Category Archives: Evil

Anthroposophy and the Battle for the Soul – a talk for Easter

This is the text of a talk I gave at Emerson College on Easter Sunday, 9th April 2023, as part of the Easter Festival organised by the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex (ASiS).

A little while ago, Eva Davies and I were having a conversation about the role today of a local society like ASiS and asking ourselves, if it’s not too absurd a question, what on earth can a handful of people like us do in the face of the overwhelming onslaught of evil throughout the world?

As there are some of us here who are fairly new to anthroposophy, it should be explained that the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, possessed exceptional faculties of clairvoyant consciousness. For him, unlike for most of us, the heavenly world of higher beings was completely open; and he was able to use his faculties to extend scientific research beyond the existing parameters of natural science, so as to investigate the non-physical, spiritual realities of life. Steiner’s viewpoint, which could be described as esoteric or cosmic Christianity, went beyond the teachings of the Catholic and Protestant Churches but was nevertheless fundamentally Christian and he was able through his researches to describe the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as the central point of human evolution.

Interestingly, Steiner does not make a straight distinction between Good on the one hand and Evil on the other. Instead, he identifies two poles of Evil, which he calls Lucifer and Ahriman. Between these two poles, Christ holds the balance in the middle. Steiner saw Lucifer and Ahriman as not only forces or tendencies which affect humankind and draw us towards evil; but he also saw them as actual beings, who have had or are about to have physical incarnations. Lucifer’s incarnation was in China, in about 2500 BC. The incarnation of Christ was 2000 years ago, as we know. Ahriman’s incarnation is due about now, which is why we’re having such difficult times. 

Steiner has told us that the incarnation of Ahriman is due “before even a part of the third of millennium after Christ will have passed” and cannot be averted. It will happen. He has also told us:  it can bring good over the long term insofar as we wake up to the spirit through resistance against Ahriman’s materialistic impulses. But if Ahriman is not recognised, his influence will be harmful. Steiner also said at a meeting with young people in Breslau (which was then in Germany and is now Wroclaw in Poland), that Ahriman will do everything in his power to advance the moment of his incarnation as much as he can. Steiner then mentions the year 1998, which for anyone interested in numerology is 666 multiplied by 3. I’m intrigued to note that it was about then, actually in 1999, that Vladimir Putin came to power. 

We are undoubtedly living in the precursor years of Ahriman’s incarnation, even if not yet during the actual incarnation. The signs are all around us and like me, you will probably have your own list of Ahrimanic phenomena in our times. There are so many to choose from, ranging from the apparently trivial to the alarmingly serious and it is difficult to keep up with all the negative developments that are happening throughout the world. Thank goodness there are also many positive developments which seem to arise in response to the Ahrimanic symptoms.

For me, Covid has been one of the most significant of the Ahrimanic phenomena. Covid is a viral disease, which means that it is mineral in nature and does not have its own life processes, and therefore needs a host organism so it can reproduce itself. But it also has astonishing intelligence, for example in the resistance it can develop to medicines, or in the way it can mutate, partly in response to vaccinations. But I can’t help asking, where does this astonishing intelligence live? In what being does this intelligence reside?

Second, the Covid pandemic produced fear, much of it stoked by deliberate government policy, as well as anxiety and division between people, even within families. It also led governments to dismantle existing civil liberties with an ease that they had not expected to find in Western democracies. It became impossible to have a fruitful exchange of views between different standpoints and we saw instead heightened emotions, rejection and hatred of other people’s opinions. This process was driven even further by our news outlets and social media, who censored the views of anyone, even distinguished professors of medicine, whose expert opinion did not fit the official line. Some of you may remember what happened to the Great Barrington Declaration, which was rubbished by the WHO. Again, one must ask: whose interests are being served by this fracturing of social cohesion?

