IKEA and the mission of folk souls

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?

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26 comments

  1. Oh my God, this is the funniest post ever. You had me rolling. I was just in a tizzy over the life sized Waldorf doll but this is zounds funnier.

    A Goetheanum designed by Ikea … this is hysterical.

    You are right about the weird labyrinths. Not long after my mother moved down here, in our desperate quest for ways to entertain her and enrich her lonely days, one day hubby and I got the bright idea that Ikea might be entertaining for her. You can get a cheap if slightly queasy meal in the cafeteria, then we thought just sort of trolling through would be fun, following the path, you know, admiring kitchen and bedroom sets etc. What a disaster.

    Do not take a person with even mild cognitive impairment to Ikea. There were four of us – me and hubby, the teenager, and my very elderly mother. Within 15 minutes we were all separated, frantically texting each other, “In household linens where r u.” “Don’t move I will meet u there” “Is she with you” “No I lost her in children’s bedroom sets. Help” We simply could not make it work, we finally reconvened at the exit, all of us disoriented and my poor 90 year old mother simply terrified, and aborted the whole mission.

  2. I would also like to nominate this post title for the best ever. The only rival to “Ikea and the mission of the folk souls” was one you had awhile back, I think it was “Eurythmy without plastic raincoats.”

  3. Thank you Diana!

    Ikea is a nightmare. It’s like walking into the advent spiral — although an unpleasant one — then getting stuck unable to get out.

    It’s really not a nice place to be. Last time I went was three years ago. I got lots of cheap stuffed toys for mr Dog. Rats, e g.

    (As a side note… I don’t know how much international readers know about this, but given the company’s history they ought perhaps stay far away from words like ‘folk-souls’… http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14661582.)

  4. Hm, I hadn’t heard that, interesting.

  5. I can’t wait for Alicia to put the “beyond” back in Bed, Bath and Beyond.

  6. Is that the stage when archangels and higher spiritual beings decide what to do with the shop chain (it is a chain, is it not?) in its next incarnation?

  7. Too funny

  8. This still has me rolling, now I’m thinking all those Swedish names I can’t read on the tags in Ikea are things like “consciousness soul.” The possibilities are endless, sheets and towels, cutlery, candles …

  9. As for the “homeless man,” I’ve always wondered if there aren’t sometimes people more-or-less living in Ikea anyway – just hunkering down out of sight when the lights are put out, then finding, say, a kid’s bunkbed, or dragging a quilt or comforter from the sale bins and going to sleep in the deep recesses of the hardware aisles.

  10. I’ve always imagined that too!! Somebody just has to live there. But I’m not sure if they’re human. Perhaps some hybrid between human and vampire?

    All those product names are of course concepts straight out of the most advanced chapters of the akashic chronicle…

    I desperately searched and was very happy when I finally found that pitcher. Just what you need to pour the scraps of your failed impulses into.

    There was no product named Järna (there are lots of location names, so it wouldn’t have been impossible). I suggest something with red dots should be called Järna. To remind people of vaccination. (There’s a clothes company with a coat named Järna, however… Sorry, I digress…)

    I must get an ikea product catalogue to search it for spiritual scientific clues…

  11. That photo is extremely strange. Is he supposed to be their father? Sitting an inch away from the teenagers playing cards reading Rudolf Steiner? Not very meditative.

    What did Steiner say about the Icelandic folk soul, anyone know?

  12. “And perhaps cheap, hopeless furniture that drives people worldwide mad, as they try to assemble it, represents the Swedish folk soul fairly well.”

    Still snorting over your humor. Ok, I’ll try to let it go …

  13. Also, their font sucks. They switched from Futura to Verdana awhile back, to howls of dismay from font geeks …

  14. I was going to say Verdana is not so bad, but then I looked at Futura. Brilliant.

    There isn’t much at the rsarchive on the Icelandic people. But I think some of the lectures where he talked about Swedes and Norwegians aren’t on there, so there might be more but yet not translated to English.

    Yes, in the comment thread one of the young people in the picture says something like ‘father is readin Rudolf Steiner’, so I assume he’s her father. Not sure if they’re all his children though, they might not be.

    Not very meditative at all! But perhaps a challenge…

  15. ‘Conscious’ (‘Medveten’) is a vase. ‘Atlant’, which is only an ‘is’ away from Atlantis, is a valve. Isn’t it all very appropriate…? (I’m dead tired and looking for words on Ikea’s website… must stop immediately…)

  16. Actually, IKEA itself has probably one of the most profitable corporate souls in Sweden. Here it is described in rosy colours (in Swedish): http://bit.ly/SaILVs and here: bit.ly/vHrKkL as a vile sect, so deeply integrated with the swedish folk-soul that we refuse to believe reports about their shady economic practices. Interesting context for reading Steiner …

  17. Fascinating. I’m obviously not a part of the swedish folk-soul. I’ve never liked chipboard.

    I’ve found another suspicious product: SOFIA. http://www.ikea.com/se/sv/catalog/products/30160025/

  18. Oh dear. Both Sune and Rudolf seem to be among Ikea’s old product names. I wonder what those products were. http://lar5.com/ikea/index.html

  19. ROFL
    I think you’ve unveiled the biggest conspiracy in the spirit world since … well, I don’t know, since I’m not too good at keeping up with the conspiracies. All we need now is “lodges.” Were lodges involved?

  20. Oh, I’m sure we can unearth a conspiracy! According to that product dictionary (I wonder if there’s a more extensive one, spanning ALL Ikea products ever… if there is, I want it!) there was a product called HEMLIS, which is short for ‘hemlighet’ (‘secret’). ‘Hemlisar’ (pl) would be an important part in any conspiracy… And there’s DOLD (‘hidden’).

    And, oh dear, now I found MIKAEL on that list too…

  21. I mean unearth some secret lodges in the conspiracy…

  22. LÖMSK (‘insidious’) http://www.ikea.com/se/sv/catalog/products/40100253/

    I also found MÖRKER (‘darkness’) in the dictionary. (There is also MÖRKT (‘dark’), a candle holder. And LJUST (‘light’), a set of jars. Other spiritually important dichotomies include words for warm and cold.)

    How RATIONELL (‘rational’) and FÖRNUFT (‘reason’) entered the product range, I do not yet know… Perhaps opposing forces at work.

  23. Update: Anthroposophists ok, lounging on Ikea furniture; Pussy Riot protesters, not so much.

    http://www.thelocal.se/43412/20120924/

  24. Oh, they have no guts, not guts at all. Nobody knows about anthroposophists or what they’re reading, thus not a problem, not risky. And no government — corrupt or not — cares much either.

  25. To rescussitate this thread: In Saudi-Arabia, no women in IKEA publicity/catalogue pictures, apparently. One swedish, newspaper reports about this today.

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