letter to a widow. In this letter, Steiner says he saw the image of Ahriman sitting in a cave under the earth. He works. He writes things down, counting and counting, calculating and calculating. He tries to build up a whole world out of a new mathematics (and of course AI algorithms are part of the new mathematics). There, Steiner says, Michael stands beside him waiting. For Michael knows that he will make the final addition. Michael with his sword, will make the sum. The moment has not yet come. Michael is waiting, standing by the side, waiting. He can do this when people on earth are there fighting and going with him. With Uriel, we weigh up and understand; with Michael, we act without fear on the basis of that understanding. And that is the really important point – in this present age of the consciousness soul, Michael can only act if we help him to do it. But if we do, he will in turn help us to find much more positive outcomes from the extreme technologies that are threatening our existence today. So it really is up to all of us to play our part in this huge battle.

And finally, I would like to leave you with this verse of Steiner’s:

“We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror of what comes towards Man out of the future. We must acquire serenity in all feelings and sensations about the future.

We must look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may come. And we must think only that whatever comes is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.

It is part of what we must learn in this age, namely, to live out of pure trust, without any security in existence – trust in the ever-present help of the spiritual world.

Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us. And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves Every morning and every evening”.

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Filed under Ahriman, Artificial Intelligence, Cryonics, Evil, Futurology, Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Science, Uriel

Difficult days for Steiner Waldorf schools in England

These are dark and difficult times for Steiner Waldorf schools in England, so much so in fact that I fear for their survival.

I refer to England, rather than the rest of the UK, because it is the Department for Education (DfE) in England that oversees Ofsted which is responsible for inspecting a range of educational institutions, including state schools and some independent schools within England, and which is currently concentrating its efforts on giving Steiner schools as hard a time as possible. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the situation is different and the Ofsted equivalents in those countries do not appear to have it as their mission to close down Steiner schools.

It was of course the disastrous failings at the now-closed Kings Langley school that provided the main impetus for this campaign against Steiner schools. As Tom Hart Shea, a former head teacher who commented on my “Death of a Steiner school” post observed, “I fear the knock-on effects of this saga for other Steiner Schools. By this I mean it would be irresponsible for the DfE not to look for similar failings in other College-run Steiner Schools”.

So it has proved, except that Ofsted is not just inspecting the independent Steiner schools to within an inch of their lives but is also coming down very heavily on the state-funded Steiner academy schools.

The Kings Langley failures led to a wide range of highly critical articles about Steiner education in the national media. On 24th June 2018, the Daily Telegraph published an article with the headline: “ ‘Rotten to the core’ flagship Steiner school to close, as it emerges concerned parents were sent gagging letters”. The article, by the newspaper’s education editor, Camilla Turner, went on to say:

“A flagship Steiner school is to close amid fears over child safety, after it emerged that parents who tried to raise the alarm about safeguarding lapses had been sent gagging letters.

The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) has told parents that it will shut down at the end of this term, following a string of damning Ofsted reports.

Steiner schools, which are favoured by liberally-minded middle-class parents, base their curriculum – which emphasises creativity and imagination – on the spiritual philosophy of Rudolf Steiner.

Parents have accused the school of attempting to “cover up” the full extent of its failings by trying to intimidate those who sought to voice their unease about the goings-on at the school”.

Camilla Turner returned to the theme in another Telegraph article on 20th October 2018, this time with the Steiner Academy Exeter in her sights:

“Ministers have been urged to order fresh inspections of all the Steiner schools in the country, as a second school is threatened with closure amid ‘serious’ concerns about child safety.

The Steiner Academy Exeter was warned by the government this week that it could have its funding cut off, after Ofsted discovered severe safeguarding and governance lapses.

Following the inspection, the regional schools’ commissioner took the unusual step of instructing it to close immediately while the issues were addressed, so it can ensure a ‘safe environment’ for its pupils. It re-opened a week later”.

On 6thDecember 2018, Sally Weale, an education correspondent for The Guardian, also wrote about the Steiner Academy Exeter under the headline:

“ ‘Inadequate’ Steiner school to be taken over by academy chain”.  She went on to report:

“A state-funded Steiner school in Devon is to be transferred to a multi-academy trust after the schools watchdog said it was inadequate.

Ofsted inspectors raised serious concerns about safeguarding and lack of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) at the Steiner Academy Exeter, which opened in September 2013.

The academy is one of a small number of Steiner schools set up as a result of the government’s controversial free school policy and paid for by public funds. Other Steiner schools in the UK are privately funded”.

Sally Weale followed this up with another Guardian article on 17th January 2019:

“The future of state-funded Steiner education has been thrown into doubt after a series of snap Ofsted inspections found that three of the four such schools set up under the Conservatives’ free schools programme were inadequate.

The four have been inspected in recent weeks – alongside private Steiner schools, a number of which have also been found to be inadequate – following an intervention by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, over concerns about safeguarding.

Ofsted reports for the Frome and Bristol Steiner academies are due to be published later this week and have been shared with parents. Copies seen by The Guardian reveal inspectors’ concerns about a wide range of issues including safeguarding, bullying and lack of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Frome report accuses leaders and governors of failing to provide pupils with a safe and effective education, due to a lack of understanding about the current statutory requirements”.

Humanists UK, which has for some years been campaigning against Steiner schools, tried to claim the credit for Ofsted’s actions:

“Humanists UK is calling for the urgent closure of three Steiner schools which were rated inadequate by the education inspectorate Ofsted after the schools failed to prove they could keep pupils safe. The inspections are the culmination of a long-running campaign by Humanists UK to expose the dangers of the Steiner school sector. (…)

Humanists UK has long standing concerns about Steiner schools and has consistently campaigned against state funding for these institutions. In 2014 it won an Information Tribunal case against the government, forcing it to publicly release briefings about serious problems with Steiner schools including the bullying of students and teaching racism.

Other concerns raised by Humanists UK included the presence of pseudoscience on the curriculum (including scepticism of evolution and vaccinations and support for homeopathy), homeopathy being given to pupils by the schools’ ‘anthroposophical doctors’, and the fact that a number of private and at least one state Steiner school have opted out of providing vaccinations.