And of course, Russia’s illegal and brutal war in Ukraine is another prime symptom of the Ahrimanic assault on humanity. At first, it was almost impossible to believe that such a thing could be happening, that in the 21st century one European nation could invade another to seize its territory and kill and terrorise its people. And yet it has happened and is continuing, with no sign of an end to these horrors. Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a rogue state, a mafia-led kleptocracy, a pariah among nations and all the more terrible because it possesses over 6000 nuclear weapons. The Russian Army, in directing its assault on the ordinary citizens of Ukraine, has become a byword for corruption and brutality, inhumanity and incompetence. Russia, in the words of one Russian journalist who dares to oppose Putin’s war, will wash in the shame of these actions for decades to come. And now we are beginning to see a growing alliance between Russia and China, two autocracies finding common cause in opposition to the Western democracies and bringing with them the possibility of World War III over Taiwan.

What times we are living through! And of course there are so many other symptoms we could notice, whether it’s artificial intelligence and the gradual merging of humans and machines, about which even Elon Musk has called for a 6-month pause to assess the dangers; climate breakdown; the subversion of truth and morality in the post-Truth society; GMO and gene editing, about which the latest UK Government law, the so-called Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 23rd March. Poor King Charles! I can’t believe he was happy to sign that into law.

Here, I think, it is relevant to quote what Rudolf Steiner had to say in the Karmic Relations lecture given in Dornach on 4th August, 1924:

“For the anthroposophist this proverb must hold good. He must say to himself: ‘Now that I have become an anthroposophist through my karma, the impulses which have been able to draw me to Anthroposophy require me to be attentive and alert.’” 

Yes: we must be attentive and alert; and Steiner has also said that: “The important thing is that humanity should not sleep through Ahriman’s appearance.”  This brings me back to the question I asked earlier: what should be the role of a local society like ASiS and what can a handful of anthroposophists do in the face of developing evil throughout the world? Eva Davies and I, during the conversation which prompted these thoughts, came to the conclusion that one of the most useful things we can do is really to be attentive and alert to any and every manifestation of Ahrimanic impulses in the world – to really see what is going on and come to a view on where these diverse phenomena are leading us. We won’t be able to change them – but by seeing them for what they are, we remove part of their power over us. But it’s quite astonishing how insidious and subtle these Ahrimanic influences are, and the ability they have to manifest in the most unexpected places; and I’d like to share with you just two, rather startling and shocking examples that I’ve noticed.

And because today is Easter Day, I’ll begin with a threat to Easter from a most unexpected source.  Easter is of course a ‘moveable feast’, meaning that it is a festival whose date changes each year. To state it as simply as possible, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox on 21stMarch. It can be as early as 22nd March, as it was in 1761 and 1818, but will not be again until 2285. It can be as late as 25th April but that hasn’t happened since 1943 and won’t recur until 2038. The commonest date for Easter Sunday is 19th April though the full cycle of Easter dates only repeats after 5,700,000 years.

Now all this is of course very untidy and much annoys bureaucrats, atheists and planners, all of whom would like to have fixed public holiday dates – but such people are wholly ignorant of the fact that on the true Easter Sunday intensified cosmic energies flow into the earth.

To back up that statement, I’m going to refer to some remarkable experiments done by Lili Kolisko (1889 – 1976), who did investigative scientific work into etheric formative forces, following indications given by Rudolf Steiner. She had shown that it was possible to get an image of the life-force of a plant by making a highly potentised solution of the plant essence through very great dilution, and then adding a solution of certain minerals which represent planetary forces – Silver Nitrate, Iron Sulphate or Gold Chloride. A piece of litmus paper is placed upright in a saucer with the solution and the liquid, rising to a certain height, shows the most striking colours and shapes which reveal the invisible etheric forces working in the plant. The technique is known as capillary dynamolysis.

In 1943, by which time Mrs Kolisko was living in the UK and carrying out daily experiments with capillary dynamolysis, Easter fell shortly after the equinox on 28th March. The church authorities in England had ruled that the Easter Full Moon should be considered to be a month later and that the festival should be celebrated on 25th April. The Astronomer Royal, however, disagreed and maintained that the earlier date was correct. Mrs Kolisko set out through her experiments to see which of them was right. Every day she repeated her experiments and a certain pattern showed itself again and again, until on Sunday 28th March a resplendent form of shape and colour appeared, quite different from the others. So the Astronomer Royal was correct and the church authorities got it wrong – on their preferred Sunday of 25th April there was no difference from the pattern of any other day.

