This is a funny little item that appeared last week, but I didn’t have the opportunity to blog about it right away. The Swedish furniture chain IKEA, which produces and sells cheap, often ugly and always utterly soulless furnishing, has an Icelandic branch. For some odd reason, I don’t know which, it seems IKEA Iceland has decided to involve real people (meaning not professional models) in a huge number of advertisement photos they’ve published on their Facebook page. In other words, ordinary people doing ordinary things. Of which this following story is a prime example!
Here’s the funny thing: in one photo, namely this one, there’s a man sitting in an armchair reading Rudolf Steiner. Yes, that really is a funny thing: he’s reading Rudolf Steiner. (In the comment thread, you find this verified by one of the other persons present in the photo.) Ordinary people engaged in ordinary activities — as I promised you!
IKEA. What a place to read Rudolf Steiner! And isn’t that a zebra blanket behind him? I’m obviously shocked, as you can no doubt understand! I admit to having an IKEA kitchen. Which I quite like, by the way. But it’s bereft of… well, you know, you can feel that none of the more exquisite elemental beings were involved in the production process. It means nothing; it is highly useful, on a crude materialistic level, but has no soul. Anyway. I bet you want to know — what is the man reading? Thanks to Facebook, I learnt that it might be the Swedish edition of Mission of Folk-Souls. Appropriately, for a Nordic furniture company, albeit a rather soulless one, the subtitle reads: In Connection with Germanic Scandinavian Mythology.
Of course, I didn’t settle my mind with this; I wanted to verify, if I could, that it is indeed this book. Now, if you download the largest possible version of the IKEA picture, you can’t make out the title, but you can get an idea of what the cover of the book looks like. Then you can compare it with photos of the book, such as this picture. I’d say it’s very likely that he’s actually reading that book. Mission of Folk-Souls in an IKEA ad? you might ask, thinking this is a rather strange choice. Well, I can’t disagree. But perhaps you can’t know higher worlds sitting in an IKEA chair, not even if it is a classical armchair (it’s all chipboard and polyester anyway — this is, after all, IKEA). And perhaps cheap, hopeless furniture that drives people worldwide mad, as they try to assemble it, represents the Swedish folk soul fairly well. Perhaps, too, this stuff is even part of modern mythology, if we go down that route. And IKEA department stores can certainly provide an experience of walking in weird labyrinths (which should be esoterically meaningful, one way or another). But one has to point out how wrong, from an anthroposophical design perspective, IKEA furniture appears. So wrong.
Still… the choice of literature — this particular Steiner book, if indeed the advanced guesses are correct, and it is the very book I’m assuming it is — can be somewhat perplexing, possibly even troubling. Here you will find synopses for all the lectures, which were held in Oslo (then Christiania) in the summer of 1910. It’s worth looking through it to get a picture of what this lecture series is about. Believe me, it is worth it. If you haven’t already.
But to approach it all on a lighter note. Do you think the homeless mystic furnishes his spiritual home with supersensible IKEA items?
Perhaps you will better understand what we mean if you remember, that at a certain stage of mystic or occult development one is called a ‘homeless man.’ This designation is a technical one, and if we wish to characterize without further ado — as we are not now speaking about the path of knowledge — what is to be understood by the term ‘homeless man,’ we may briefly say, that a man is called ‘homeless’ when, in his knowledge and grasp of the great laws of humanity, he cannot be influenced by all that usually arises in a person through living in his native country. A ‘homeless man’, we might also say, is one who is able to identify himself with the great mission of humanity as a whole, without the various shades of the particular feelings belonging to this or the other home-land playing any part. This will show you that a certain degree of maturity in mystical or occult development is necessary, in order to have a liberal point of view regarding something which we otherwise rightly consider great, which, in contradistinction to individual human life, we describe as the Mission of the several Folk-spirits, as that which brings, out of the foundations of a people, out of the spirit of the various peoples, the separate concrete contributions to the collective mission of humanity. [From lecture I.]
When will we see IKEA naming a fluffy duvet Luficer and a television cupboard Ahriman? Are there other potential anthropo-products? Where would we find Michael? Is it not true that IKEA retains the Swedish product names internationally — and if so, what kind of product would be appropriately named medvetenhetssjäl (consciousness soul)? Impulse is a pitcher.
And, most importantly, what would the Goetheanum have looked like, had IKEA designed it? And would it still be standing, had it been built from chipboard? Would the anthroposophists have been able to assemble it at all?