 The Guardian also reports that the School Inspection Service (SIS), which Humanists UK has long campaigned to see shut down on the basis of concerns about its efficacy, has now been closed. Ofsted has hitherto not inspected Steiner schools routinely as that has been the SIS’s responsibility. The SIS was set up by the Exclusive Brethren and also inspects Brethren schools, and Humanists UK had concerns about the quality and impartiality of its inspections. Humanists UK is seeking to clarify its reported closure with Ofsted”.

It is ironic, to say the least, that Humanists UK have been so keen to close down schools offering a thoroughly humanistic (though not atheistic) education. But their last point about the closure of the School Inspection Service (SIS) appears to be true, although I can find no mention of it on the SIS website.  I am sad about this closure, because as I wrote in my Death of a Steiner school post, the ex-HMIs (Her Majesty’s Inspectors) of SIS were the best inspectors I have come across. They were headed up by Jane Cooper, who was formerly a highly respected Principal Inspector for Ofsted. SIS also inspected the Cognita Schools group, which was set up by the late Chris Woodhead, himself a former Chief Inspector of Ofsted. So I think we can be quite certain that SIS really knew their business. As I suspected, it seems likely that they have become the victims of a turf war with Ofsted.

The Guardian returned to the attack on 18th January with an article by their columnist Zoe Williams, headed: “These Steiner ‘failures’ are really a failure of the free school agenda”.  Ms Williams had spotted an opportunity to have a go at the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who had been responsible for a huge expansion of the government’s free schools programme, under which four publicly-funded Steiner academies had been created:

“Ofsted inspectors have found three of the UK’s four Steiner state schools “inadequate”, in reports that will be published this week. Their core concerns are believed to be safeguarding, bullying and a lack of support for children with special educational needs. A number of private Steiner schools have also been deemed inadequate.

In a brilliant primer written in 2014, when free schools were still a jewel in the crown of the coalition government, the BBC journalist Chris Cook described the core controversies that might be thrown up by Steiner schools. At that point, and to this day, these are mainly private schools. In a way, the handful that opened on the state’s dollar were the apotheosis of Michael Gove’s promise to parents: if you want to replicate a private education, even at its very wackiest, and you have the energy, you have our blessing.

The headline contention was the very pronounced racism of Rudolf Steiner, who thought black people lived an “instinctual life”, and white people an “intellectual life”. Somehow, though, this was passed over rather mildly as an unfortunate tang of times past, nothing to do with his educational writing, according to the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) – just as a pro-choice campaigner today might shrug off the hardcore eugenicism of Marie Stopes.

Yet the two are not analogous, since Steiner’s white supremacism is a thread running through the rest of the creed, a mulch of reincarnation and homeopathy. One piquant detail of the BBC’s investigation was that four white teachers at a private school, on a diversity training day, when asked their ethnicity, “ticked every box” on the basis that they had only ended up white having passed through every inferior race in their reincarnation journey”.

Ah yes, racism and white supremacism. It is impossible to have any kind of public discussion about Steiner Waldorf education without these accusations being thrown at the schools, however much the schools may emphasise that they do not agree with Steiner’s racial theories. Here, for example, is a statement from the website of the Steiner Academy Hereford:

“Steiner Education is opposed to all forms of discrimination against any person or group of people on the grounds of race, gender, faith, disability, age and sexual orientation and is committed to promoting equality of opportunity and reflecting the diversity of the children, staff and parents served by Steiner schools.  The following is taken from Steiner’s book, “The Universal Human”.

‘ … the anthroposophical movement [ . . .], must cast aside the division into races. It must seek to unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions and differences between various groups of people. The old point of view of race has a physical character, but what will prevail in the future will have a more spiritual character.’

Nevertheless, even though Steiner’s ideas are based on a profound respect for the equality, individuality and shared humanity of all people, regardless of race or ethnic origin, his works do contain a number of statements on race that are inappropriate in a modern context.

Steiner education thrives on every continent, in every culture and within a wide range of ethnic contexts. For example, during the period of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the only school catering for mixed races was a Steiner Waldorf school and today there are schools following Steiner’s indications on education in diverse cultures and communities, including: Israel, Egypt, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil or Hawaii, over 60 countries in all”.

Schools can say this sort of thing until they are blue in the face but it will make no difference to the critics, who have found the accusations of racism provide an excellent stick with which to beat the schools out of existence.

Zoe Williams’ article produced a backlash from parents and supporters of Steiner schools in The Guardian’s Schools’ section letters page, including this rather clumsy defence from a governor of the Steiner Academy Bristol:

“I am dismayed by Zoe Williams’ caricature of Steiner education and her willingness to cite state-funded Steiner schools as an argument against free schools. Her description is based entirely on a piece written by Chris Cook in 2014, who conceded he had not looked at state-funded Steiner academies. He concentrated on the esoteric spiritual science of anthroposophy. But this has no place in the Steiner Academy Bristol. We teach all major world religions (certainly not anthroposophy!).

As for Steiner’s ugly racism, we completely dissociate ourselves from such attitudes. Ours is a multi-ethnic, multi-religion school with a sharply focused curriculum that seeks to develop the head, the heart and the soul in a rounded way. Where we do think Steiner was right was in recognising the need for age-appropriate learning that develops the whole child”.

One conclusion I drew in my Death of a Steiner school post appears to have been wrong. When I said that “my main hope for the future of Steiner Waldorf education in the UK now resides with the publicly-funded Steiner academy schools at Hereford, Exeter, Frome and Bristol”, I was reckoning without the zeal of Ofsted’s witchfinders. I said that “because the Steiner academy schools receive public funding, they are held much more accountable by government – but because they are now part of the maintained sector, they are seen as a valid part of the pluralistic education system in England in a way that the independent schools never managed to achieve. Not the least of RSSKL’s disasters is that it makes it far less likely that any government will wish to allow any more publicly-funded Steiner academy schools to be created”.