A similar strengthening of the etheric forces was revealed on the true Whitsuntide, which is also a moveable feast because it is always on the seventh Sunday after Easter. So to anyone looking at the photos of these experiments, there can be no doubt whatever that a remarkable inpouring of spiritual power takes place on the true Easter Sunday and at Whitsun. It indicates that both Easter and Whitsun are cosmic events. These photos can be seen in a monograph by Lili Kolisko, called Spirit in Matter – just google for it and you will find it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the Ahrimanic forces if they could somehow undermine the cosmic power of Easter Day? Well, they have found a way to do this and I’m sorry to say that it involves the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

In 2016, Archbishop Justin announced how, after more than a thousand years of Easter being a moveable feast, he had hopes of reaching agreement with the other churches to settle upon a fixed date for Easter. He said he would “love” to see Easter become a fixed date by the time he retires.

Mr Welby said that he will consult with other authorities including Pope Francis and the Coptic Pope to negotiate a change to the date. It is very unlikely that any change will be made without the full assent of all those authorities. So with the active help of the Archbishop of Canterbury and possibly the leaders of other churches as well, Easter is likely to become a fixed date in the calendar and thus an event of cosmic significance, which is the occasion for a huge influx of spiritual power that affects all life on Earth, will be diminished to no more than an ordinary day. It would prevent humans from participating in this cosmic event, which as Rudolf Steiner told Ita Wegman offers a moment of revelation in which Christ may be experienced. What a great result for Ahriman, made even more satisfying by the fact that it is the leaders of the Christian churches who will have brought it about!

But even the undermining of Easter as a cosmic event might be considered less important than what Ahriman appears to be working on in connection with reincarnation. Those of you who are sports fans will probably not like what I’m about to say. Just over 100 years ago, Rudolf Steiner warned in a lecture given on 9th July 1918 (GA181) about high initiates in Anglo-American circles (by this he means secret brotherhoods of oppositional powers) who have a programme to undermine gradually the normal process of reincarnation. This is what Steiner had to say:

“They cultivate especially the powers of perception belonging to the body which strengthen the subjection of man to the body, through the incoming of forces not belonging entirely to the body but binding it to the earth.  (…)  A strong physical sense of relationship between the human body and the earthly elements is to be acquired. This strong feeling of relationship between the creature in the physical body and the earth exists to-day in certain species of apes, which have it as their soul-life. In them it can be studied physiologically and zoologically. What is present there can be gradually formed into a “system of instruction for human beings”; all that has to be done is to develop the coarse side of relationship with nature into a system of bodily education. (In saying this I am neither railing nor criticising; I am merely stating facts.) Thus it will be possible to bring about a sort of practical Darwinism, intensifying the relation of man to what binds him to the earth in a certain sense, to “monkeyfy” him. That is the practical side. It will be pursued through the intensive cultivation — ostensibly instinctive but in fact carefully directed — of sports and such-like things. This fetters the soul, drawing it into a sense of kinship with the earthly, with the earth itself, and so a spiritual ideal such as I have described is set up. By this means the continuing alternation of spiritual life and physical life will be overcome, and by degrees the ideal will be realised of living in future periods of earth-evolution as a kind of “phantom”; of dwelling on earth in this guise.” In other words, a kind of ghost, unable to move on to the heavenly world after death.

