The future looks grim, as you already know (if you’ve read your Steiner!). ‘Mighty flames of fire destroyed ancient Lemuria, and mighty floods ancient Atlantis. Our civilisation will also perish, through the war of all against all. This is what we must face. Our fifth root-race will perish, because egoism will reach its highest pitch’, Steiner says. He suggests counter-measures, of course: the individual attainment of higher wisdom, that is, spiritual progression. He continues, and this is where it becomes interesting:
Will this counter-act egoism and the threatening disintegration? Yes! For only when we reach the highest wisdom, in which there are no differences, no personal opinion and no personal standpoint, but ONE VIEW only, will men agree. If they were to remain as they are at present, following their different standpoints, they would become more and more disunited. The highest wisdom always produces a unanimous view among all men. Real wisdom is ONE, and it unites men again, whilst leaving them as free as possible, without any coercive authority. Just as the members of the great WHITE Brotherhood are always in harmony with one another and with humanity, so all men will one day be one, through this wisdom. Only this wisdom can establish the true idea of brotherhood. Spiritual science therefore has only one task: to bring this idea to men, by developing now the Spirit-Self and later on the Life-Spirit. The great goal of the spiritual-scientific movement is to make it possible for man to attain freedom and true wisdom; its mission is to let this truth and wisdom flow into men.
There is one truth only. There is no personal opinion. The highest wisdom consists of individual differences having been wiped out. Everybody thinks the same, everybody is the same, wants the same, believes the same. And this, my friends, is freedom. A spiritual aristocracy will lead. The rest of us, who don’t accept the one truth, will perish, eventually. Or perhaps not perish, exactly, but we’re not fit for the sixth root-race, so one wonders what tasks the cosmic recycling system will find for us.
A small part of the fifth root-race will forestall the course of evolution, it will spiritualise Manas and unfold the Spirit-Self. The majority, however, will reach the summit of selfishness. Only this nucleus of humanity, that develops the Spirit-Self, will become the seed of the sixth root-race, and the most advanced of these, the Masters, as we call them, who have grown out of mankind, will then be the leaders of humanity. The movement for spiritual knowledge strives towards this goal. (Source: Steiner, March 7, 1907.)
That movement is theosophy (later anthroposophy). The question I have is this — does it really matter if Steiner meant all this literally or if he was ‘only’ speaking metaphorically? I know the argument is that it can’t all be taken literally, and, well, sometimes not taking it literally is the only way to take it at all. But, in this case, isn’t it equally unpleasant whichever way he meant it? The point, for me, isn’t so much the supposed concrete facts about the future, but his predictions in regard to uniformity of thought and the eradication of individuality — and how he presents this as an ideal and necessary development; not having personal opinions and thoughts is a good thing. I’m saying individuality, because to me any kind of relevant individuality would necessitate independent thought and independent conclusions; while I fear that some anthroposophists would see the concept of individuality as completely compatible with a future when all men agree and have abandoned all personal standpoints, that is, in line with Steiner’s prospect. It doesn’t help, in my opinion, to be told that future men will be ‘free’ anyway because all worthy men would see truth, which is one, and voluntarily adopt the same ideas. Those who don’t abandon their selves, their personalities and their own minds will ‘reach the summit of selfishness’ and are basically unfit; paradoxically, according to this reasoning, it is those who retain their own judgment who are ‘unfree’. Steiner talks about automatons (they’re really bad people), but, in all honesty, are the envisioned ideal men of the future — men who follow a spiritual aristocracy and adhere to a unanimous view (‘wisdom’) — anything but automatons, in the proper sense of the word?
(We discussed freedom in waldorf education in this thread. And I think I was on to something at the end of this comment and in this comment. Others said many interesting things too, I suggest open the thread and search the page for the relevant words!)