Well, that last sentence is certainly correct. But I had not expected that three out of the four publicly-funded Steiner academy schools would have received such bad Ofsted reports. The Steiner Academy Exeter was forced to close for a week and has now been taken over by a multi-academy trust (MAT) and the principal, the highly respected Alan Swindell, has left the school and twelve trustees have resigned. This is very likely to mean that Steiner Waldorf education in Exeter will now be in name only. The Steiner Academy Frome, after previous ‘Good’ verdicts from Ofsted, has now been rated ‘Inadequate’ in every single area of inspection and the principal, the excellent Trevor Mepham, has left the school. The Steiner Academy Bristol has also received a damning Ofsted report, which has provoked the school into planning to take Ofsted to court after it was, like Frome, rated as ‘Inadequate’ under each area of inspection and consequently was put into ‘special measures’.

A similar reign of terror is being visited on the independent Steiner schools, with several which had previously been rated as ‘Good’ or even ‘Outstanding’, hurriedly being inspected and told that they are ‘Inadequate’.

What is going on?  I suspect that something like the following has happened: a celebrity parent at Kings Langley wrote to the DfE, along with about 30 other parents, to complain about the school’s inadequate handling of their complaints about safeguarding. The celebrity parent’s letter will have been put onto the desk of the Education Minister, Damian Hinds, together with a dossier of hostile press cuttings about Steiner Waldorf education. Hinds will have said to his permanent secretary: “Get Spielman on the line (Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector) and tell her to put some stick about with these weird Steiner bastards. Make sure she closes down a few of their schools pour encourager les autres. And make sure I don’t get any more letters like this on my desk.”

Now some people may say: What is the problem here? All the schools need to do is to adhere to Ofsted guidelines, particularly on safeguarding, and they will be passed as ‘Good’ or even ‘Outstanding’. Schools need to be more professional in their approach and they need to get this right.

What this ignores, however, is the probability that the schools are now being faced with a highly politicised war of attrition in which the government is determined to close down some Steiner schools so as to avoid embarrassing headlines in the future. In the past, when schools were under the control of local education authorities, Secretaries of State for Education could blame the town halls and civic centres for any lapses in school standards. As Zoe Williams has noticed, the free schools programme means that the responsibility for school failures now ends up on the desk of the Minister.

And now there’s a truly chilling development from Ofsted: Steiner Waldorf education is now to be accused of thought crimes. Amanda Spielman was reported in Schools Week as having written to Damian Hinds, the education secretary, on Thursday after snap inspections of nine Steiner schools – state and private – found six were “inadequate” and three “requires improvement”. Spielman wrote that senior leaders at one school “blamed pupils with SEND for all the problems”, while others witnessed “inappropriate physical handling” of pupils. Some parents who complained were “intimidated”. Spielman has now demanded an investigation into whether the Steiner philosophy is contributing to the failures.

Apart from the aftermath of the Kings Langley closure, why are Steiner schools in such a pickle at the moment? These days I’m pretty much removed from the whole business, since I left Kings Langley in 2014, but my feeling is that the Steiner schools’ movement in the UK, because of its historical allegiance to schools self-administering through a College of Teachers, has not been able to develop a cadre of school leaders able to cope with the latter-day demands of Ofsted and particularly the Safeguarding aspect of school regulation. How many of them will come through this period unscathed I can’t say – but I’m glad my own daughter was able to have a Steiner education, at a time when History of Art was still available as an A-level (Gove removed this as a subject). It has stood her very well in her subsequent university and career path and I hope that, despite the current Ofsted reign of terror, other children will also be able to benefit from Steiner Waldorf education for many years to come.

Critics who laud Ofsted for moving against Steiner schools should be careful of what they wish for. The main beneficiaries of this confected angst about Steiner schools and safeguarding are the manufacturers and sellers of 6’ high perimeter fencing materials, in which schools are forced by Ofsted to turn their schools into fortresses against the world. What children learn from this is that the world is a dangerous place and adults are scary people, not to be trusted. It also leads to the absurd and offensive situation in which kindergarten parents wanting to collect their child from school have to sign in at the school office, wear a lanyard, be escorted across the grounds by a member of staff to the kindergarten and then be escorted back to the school office where they have to sign out and return their lanyard. If that’s the kind of school that Humanists UK are agitating for, then all I can say is that it’s not my idea of a humane or humanist education.

As I’m an unashamed and unabashed anthroposophist, and despite any embarrassment this might cause to school governors wishing to repudiate everything about Steiner except his educational teachings, I will finish with a quotation from Rudolf Steiner which I commend to all Steiner school teachers who are seeing their best efforts crumbling to dust at the moment:

“However good the right may be that you want to bring to realisation – it will turn into a wrong in the course of time. Benevolence will after a time become prejudicial behaviour. And however good the right may be that you want to bring to realisation — it will turn into a wrong in the course of time. The reality is that there are no absolutes in this world. You work towards something that is good, and the way of the world will turn it into something bad. We therefore must seek ever new ways, look for new forms over and over again. This is what really matters.

The swing of the pendulum governs all such human efforts. Nothing is more harmful than belief in absolute ideals, for they are at odds with the true course of world evolution.  (…)

It is (Ahriman) who will and must be the bearer of our future civilisation. This is a harsh truth, but it is important. It is intimately bound up with the fact that destructive powers will have to enter into the future progress of civilisation. Above all — (…) — destructive powers will have to enter into the whole field of education, and especially the education of children, unless the matter is taken in hand with wisdom. Because of the general trend of civilisation, and the customary practices and emotions of people, destructive powers will also enter more and more into the whole social sphere. They will above all bring more and more destruction into the actual relationships between people”.

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Filed under Ahriman, Free Schools, Humanism, Kings Langley, Ofsted, Steiner Waldorf schools, Waldorf critics

Don’t be evil

I don’t suppose that Rudolf Steiner’s lectures incorporate the use of the word “fun” very often. The words “serious” and “earnest” are much more common. So I was struck by the following passage in which he did use that word – but not in a cheerful context (this is Steiner, after all). Here is the passage, from Lecture Three of the series entitled The Influences of Lucifer and Ahriman:

“The fact that — to use a colloquialism — people in the future are not going to get much fun out of developments on the physical plane will bring home to them that further evolution must proceed from spiritual forces.”