Steiner was not an enthusiast for sport and there are many quotations demonstrating this. Here is just one: “The excessive pursuit of sport is Darwinism in practice. Theoretical Darwinism is to assert that man comes from the animals. Sport is practical Darwinism, it proclaims an ethic which leads man back again.” (Study of Man, Lecture 13)

Returning to Steiner’s 1918 lecture (GA181), he went on to say that: “The Anglo-American people (and I think by this phrase he means the secret brotherhoods referred to earlier) strives for this strange ideal: no longer to return into earthly bodies, but to have an ever-increasing influence on the earth through the medium of living souls, whilst they themselves become more and more earthbound as disembodied souls. A very interesting point is that this ideal can be appropriately followed only by the male population, and hence, in spite of all political endeavours, an increasing difference between men and women will arise in Anglo-American civilization. Anglo-American spiritual life will in essence descend to future ages through women; while that which lives in male bodies will strive towards such an ideal as I have described. This will set the pattern of the future Anglo-American race.”

Now because what Steiner has to say here is so startling, let us try to be clear about his meaning. He is saying that the over-emphasis on sports, games, athletics and so on are among the forces of hindrance in modern civilisation. This is because the concentration on physical prowess and skill fetters the soul, in his phrase, drawing it too closely to kinship with the earth, so that after death, instead of making the normal transition to the spiritual world and to eventual reincarnation, the soul stays not just disembodied but also earthbound – it is unable to move on to the heavenly world. And these disembodied souls who remain close to the earth then have the ability to influence living souls on earth with the Ahrimanic illusion that the only reality lies in materialism. That is a truly startling observation, which he followed up by saying that it is male bodies who will be most affected by this and therefore Anglo-American spiritual life will in essence descend to future ages through women. My assumption about this statement is that in Steiner’s day, the audiences at football and other sports were overwhelmingly male; and the women therefore were less likely to succumb to the unseen soul influences present at those events. And perhaps we might also say that the devotion required to be a mother (and protect the next generation) and the channelling of spiritual forces in childbirth predisposes women to a higher attunement to wellbeing and family harmony – hence women have an increased likelihood of possessing loving heart forces naturally resistant to Ahrimanic impulses.

But Steiner was of course speaking over 100 years ago and the situation regarding women and sport has been transformed since then. We now have enthusiasm throughout the world, not just in the Anglo-American countries, for women and girls’ football. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was first held in China in 1991 and 176 national teams now participate internationally. Here in the UK, the England women’s team is praised for being more successful than the men’s team and players have recently been awarded MBEs and OBEs. The sport is poised to grow and grow, with women and girls being encouraged to take part at all levels of the game. Even in the Middle East and North Africa, countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Palestine, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Israel have had large-scale competitions and national teams – and since 2020, countries that have traditionally been seen as extreme like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan have begun to develop women’s football in order to raise their international profiles and to distance themselves from their conservative pasts.

Steiner was warning not of the elimination of the knowledge of reincarnation but the gradual elimination of reincarnation itself. One has to ask: Is the worldwide growth of women’s football just one indication among many that Ahriman is working far more effectively for this end than even Steiner himself had supposed? And what is it that these Ahrimanic beings are seeking to bring about? According to Steiner: “They set themselves the task of keeping man on the Earth by every possible means. You know from the book Occult Science that the Earth will one day pass over into the Jupiter condition. That is what these beings want to prevent. They want to prevent man from developing in a regular way together with the Earth and then passing over into the Jupiter condition in a normal way. They want to preserve the Earth as Earth and mankind for the Earth. Hence these beings work unceasingly and with great intensity to achieve their purpose.” (1922-12-03-GA219)

Now, I am not a fan of sport – I’d much rather read a book or listen to music or do some gardening – so perhaps I can be accused of bias; and when I discussed Steiner’s ideas recently with a well-known anthroposophist and sports fan in this village, he thought what I was saying was nonsense – so I am under no illusion that what I’ve just said will gain any acceptance even in our own circles, let alone in the wider world. But Steiner did not criticise modern sport and athletics because he wasn’t interested in them, but because of the effects he could perceive them having on us. He saw much of sport as being unhelpful in what he considered to be really important, ie that we should realise that we are not just creatures of flesh and blood but that we are actually spiritual beings who are currently having human experiences within our physical bodies. You are of course free to assert that Steiner was wrong about sport and its effects – but then I think you have to explain how and why Steiner was wrong. 

There’s no doubt that Ahriman has an easier task than one could wish. He finds it easy to persuade humans to give up their future to him, because Ahriman can work through the seat of our desires – our pride, greed, laziness, lust or wish for power – but Christ can only work through our I or individuality and this means that the struggle is not an equal one. Our individuality has so to develop itself that it can in time learn to recognise and resist the many temptations offered by Lucifer and Ahriman. The two forces work in harmony at the present time, even though they appeal to different instincts in us. The way to deal with these two poles of Evil is to seek the balance in the middle, which is represented by Christ.  

And I also have to acknowledge that, although Steiner talks about the “regular” way in which Earth and humanity evolve together and the “normal” way in which the Earth will pass one day into the Jupiter condition, how many of our fellow humans actually believe these things? By the time after many aeons when the Jupiter condition occurs, humans will no longer be in physical bodies. I’m fairly sure that most humans may not like the sound of this and would much prefer to stay with what they know, which is what Ahriman is offering them, ie to keep humankind earthbound and in physical bodies. Better the Devil you know, especially when he offers you such a wide range of sports and entertainments…

And whether you agree with Steiner or not, the real challenge of these times is how to get through them without succumbing to despair. For me, the pain consists of seeing what is happening and realising that the vast majority of our fellow human beings, although they know that we are living in a troubled world, are oblivious to what is really going on. And what I think is really going on, to borrow the title of a book by Bernard Lievegoed, is The Battle for the Soul. According to Lievegoed, because the human spirit is unassailable, the opposing powers therefore direct their efforts against the soul. The human soul is the real battlefield of the war between the powers of good and evil. What the Ahrimanic powers are attempting is to obscure the human soul or even to destroy it, so that the human ‘I’ is unable to gain experience through it.

Ahriman is also working very hard to ensure that we humans are unaware of the second coming of Christ, which according to Rudolf Steiner will not be a physical incarnation this time around. That was done once and for all 2000 years ago and will not be repeated. Steiner says that since about 1933, the Christ has been available to human beings in the etheric field and that more and more of us will be able to have the experience of an encounter with Christ. We know how Ahriman dealt with this threat in 1933, by bringing Hitler to power in Germany, thus creating more assaults on the human soul that diverted us from awareness of what was happening in the etheric realm. By keeping the eyes of most of humanity fixed firmly on the material world, and completely unaware of any other reality, Ahriman has kept knowledge of the second coming from our souls.

In 1916, Rudolf Steiner said that at the beginning of the 21st century, evil will appear in a form which at that time could not be described. His audience in 1916, even though they were enduring the horrors of the First World War, would not have been able to understand or take in a detailed description of the evils which we ourselves are having to live through at this time. As I mentioned during the Michaelmas address last September, the ecological crisis and the multiple other crises confronting humanity are at root just one crisis, that of our human consciousness. The state of the outer world is a direct reflection of the state of the human soul.

But before we sink into despair, let us remind ourselves of the larger context. The Earth is the location for human evolution, even though in our real natures, human beings are not earthly creatures, but are instead of spiritual and cosmic origin. The human body is a sheath, a container for soul and spirit. We had to sink into earth-bound materialism in order to understand what freedom means and to make a positive choice for freedom. But now, during this age of the Consciousness Soul, we are learning that lesson and are awakening in earthly existence to the full power of the ego, the ‘I’, and as a result we are gradually turning once again towards the cosmos.

We are at that stage now, with humankind once again on an upward journey towards our true nature. It is of course that upward trajectory which the Ahrimanic powers are seeking to divert, through various schemes to keep human beings fettered to the Earth and the prevailing materialist consciousness. Here I’d like to quote from a 1929 essay by Ita Wegman called ‘The Mystery of the Earth’, which also brings us back to Easter:

“The purpose of earthly evolution lies in this turning-back of man to the cosmos. Out of his own power the human being could never achieve this. For he could not have brought about a complete reversal in the direction which evolution took. So a cosmic impulse had to be inserted into the course of earthly and human evolution. This happened when a cosmic being, the sublime Sun Being Himself, the Christ, descended to the Earth and through His death on the cross united himself with everything terrestrial, thus transforming the Earth in its innermost essence.”