Steiner’s view was that the time when human progress was possible through purely physical means is now over. Human progress will be possible in the future but only through development on a higher level than that of the processes of the physical plane. Speaking just after the First World War, he went on to say: “This can be understood only by surveying a lengthy period of evolution and applying what is discovered to experiences that will become more and more general in the future. The trend of forces that will manifest in the well-nigh rhythmical onset of war and destruction — processes of which the present catastrophe (ie the First World War) is but the beginning — will become only too evident. It is childish to believe that anything connected with this war can bring about a permanent era of peace for humanity on the physical plane. That will not be so. What must come about on the earth is spiritual development…”

In the one hundred years since he spoke, Steiner has certainly been proved right about the impossibility of a permanent era of peace for humanity – this century has been the most terrible in the history of the world. What else did he foresee?

“Just as once in the East there was a Lucifer incarnation, and then, at the midpoint, as it were, of world evolution, the incarnation of Christ, so in the West there will be an incarnation of Ahriman. …This ahrimanic incarnation cannot be averted; it is inevitable, for humanity must confront Ahriman face to face. He will be the individuality by whom it will be made clear what indescribable cleverness can be developed if they call to their help all that earthly forces can do to enhance cleverness and ingenuity. In the catastrophes that will befall humanity in the near future, people will become extremely inventive… Humanity has no knowledge of these things as yet; but not only will they be striven for, they will be the inevitable outcome of catastrophes looming in the near future. And certain secret societies — where preparations are already in train — will apply these things in such a way that the necessary conditions can be established for an actual incarnation of Ahriman on the earth. This incarnation cannot be averted, for people must realise during the time of the earth’s existence just how much can proceed from purely material processes! We must learn to bring under our control those spiritual or unspiritual currents which are leading to Ahriman.”

YBA via antroposofie en apocalypse blog

Yeshayahu Ben Aharon (photo via antroposofy en apocalypse blog)

When is this incarmation likely to occur? Tempting though it is to point to many of today’s phenomena as indicators that the incarnation has already happened, my current sense is that things are going to get quite a bit worse yet before Ahriman himself appears in physical form. I recently read an article called Empty Hearts and Technological Singularity by Yeshayahu Ben Aharon (available for download to subscribers to the Academia website) in which he describes the coming merger of the human being with infinitely intelligent machines, as predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Google’s senior futurist.

“In esoteric terms, this means that the human’s free etheric body from the head to the heart will be totally taken over by ahrimanic, infinitely brilliant, wise and powerful intelligences. I would recommend Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near, to every body interested in the coming future, as an introduction to open your mind and eyes to see where we are going from the ahrimanic point of view. I call this the building of the kindergarten of Ahriman, in preparation for his school that he will build in the 23rd century in America. He will build a school that will work with the etheric forces taken from the rest of the body as well: the head, the heart and the whole thing. This is Ahriman’s kindergarten, the forerunner of his mature school.

The singularity people promise a new kind of immortality. Human beings will be identified with Infinite Intelligence through super computers and so on, and they will experience a sort of immortality for their earthly consciousness, an indefinite life. Your whole soul life, including everything you were thinking and remembering, which you already invested externally in the infinite virtual reality, will be preserved forever. Even if you die physically, it will be preserved and it will continue to evolve and develop through Infinite Intelligence. The idea is that people will not die physically or at least live hundreds of years, since the new technology will overcome the illnesses that medicine could not conquer. But after long years, if they still die at all, all their life will remain as a virtual personality in a tech reality, continuing as it were, a second life. But this will really become the primary life, the life of this individuality as his avatar in virtual reality. If you don’t know this world very well, it will be hard for you to create a picture of it. Look into it; the children already know all about it, they are born into the Matrix, as their parents merge them with the internet immediately. This is the ahrimanic side, because everything is accomplished through Infinite Intelligence, working through virtual reality. In the future, a huge intelligent machine will have been merged into the human body, and humans and infinitely smart, powerful, and all-knowing and all entertaining AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become one and the same…”

It is worth reading the Wikipedia entry about Ray Kurzweil, including his transhumanism (ie the belief that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves through technology into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of  “post-human beings”) and his predictions for the future. Along with Yuval Noah Harari, whom I wrote about here, it is clear that Kurzweil, this highly intelligent man, is nevertheless one of the Useful Idiots preparing the way for Ahriman.

Kurzweil wikipedia

Ray Kurzweil (photo via Wikipedia)

As part-evidence for my statement that Kurzweil is an idiot, it should be noted that he has joined the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company. In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him. I have written more about the absurd belief and practices of cryonics and Alcor here.

It should also be noted that Kurzweil was personally hired by Google co-founder Larry Page. “Don’t be evil” was the motto of Google’s corporate code of conduct, first introduced around 2000. In Google’s IPO (initial public offering of shares) in 2004, a letter from Google’s founders included the following: “Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways—by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”

However, surprise, surprise – following Google’s corporate restructuring in October 2015, the motto was dropped and replaced in the new corporate code of conduct by the phrase “Do the right thing”. So is AI the right thing for human beings? Is that the way we should be going?

Elon_Musk_2015 wikipedia

Elon Musk (photo via Wikipedia)

If the world won’t listen to Rudolf Steiner or to anthroposophists, perhaps they will pay more attention to a billionaire entrepreneur: Elon Musk has warned that AI is more dangerous than the threat posed by dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea. Mr Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, took to Twitter to say: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

He posted the comment along with an image of the anti-gambling addiction poster with the slogan: “In the end the machines will win.” Mr Musk added: “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too.

Mr Musk has warned in the past that AI should be better regulated since it poses an “existential threat” to human civilisation. He has also compared developers creating AI to people summoning demons they cannot control. Exactly so.

 

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Filed under Ahriman, Artificial Intelligence, Rudolf Steiner

I have seen the future…

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.”

Lincoln Steffens

Lincoln Steffens (photo via New York Times)

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.

Yuval_Noah_Harari_photo

Yuval Noah Harari (photo via Wikipedia)

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.”

 

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Filed under Ahriman, Futurology, Lucifer

Trump, Ahriman and paranoid speculation

In the month after the end of the First World War, Steiner gave a lecture at Dornach in which he said that “the view of spiritual science cannot be the giving of social criticism, but rather, only the pointing-out, without pessimism or optimism, of that which is” (GA 186, December 1st 1918). He was referring to the events which had led to the war, but his comment is a reminder that we should not allow the emotions engendered by overwhelming events to stop us from seeing as objectively as possible what the reality of any given situation is, and the causes which lie behind it.

Without Steiner’s peerless clairvoyance, however, we have to fall back on our own thinking and reasoning capacities; and it is difficult for most of us to avoid feelings of alarm or despondency, or to refrain from social criticism, in the face of disturbing current events.

Take, for example, the newly installed 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump. There are certainly a few things about Trump and his background and business interests which are bound to upset our objectivity and sang-froid. According to Sidney Blumenthal in a recent essay in the London Review of Books, Trump’s father Fred was arrested for participating in a violent Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927. Fred also had ties to the Mob and quite openly discriminated against blacks when renting out housing. In more recent times, it seems that the Donald’s own business was dependent almost from the start on racketeers:

“There was Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul ‘Big Paulie’ Castellano, boss of the Gambino crime family, who owned the company that provided the ready-mix cement for Trump Tower, used in place of the usual steel girders. There was John Cody, the boss of Teamsters Local 282, who controlled the cement trucks and was an associate of the Gambino family. There was Daniel Sullivan, Trump’s labour ‘consultant’, who in partnership with the Philadelphia crime boss Nicodemos ‘Nicky’ Scarfo’s financier, sold Trump a property in Atlantic City that became his casino. There was Salvatore ‘Salvie’ Testa, ‘crown prince’ of the Philadelphia Mob, who sold Trump the site on which two construction firms owned by Scarfo built the Trump Plaza and Casino. There was Felix Sater, convicted money launderer for the Russian Mafia, Trump’s partner in building the Trump SoHo hotel through the Bayrock Group LLC, which by 2007 had more than $2 billion in Trump licensed projects and by 2014 was no more. There was Tevfik Arif, another Trump partner, Bayrock’s chairman, originally from Kazakhstan. Bayrock’s equity financing came from three Kazakh billionaires known as ‘the Trio’, who were reported to be engaged in racketeering, money laundering and other crimes. And so on.

There was no art to these deals. Trump’s relationships with the Mob weren’t just about the quality of cement. In his defence it was said that doing business with the Mob was inescapable in New York, but the truth is that there were prominent developers who crusaded against the sorts of arrangement that Trump routinely made. From beginning to end, whether Cosa Nostra or the Russian Mafia, Trump has been married to the Mob.”

Now in all fairness it should be pointed out that Sidney Blumenthal is a former aide to the Clintons, so may be seen as someone with an axe to grind; but since I have not yet heard any rebuttal of the information he presents, it seems entirely possible that the President of the United States has close ties with the American Mafia (and possibly the Russian Mafia too), while his opposite number in Russia, Vladimir Putin, is head of a state run by that same Russian Mafia. (Not that such skulduggery is anything new in American politics – eg, see here for details of Joseph Kennedy’s criminal links with the Mob that ensured the election of his son John F. Kennedy as president in 1960. The USA has always been the best democracy that money can buy.)

In such an extreme situation, how can one simply point out “that which is” and not find one’s feelings pulling one away from objective observation? Several people I know have speculated as to whether Donald Trump is the incarnation of Ahriman. Personally, I don’t think this is likely – my view is that Ahriman would not choose to be incarnated in the figure of someone with a fake orange tan (one which a sudden gust of wind revealed does not even extend up to the Trump hairline), let alone someone who since his inauguration as 45th President of the USA has found himself the laughing stock of the worldwide web.

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Trump’s fake tan-line clearly visible (Photo via Elite Daily/REX/Shutterstock)

No, it seems more probable that Trump and the rest of his coven of billionaires and brigands are simply extreme examples of the corruption endemic to the American political system, although it may well be reasonable to regard them also as indicators of the impending incarnation – preparers of the way, if you like. I have written of this elsewhere, so will give here only brief quotations from Steiner:

“As truly as Lucifer walked on earth and Christ walked on earth objectively in a human being, so will Ahriman walk upon the earth with enormous power to manifest earthly intellectual capacity.” (GA 195, 25/12/1919) And again:

“…just as there was a bodily incarnation of Lucifer, and just as there was a bodily incarnation of the Christ, so will there be, before even a part of the 3rd millennium AD will have elapsed, in the West a real incarnation of Ahriman: Ahriman in the flesh.” (GA 191, 01/11/1919)

Steiner has enjoined us to be vigilant and to stay awake so as to spot what is going on. But lacking Steiner’s initiate consciousness and spiritual insight, there is a danger that the times we live in might tempt some of us to fall all too easily into paranoia and conspiracy theories. I recently found an example of this in the Russian anthroposophical writer, G A Bondarev, who in his book Events in the Ukraine and a Possible Future Scenario wrote this:

“…everywhere in the mass media – on television, in newspapers – one can see politicians and the powerful in finance, etc., making a certain gesture with their hand which means the number 666 spoken of in Revelation as the ‘number of the Beast.’ Many make this gesture in order to show that they are initiated into the secret and also to give evidence of their ‘chosenness’…Others, by showing this gesture when they appear publicly, want to call out, as it were, to the participants at certain functions: ‘What are we arguing about? Why are you disagreeing with us? This is it! This is happening!’ – or at least something of this kind. An exact interpretation is not possible, as the meaning of this gesture is kept secret.”

What Bondarev is referring to is the “A OK” gesture, in which the tip of the index finger is placed on the tip of the thumb to form an ‘O’ shape, and the remaining three fingers are splayed out. Donald Trump makes this gesture all the time when he is speaking and it is very easy to find examples of many prominent public figures doing the same. A quick search of Google Images using the term “hand gesture 666” brings up photos of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker, Nicolas Sarkozy, Pope Jean-Paul II, Colin Powell and many other famous public figures from politics and entertainment all making this gesture – but to Bondarev and others who think like him, it therefore follows that they must all be members of the Illuminati signalling their allegiance to one another. Err… no, I really don’t think so.