And this is a quotation from Rudolf Steiner’s Lecture VIII from The Principle of Spiritual Economy:

“… when the Mystery of Golgotha happened, human beings received the ability to muster from within the strength necessary to elevate themselves and lead themselves upward into the spiritual worlds. The Christ descended much deeper than had those previous leaders of the world and of mankind: not only did He bring heavenly forces into the earthly body, but also He spiritualized this earthly body in such a way that it now became possible for human beings to find the way back into the spiritual world with the help of these very forces.” ~Rudolf Steiner GA 109

So let us try to remember that we are now on the upward path back to realising our true nature as spiritual beings who are currently having human experiences within physical bodies, despite all that Ahriman can do to deceive us. Let us do our best to be alert and attentive to all the tricks, wiles and illusions being practised on us with the aim of diverting us from our path, because by observing and identifying what is really going on, we are doing as much as we can at this time to ensure that Ahriman fails in his attempts.

It is anthroposophy which can make us aware of these larger truths and provide us with the protection we need to come through this Battle for the Soul with our essential humanity still intact. I’d like to finish this address with a verse from Rudolf Steiner, which is almost like an answer to the question Eva Davies and I had asked ourselves about the role of anthroposophists at this time. It is called ‘To the Berlin Friends’ and he wrote it in November 1923 but every word of it could have been written to describe our situation today.

Mankind is now forgetful
Of the Divine inner realm,
But it is our will to bring it
Into the clear light of consciousness,
And then bear above rubble and ashes
The divine flames in the heart of man.
Lightning-bolts may therefore shatter
Our houses in the world of sense;
We are building houses of the soul
From what is iron-firm.

Light-weaving of knowledge.
And downfall of the outer
Shall become ascent
Of innermost soul-being.

Suffering draws near
From the powers of material force;
Hope rays forth its light,
Even when darkness surrounds us;
And it will one day
Well up in our memory,
When after the darkness
We can again live in the light.


Filed under Anthroposophy, Ahriman, Easter, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Evil

Covid-19, world morality and the culture of safety at any cost

Although I wasn’t a Waldorf pupil, my primary school was child-centred enough not to interfere with my unconscious assumption that “the whole world is moral”, to use Rudolf Steiner’s words.  For whatever reason, I was able to grow up as a child in the 1950s believing that those who had charge over our lives, such as parents, teachers, MPs and ministers, policemen, doctors and other public servants were, on the whole, good people working for the benefit and general welfare of others. Looking back to a time when I was younger and less disillusioned, I think I had a fairly positive view of the role of government and officialdom.

In the ninth lecture of Study of Man, Steiner says: “When human beings leave the world of spirit and soul and clothe themselves in a body, what do they actually want? They want to realise in the physical world the previous things they experienced in the spirit. Human beings before the change of teeth are, in a manner of speaking, still wholly focused on the past. Human beings are still filled with the devotion which they develop in the spiritual world. (…) This basic mood is actually a very lovely one. It is one which proceeds from the assumption, the unconscious assumption: the whole world is moral.”

Although we all know that this is not how the world actually is, it is vital for the future development of the child that in their early years their unconscious assumption that the world is beautiful, good and true should not be destroyed. I’ve been reflecting on all of this during the Covid-19 crisis, when the actions of government ministers have been causing me more and more disquiet. For one of my generation and political views, it has been a dispiriting experience to find myself tending to agree with Ronald Reagan that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’ “. 

I’m also disappointed to see the readiness with which most people have gone along with every new restriction, imposition and removal of an established civil liberty by the government. There are two sides to this, of course. During this crisis, we have seen some of the very best of human nature. I’m a care home manager and when I took our residents to get their jabs at a medical centre in Crowborough, there was a long but good-natured queue of people waiting patiently in line. There were friendly and helpful volunteers shepherding the queue, and the doctors and nurses inside the clinic were just lovely with our residents, who were understandably nervous beforehand, by reassuring them and administering the injection so that none of them felt a thing. All in all, this was the British at their best and it occurred to me that there must have been a simiIar national spirit in people during the Second World War. 