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(Photo via Illuminatisymbols.info)

clinton

(Photo via IlluminatiRex)

juncker

(Photo via answering-christianity.com)

But despite the occasional absurdities, Bondarev also has some interesting ideas. Referring to Steiner’s pointing-out of the years AD 666, 1332 and 1998 as having special significance, he speculates that 1998 was the year of incarnation of Ahriman:

“…the year in which the body was created into which Ahriman steals. Its creation was obviously not a simple matter – after all, Ahriman is the god of death! Rudolf Steiner also speaks of this. In a lecture of 4th November 1919, he points to that special field of technological progress in which knowledge is used of the connection of the material realm with the human spirit: ‘…through a given application of these things, certain secret societies will…prepare that through which the Ahrimanic incarnation will be able to be here on the earth in the right way.’ (GA 193)

One can assume that they were able to combine the most up-to-date technological procedures with the means of black magic in order to create a body with the capacity to bear within it for a number of years the Ahrimanic monad. (Could it be three years?) Thus, it is in no way unjustified to assume that the incarnation of Ahriman is well under way. And according to an entry in a notebook of Rudolf Steiner…Ahriman will reveal himself to the world at the age of 18. Here it is probably more correct to speak of 18 and one-third years, which corresponds to the so-called lunar node or Metonic cycle. It follows from this that humanity needs to be ready by early 2017.”

So in early 2017 I leave you with that happy thought and invite your own comments on these speculations, paranoid or otherwise.

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Filed under Ahriman, Donald Trump, Rudolf Steiner

How should we deal with evil?

I’m still reflecting on the phenomenon of evil that was the subject of my last post, and in particular the statement from Rudolf Steiner with which that post ended: “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.”

Steiner was speaking at the time of the First World War. He was undoubtedly looking ahead to all the horrors that were to be visited on human beings in the 20th and 21st centuries and to our present time, in which unspeakable depravities are being committed, often in the name of God.

Rudolf Steiner exhorted people to wake up and to observe what was really going on, not only behind the façade of political and economic events but also beyond our immediate physical reality. Almost exactly 100 years ago, and not long after the Russian revolution, he spoke in terms that are just as relevant today:

“At the present time of severe trials it must be quite natural to anyone who has a heartfelt interest in the endeavours of anthroposophical spiritual science to reflect upon the relations existing between the fact that this spiritual-scientific movement started at the beginning of the twentieth century to send its impulses into the evolution of mankind and the other fact that mankind of the present age has been engulfed by catastrophic events. How catastrophic these events are for mankind has not yet been fully understood, for people are accustomed today to a life without the spirit. To live without the spirit, however, is to live superficially; and to live superficially causes human beings to sleep away the important impressions of the events taking place around them. To sleep through important events is a special characteristic of the human being of the present age. There are few people today who arrive at an adequate conception of the severity and incisiveness of present-day events. Most of them live from day to day.”

Why has there been this intensification, a kind of industrialisation, of the scale of evil on this Earth? And how can we wake up to what is really going on and begin to counteract “the evil that is making its way into human evolution”?

By way of context, I have written in an earlier posting about what Steiner called “the war in heaven” that took place over the period 1840 to 1879 between the Archangel Michael and the dark angels. I won’t repeat it here, except to say that since that time, when these dark forces were cast out of heaven and into the earth, they have been working within the blood and nervous system of human beings in an attempt to reverse both human and angelic evolution.

It is no coincidence that since the fall to earth of these dark angels, humanity has endured what must surely be the most terrible century in the whole of human history.

Rudolf Steiner speaks of the Archangel Michael who maintains the balance in the world between too much disembodied fantasy (dominated by Lucifer) and too much cold intellectuality and materialism (dominated by Ahriman). Lucifer and Ahriman are in Steiner’s view two polarities of evil but they are also actual spiritual beings, who are active within humanity. They are evil in the sense that they both strive to hinder the human being’s spiritual development. But Steiner does not have a simplistic view of Lucifer and Ahriman as merely oppositional to humanity; in a lecture given in Munich on February 17th 1918, he had this to say:

“The spiritual Beings, whose task it was to fight against the Michaelic principle, were the same ones whose task it was to bring differentiation into humanity, to split unified humanity into races and peoples, to bring about all those differences connected with the blood, with nerves, with temperament. This had to happen. We may call these spiritual beings who had to bring such differentiation into humanity “Ahrimanic” Beings. We may call them such, but we must realise that the Ahrimanic principle was a necessity in the whole course of human evolution.” (Schmidt Number S-3482)

Christ and Michael hold the balance between these two polarities and they work closely together, for Michael is known as the Countenance of Christ. By casting down the angels of darkness into the earth, it is almost as though Michael has inflicted a situation in which human beings have had to suffer far, far more than would have been the case if we had been left to our own devices. And here we come to a strange paradox, which is that the forces of both good and evil proceed from God.

This is a powerful reason why many people say they do not believe in God, for how can a god of love who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent allow phenomena such as Islamic State to exist? Yet initiates tell us that God has two aspects, which when understood and viewed correctly, enable us to see the purpose of evil. Evil can be viewed as the unevolved and undeveloped aspect of life, the force which tests us and absorbs and removes that which is unwanted. The illumined soul will not attempt to get rid of evil by attacking it, but by radiating love, light, beauty and truth.

I find this a difficult concept to understand and accept. If I were given the opportunity to prevent an assault on a Yazidi girl by killing the Islamic State fighter who had imprisoned and raped her, then I would choose to shoot him as though he were a rabid dog. I would take on that karma quite willingly. I don’t think that any amount of radiating love, light, beauty and truth would do much to save that young girl in such circumstances. Clearly, and as must be evident to all who know me, I’ve still some way to go before becoming an illumined soul. 🙂

Nevertheless, I can see that the general point holds, and that by fighting evil on its own terms, we are merely strengthening and perpetuating its effects. So what might Steiner have meant when he called on us to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution?

First, we need to understand what is the fundamental trait of all human evil. According to Steiner, speaking in Berlin on 15th January 1914, “all human evil proceeds from what we call egotism. In the whole scope and range of ‘wrong’, from the smallest oversight to the most serious crime, whether the imperfection or evil originates more in the body or in the soul, egotism is the fundamental trait which underlies it all… and that the path which leads beyond evil here in the physical world is the one upon which we combat egotism.”

But there is another paradox here, and it’s a tricky one, to do with the dual nature of the soul: qualities which in our physical sense-world appear as egotism, are the very same qualities which need to be strengthened and intensified if we are to ascend into the world of spirit. Steiner tells us that it is only when the soul has developed a self-rooted ego-strength that it can begin to rise up into the higher worlds of spirit; in other words, the soul in the spiritual world between death and rebirth is mainly concerned with itself and its own destiny resulting from its previous earthly lives. This is necessary because in the spiritual world the more a soul has strengthened itself and developed its potential, the more it can participate and serve the whole – the soul has to draw out from the ego what is inherent in itself, otherwise it has nothing to offer.

This strengthening and empowering of our ego in the spiritual world between death and a new birth is what enables us to prepare an incarnation in the physical world in which our outer thoughts and actions can become as unegotistic as possible. And it is only in the physical world, here on Earth, that we can find the conditions which allow us to overcome egotism. Earth gives us the opportunity to develop altruism and unselfishness, and to break the habit of egotism, so as to become more moral. It is by understanding this paradox that Steiner gives us the key to avoiding the evil that is otherwise inherent in each one of us:

“What does this dual nature of the soul actually mean for us? It means that we must be very careful not to falsely transpose something that has its rightful place in one world – the intensification of inner strength in the world of spirit – to another, the physical world, except when we are attempting to penetrate the world of spirit. It means that only evil will come of the human being allowing his earthly sense-nature to be permeated by this inner intensification and self-consolidation, even though this is exactly what the realm of spirit requires…what is absolutely necessary for spiritual progress, perfecting and intensifying one’s own being, is a source of evil and wrong if transposed directly upon the things of outer, physical life…Whether we enter the spiritual world through self-development or by passing over the threshold of death, we must dwell there within the inner strength of our being. Yet we cannot manage this unless we develop altruism in the physical world. Altruism in the physical world has its mirror-image in the rightful egotism needed in the world of spirit.” (ibid.)

This is quite a tough concept to grasp and to compound the difficulty, Steiner gives us here what seems to be a counter-intuitive understanding of the origin of evil:

“So we can begin to answer the question about the origin of evil and wrong-doing in the world. It comes about when we allow our better, higher nature (not our worst) to descend and be submerged in the physical realm, a realm which cannot as such be evil. It comes about when we develop qualities in the physical realm which do not belong there, which have their rightful place in the realm of spirit. Why do we have a potential for evil? Because we are also spiritual beings! Because we have to be able to develop those qualities when we penetrate into the spiritual world, which become bad when we apply them in the physical…What brings about evil is misapplying spiritual qualities to physical life. If we could not be evil, we could not be spiritual beings either. Without the characteristics which make us evil, we could not enter the spiritual world.” (ibid.)

Steiner also tells us that, since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the propensity for evil lies in the subconscious of every person, and that there is no crime, however dreadful, that each one of us, as people of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, does not have the potential to commit. And he asks:

“What on earth is the reason for these forces in the universe which infiltrate our being? They are certainly not there in order to bring about evil acts in human society. They no more exist to provoke us to criminal actions than the forces of death exist to make us die; they are present in the universe so as to awaken in us a propensity, once the consciousness soul has developed, for opening ourselves to the life of spirit…These forces of evil are active in the universe. We must assimilate them, and by so doing we implant in our being the seed which enables us to have conscious experience of the spirit. In the context of our social order they appear in a perverted form, but they really do not exist to incite us to evil acts. They exist to enable people at the stage of the consciousness soul to break through to the life of the spirit.”

These are indeed difficult ideas to understand, and they need much thought and reflection before one can begin to make any sense of them. But Steiner helps us by indicating where all these struggles will ultimately lead: the forming of a community of human beings with emancipated, independent and differentiated egos:

“This is the mission of the Earth, expressed through love: that one ego learns to encounter another in freedom. No love is perfect that proceeds from coercion, from being linked or bound together through necessity. Only when each ego is so free and independent that it can choose not to love, is its love an entirely free gift. This is really the aim of the divine plan – to make the ego so independent that it can offer the free, individual gift of love even to God…The ego therefore represents the promise of the human being’s highest goal. But if it does not find love, if it hardens inwardly, it is also the tempter that casts us into the abyss. Then it becomes what separates people from each other, leading them ultimately to the great War of All against All – not only the war of nation against nation (for the concept of nations will then no longer have anything like the significance it possesses today) but the war of each single individual against every other in all realms of life; the war of class against class, caste against caste, the war between different generations and races. In all realms of life, then, the ego will become the focus of strife and contention, which is why we say that it can lead both to the highest and to the lowest possible qualities.”

We are coming up to a very difficult period in human physical existence, which anthroposophists characterise as the actual incarnation in physical form of the great dark archangel, Ahriman. This will be the last of three unique incarnations of which Steiner spoke – the incarnation of Lucifer in about 3000 BC (believed by many to have been as the Yellow Emperor in China, he of the terracotta army); the incarnation of Christ in Palestine two thousand years ago; and the incarnation of Ahriman “before only a part of the third millennium of he post-Christian era has elapsed”, probably in America. Each of these incarnations is prepared for many years, indeed centuries, in advance, and we can see quite clearly already the kind of evil influences that the future Ahrimanic incarnation is bringing to bear upon our human societies. As I said earlier, the past one hundred years has been the most terrible century in the whole of human history and the evil is worsening and intensifying as we approach the actual incarnation. In a lecture given in 1919, Steiner 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.”

I recently attended a talk given at Emerson College by T.H (Thomas) Meyer, in which he reminded us of a passage towards the end of Steiner’s fourth Mystery Drama, The Soul’s Awakening. Thomas drew our attention to a scene between the initiate, Benedictus, and another character whom Benedictus at first does not recognise:

Benedictus:  Who are you, who come to shadow-life from out the chaos of my soul horizon?

Ahriman: (aside) He sees, but yet he does not recognise me and so he will not cause me painful terror when at his side I try to use my power.

(Ahriman then tries to tempt Benedictus with special spiritual knowledge but Benedictus does not take the bait.)

Benedictus: Whoever you may be, you only serve the good, when for yourself you will not strive, or when you lose yourself in human thinking, to rise anew in cosmic revolution.

Ahriman: It is high time for me to turn away in haste from his horizon, for when his sight can think me as in truth I really am, there will arise and grow within his thinking part of the power that will slowly destroy me. (Ahriman disappears.)