On the other side, I don’t think one has to be paranoid to start wondering whether there is another agenda behind all of this. By now it is clear that all the vaccinations, mask-wearing, social distancing and staying at home are not that effective in protecting us from Covid-19 and therefore most of the restrictions will have to stay in place. Scientists are saying that while vaccines are having a major impact by cutting illness and deaths, they are not effective enough to allow a return to normal social mixing without the risk of “a big epidemic”. Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said on 5th April: “I don’t think there’s any surprise that it [Covid] is still with us now, nor is it going to magically disappear over the next few months. This virus will be with us for the foreseeable future. We will have significant problems with Covid for the foreseeable future, and I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.” 

And on Tuesday 13th April, Boris Johnson told Sky News: “The (Covid) numbers are down – of infections and hospitalisations and deaths. But it is very, very important for everybody to understand that the reduction in these numbers – in hospitalisations and in deaths and infections – has not been achieved by the vaccination programme (my emphasis). People don’t, I think, appreciate that it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic and in the figures that we’re seeing”. 

So, why is Boris all of a sudden playing down the role of vaccination in dealing with Covid?  If it’s the case that, even though you have had your jabs, it will not make much difference – what are they for? You still have to wear a mask in public and practice ‘social distancing’ and for months to come, you may not be able to travel abroad, or even go very far within the UK. We don’t know whether the jabs will reduce transmissibility of the virus or whether they will protect you against new variants – but we do know that it is likely you will now have to have additional jabs at regular intervals.  Pfizer’s chief has just said that people will probably require a yearly Covid booster shot. Oxford Biomedica, which is manufacturing the Astra Zeneca jab in this country, is expecting to earn over £50 million pounds this year from the jab. 

Back in December 2020, I wrote a piece about Coercion and the Covid-19 Vaccines, in which I argued that we were about to see the beginnings of a campaign that would threaten to make life so difficult for anyone who didn’t agree to be vaccinated that it amounted to making it compulsory. Events since have not proved me wrong.

There was a time, before he became prime minister, when Boris Johnson presented himself as a believer in civil liberties. This is what he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column in 2004, when the then Labour government was thinking of introducing ID cards: 

“If I am ever asked, on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and when I am simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded that I produce it (…) and add, in the words of Barry Goldwater, that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, and that I really don’t know what I dislike most about these cards. There is the cost; (…) There is the loss of liberty, and the creepy reality that the state will use these cards – doubtless with the best possible intentions – to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim, and so on.”

What a difference political power and a pandemic can make to basic principles! But it’s been obvious for a long time to anyone who has observed Boris Johnson’s career and general behaviour that he has no basic principles, other than to do in all circumstances whatever will lead to his personal advantage. 

Now in 2021 the government, of which he is prime minister, is proposing not only vaccine passports (ID cards by another name) but also a “UK Health Security Agency”. The idea behind it is that to control the circulation of viruses, the government needs to control what people are allowed to do. Our rights to freedom of assembly, of protest, to send our children to school, to go abroad, to visit the pub etc are now seen by the government as privileges which they can remove or restore as they see fit. One idea apparently being seriously considered in Whitehall is that each of us will have to send in our temperature every day using the NHS app.

I have some skin in this game, as the Americans say. The government is planning to legislate to make it illegal to work in a care home if you have not had the vaccination – but I want to wait for further analysis about possible side effects from these experimental vaccines before deciding whether or not to have one. 

Critics will scoff at my use of the term ‘experimental’ and point to the NHS statement: “The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.” 