So the play is telling us that when we can see Ahriman as he really is, in all his manifestations and influences, then there will arise and grow within our thinking part of the power that will slowly destroy Ahriman. Our best way to prepare ourselves for the evil that is making its way into human evolution is to be alert to what is really going on; and to recognise Ahriman in all his guises and in all the countless ways in which his influence is affecting us and our fellow human beings.

In the same lecture I quoted last, 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.”

I will be touching upon some of the more grotesquely distorted and evil aspects of our present-day economic life, and how these can affect the free and independent spiritual life, in my next post.

 

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Filed under Ahriman, Angels, Archangel Michael, Evil, Lucifer, Rudolf Steiner

Thoughts from Nice

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.

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Filed under Ahriman, Anthroposophy, Black Magic, Evil, Islam, Islamic State, Lucifer, Mohammed, Rudolf Steiner, Sorat

Turning the human being into the human thing

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.

human bean red bubble.com

Photo via redbubble.com

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:

Virtual Reality

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.

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Mark Zuckerberg and some VR zombies (photo via phonearena.com)

 

Microchip implants

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.

 

Microchipping a West Highland terrier

Injecting a microchip into a white West Highland terrier (photo via RSPCA)

 

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).”

 

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Airport security checks in Denver (photo via globalmediacompanies.com)

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.

 

GTY_hillary_clinton_donald_trump_split_jt_150912_16x9_992

Could these two be the arse-cheeks of Ahriman?

 

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:

 

ttip-lobby-groups_0

 

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

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Filed under Ahriman, Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner

Ahriman versus the Archbishop of Canterbury

When the anthropopper was a boy at school in the 1950s, each day we had what was called an “assembly” in the school hall. It was in fact a short, non-denominational Christian religious service in which we sang a hymn, said a prayer and listened to an address by the head master or another teacher, and then went on to routine announcements about what was happening in the school. There were always a few children of other faiths, who stayed outside the hall for the religious part of the assembly.

School assemblies in the UK were provided for in the 1944 Education Act. Schools in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland were required (and still are to this day) to provide daily acts of collective worship. In Scotland, some form of religious observance is required. If the school is a faith school, these acts must be in line with the specific religion. In non-religious schools, the acts need to be broadly Christian in character without favouring any particular Christian denomination.

However, a recent report by the University of Leicester says that the duty of British schools to arrange daily acts of collective worship should be scrapped. The study, for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, says such acts, which must be Christian in nature, could discriminate against other religions. It adds there is no clear rationale for the duty, and that parents are often unaware they can withdraw their children from religious assemblies. The report also highlights how in 2004, the Chief Inspector of Schools for England drew Parliament’s attention to the fact that 76% of secondary schools were breaking the law by failing to provide daily acts of worship.

The statutory duty to provide an act of collective worship or religious observance in schools has been controversial for decades. Atheists and secular humanist have never liked it and there is disagreement about the appropriateness of such acts in an increasingly multicultural UK.

The Department for Education said the daily act of collective worship encourages children to reflect on belief, and helps shape fundamental British values of tolerance, respect and understanding for others. A spokesman said: “It is for schools to tailor their provision to suit the needs of their pupils, and parents can withdraw their children from all or any part of collective worship.”

The situation in the UK in 2015 is clearly very different from how it was seventy years ago and there are children of many other faiths and none in our schools whose needs should be respected and represented in school assemblies. But the fact remains that the culture in the UK has been formed over many hundreds of years on the basis of Christian values and traditions and in the anthropopper’s view, it is useful for children of any faith or none to have some idea about where this culture came from. It gives each of us a context in which we can frame our own views and decide what we choose to believe.

Fewer and fewer people today seem to share this view, however, and it is clear that to express any form of interest in, let alone belief, in spiritual values is to commit some kind of social faux pas. I was talking to a priest the other day and she told me that during a conversation while she was having her hair cut, she was asked what her work was. When she said “minister of religion”, everyone in the hairdresser’s shop went quiet, in some kind of embarrassed silence. “It was,” she said, “as though people thought I was going to judge them, when that is the very last thing on my mind.”

And now it appears that we have reached a point where even a sixty-second advert from the Church of England, based on the Lord’s Prayer, is deemed too embarrassing and divisive to be shown in cinemas. This is due to a decision by the Digital Cinema Media agency (DCM), which handles advertising for cinemas in the major chains.

DCM won’t accept ads with religious content in cinemas lest they offend “those of differing faiths and of no faith”. So it seems that, unlike a feature film which may contain scenes of rape, torture, sadism, massacre and all kinds of horrors, it’s too upsetting for cinemagoers to view one minute of the Archbishop of Canterbury and others saying the Lord’s Prayer.

Despite its potentially shocking nature, the church’s advert was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification and given a “U” certificate, as well as receiving clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority.

You can watch the advert on YouTube and decide for yourself. I looked at it and thought it was rather good; the words of the Lord’s Prayer are said and sung by people at work in factories and fields, by schoolchildren, body builders, police officers and a black gospel choir. I imagine that atheists, rationalists, skeptics and those of other faiths are robust enough not to be too traumatised by it.

The decision by DCM should perhaps not be unexpected in the Age of the Consciousness Soul, during which according to Owen Barfield, “…man experiences isolation, loneliness, materialism, loss of faith in the spiritual world, above all, uncertainty. The soul has to make up its mind and to act in a positive way on its own unsupported initiative. And it finds great difficulty in doing so. For it is too much in the dark to be able to see any clear reason why it should, and it no longer feels the old (instinctive) promptings of the spirit within”.

But this may also be the age of the incarnation of Ahriman, which Rudolf Steiner said was likely to happen at the beginning of the 21st century. Whether Ahriman is in bodily form or not, he is clearly working well and confusing us in the West with moral relativism. I can’t help but think, however, that his followers in the East would also have found the advert offensive but, unlike DCM, would have no truck with any such namby-pamby protection of cinemagoers’ sensitivities. Instead, the representatives of IS, Isil, Islamic State, Daesh or whatever name we are currently supposed to use, would go straight to the cinema to spray with bullets anyone who was decadent enough to watch the advert or the feature film. No doubt DCM was trying to avoid provoking them.

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Filed under Ahriman, Anthroposophy, Archbishop of Canterbury, Moral Relativism