According to the scientific technical writer, Mark Pickles: “There are many things wrong with this NHS statement. It is misleading at best. The medicines are not licensed. The medicines are not approved (certainly not according to the FDA in America, who in granting ‘emergency authorisation’ for three vaccines tell us ‘There is no US Food and Drug Administration approved vaccine to prevent Covid-19’, and the clinical trials are still in progress. We are now in the long-term trials, or Phase 3 of four phases, following which the medicine is assessed and either licensed or revoked.” 

What’s more, “every letter of authorisation from the FDA to Janssen BioTech, to Moderna TX and to Pfizer Inc for the Covid-19 vaccines describes each product as: ‘an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication.’ “ 

The medical term ‘investigational’ as used by the health authorities is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as follows: 

“Investigational [medical]: relating to or being a drug or medical procedure that is not approved for general use but is under investigation in clinical trials regarding its safety and efficacy.” 

To my mind, ‘investigational’ means that these vaccines are still experimental. This also means that everyone who has had one of these vaccines has been unwittingly taking part in the biggest trial ever known in the history of medicine – and it’s worth remembering that all of the companies making these vaccines have been granted blanket immunity by government from litigation arising from unforeseen side effects.

This creeping authoritarianism is to my mind quite sinister. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London, whose inaccurate projections about the pandemic (forecasts of 250,000 deaths in the UK and 1.2 million in the US) have been relied on by several governments to shape their response, made some interesting comments during an interview with Tom Whipple of The Times: 

“I think people’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March (2020),” Professor Ferguson says. When SAGE (the UK government’s Scientific and Advisory Group) observed the ‘innovative intervention’ out of China, of locking entire communities down and not permitting them to leave their homes, they initially presumed it would not be an available option in a liberal Western democracy. ‘It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.’ ” 

It seems from Ferguson’s comments that the UK government is taking lessons in social control from the Chinese Communist Party and applying them to a so-far docile population at home, with success beyond their expectations. But is it just paranoia on my part to draw the conclusion that Boris Johnson and his bunch of political pygmies are simply the servants seeking to enforce a larger agenda emerging from those who regard themselves as our global masters?

Here it is instructive to listen to Edward Snowden. Wikipedia tells us that Snowden is the “former computer intelligence consultant who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy.”

I have a great deal of respect for Snowden, his bravery and his sense of outrage at the immorality of many covert government operations. I think that Rudolf Steiner would also have applauded Snowden for revealing to us the brutal reality and lies behind so much government rhetoric. I urge you to listen to him in this short YouTube video, where he is speaking about coronavirus and the effect on our freedoms, and in which he suggests that the pandemic is being used to put in place controls on populations throughout the world – and that governments will find these controls very useful and want to make them permanent.

In the end, it comes down to a question of trust. We all know about Boris Johnson’s track record with truth, so I suspect that most of us will not be reassured when we hear him declare his confidence in the AstraZeneca or any other vaccine. These are fearfully complex questions that only an epidemiologist or virologist can pronounce on with any authority, so some of us will want to turn instead to scientists for reassurance. But can we trust the scientists and doctors, many of whom derive their funding from the giant pharmaceutical corporations? I don’t think so, which is why I want to see two or three years more data from the ongoing clinical trials before I decide whether to have the jab. In the meantime, I and my care home colleagues are having three tests a week to show that we are free from infection. It is fundamentally immoral for any government to seek to coerce me through the threat of unemployment, loss of the right to travel etc, into a premature decision on the matter of vaccination.

I am saddened to have lost my childhood assumption that the world is beautiful, good and true because, in my heart of hearts, I think that this is how the world is one day meant to be. At this time, however, as we become more and more aware of the impending incarnation of the being whom Christ called “the Ruler of this World”, it is clearly unrealistic to suppose that governments, leaders and the rest of us are not going to be unconsciously or otherwise influenced in myriad negative ways by what is coming towards us. Our only option is to become as aware, as far as possible, of the reality behind world phenomena; and in Rudolf Steiner’s words, “it is humanity’s task in this period to come to grips with evil as an impulse in the evolution of the world”. 


Filed under Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic, Evil

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”.


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

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.



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.


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