2016.01.18

I often find anthroposophical explanations of current events and phenomena to be quite fascinating. You know, not just anthroposophists having thoughts about the world we live in just like anyone else (that can be interesting enough, of course), but the application of the most occult of Steiner’s ideas on these events and phenomena. Thus I was quite amused to find a properly — one might say almost literalist, fundamentalist, disconcertingly nutty — anthroposophical theory of the current refugee crisis in Europe, when I was glancing through a long (very long!) new thread where people talked about their (mostly negative) experiences of waldorf education. It’s not the kind of thing I usually read these days; I try to ignore personal testimonies (the only value one can derive from them is the picture they reveal when you accumulate a multitude of them: but I have done all I can with that picture already), just as I try to ignore the most destructive elements of anthroposophically inspired speculation or the conspiracy theories that overflow certain anthroposophical fora. I see these things, I pass them by. What can one do? There’s a bottomless well of nuttery and scandal awaiting anyone who wants to plunge into these topics, though.

As you all know: anthroposophy holds that virtually nothing happens by chance. As you may also know, if you’ve been around for a while, according to anthroposophy, behind outer events and processes, and their superficial causes and effects, there lie hidden, occult, equivalents. This may make the outer explanations of things — wars, catastrophes, diseases, et cetera — at best incomplete, at worst misleading; they never get to the heart of things. Steiner himself many times laid out extensive explications for the real — behind the scenes — causes of historical events. Someone who is a clairvoyant — that is, someone who has developed his or her ability to see into the spiritual worlds — can try to do the same thing. It’s worth pointing out that not all anthroposophists think they themselves have reached a perfect stage of clairvoyancy (or any at all); others (wisely, perhaps) understand that talking too much about it, in too specific terms, may not be the most splendid idea. Steiner did warn, after all, that an esoteric training not properly conducted can lead one to a whole range of errors and illusions. To think oneself perfect in this regard requires a certain self-confidence, I imagine. And (possibly) a willingness to be ridiculed.

Some people, however, appear unfazed. The internet is full of them, but so, apparently, is real life. At a waldorf school parents’ meeting, people gathered received an explanation to the present refugee crisis. It’s an occult variation, one might say, of the old theme of blaming Western civilization for the ills of the world:

it turns out, you see, that the asylum seekers arriving in Europe are the incarnated spirits of aborted fetuses who had planned to be born in Europe. They are spirits returning home. That was what had been said, and is all I know about it. As weird as this theory may seem at first, it’s not at all unbelievable; quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. Although not by far a necessary conclusion, it’s perfectly possible to derive it from anthroposophical ideas about karma and reincarnation.

This may require an explanation. Between incarnations — that is, lives on earth — spirits spend their time in higher worlds, where the plan their next life; they examine what they need to experience for their own development and for that of mankind, and they consider which environments and circumstances will give them the best opportunities. For example, they may ‘know’ that war, early death, flight, disease are what they need — or perhaps the opposite, depending on what they need to achieve. They need to even out — to balance — deeds done and thoughts and experiences they’ve had in previous lives. An abortion cuts short the intentions of the incarnating spirit. (It seems odd, somehow, that the abortion itself is not foreseen and, actually, like other calamities, chosen by the spirit as an experience it needs to have; an incarnation that doesn’t even properly begin is, surely, a kind of experience too. But I’ve never seen anyone suggest that.)

When a spirit’s intentions are thwarted like that — and it is prevented from living out it’s destiny — it can return and make a new attempt fairly quickly. It doesn’t need as much time in the higher worlds as someone who has led a long life. The same goes for children who die; they can return much faster. Needing a European incarnation, those aborted spirits must find another way. And, in a roundabout way, this provides one (of many possible) occult explanation to why poverty, persecution and war are necessary: they set off a migration that the spirits have already chosen for themselves in the higher worlds, but which they wouldn’t consciously remember once on earth. Outer events make sure it happens, thus the spirits have chosen these events.

Now, there’s a perspective for you: the asylum seekers are not really asylum seekers, but people who return to their proper home. If it were not for European women, making the decision not to give birth to children they have conceived, these individuals would already have arrived.

Let me spell out the obvious, though there’s hardly any need to say much about it: there’s a certain moral undertone here. I only wonder why contraception wasn’t mentioned; it would have made some undisputable sense to do that.

I’m not against a moral argument; and it’s perfectly fine to object to abortion on moral grounds (though I personally cannot accept that people’s moral decisions in this regard should apply to anyone but themselves). What is not surprising at all is that whatever someone’s opinion is, it just so happens that their God or the occult worlds — or what have you — always seem to support it in some way or other. It is a curious phenomenon, one which Steiner himself so charmingly points out in one of his early essays (before theosophy): humans fashion their gods to suit and support our own opinions, tastes and desires.

There is of course a difference between the machinations of karma and the will of a God. But there’s not so much difference when it comes to the nature of human speculation about these things. It’s just as easy to speculate that God’s will happens to align itself with mine as it is to speculate that karma will make my moral viewpoints ‘win’ in the end. When it comes down to it, though, one must ask: how can you be so very certain? How do you know that your capability as a spiritual seer — or interpreter of God — is so great that you’re not making an error or falling prey to illusion? (It deserves to be said: Steiner talks a lot about the problem of wrong paths, unbalanced esoteric training and the possibilities of error and illusion. Though sometimes one does wonder about the sanity of what he says nonetheless.)

Illusion, indeed. Delusion, quite possibly. Because, and this is my main objection, even providing — for the sake of argument — that karma and reincarnation are actual facts, and that everything that happens has a karmic reason or a karmic motive, one could think of numerous possible occult causes behind the refugee situation. For us non-seers, only our fantasy is the limit — and I have a feeling that that’s the only limit for certain self-appointed seers too! The speculations of spiritual people all too often bear a certain resemblance to an occult tabloid newspaper. The ‘truths’ that are produced tend not to do well in the light. They are, if not outright untrue, distortions to serve an end.

Sometimes anthroposophists complain that it’s a pity these embarrassing things come out, because they are so easily ‘misunderstood’. Fair point, I guess. But what truly matters is what is thought to be true, not what is expressed aloud (in the presence of, for example, waldorf school parents). What has been expressed here is not particularly difficult to understand: the karmic connection of cause and effect is as explicit as can be. People may not understand the more intricate workings of karma and reincarnation, but it’s not necessary. You’ve caught enough of a glimpse into how anthroposophists believe hidden forces determine world events. But the argument about misunderstanding itself misunderstands a crucial fact alluded to above: even if one understands karma, and holds it for true, one might not agree to this particular karmic explanation; it is nothing but someone’s more or less deluded vision, spread to so and so many others, who are willing to believe. I’m certain that lots of anthroposophists don’t believe it, if it even occurred to them. What ails the movement, however, is that those supposed clairvoyants who are most sure of their own abilities to discern occult truths in vivid and specific details — and here the sources of errors are obvious and countless — are probably also the most prone to blather, and what is worse: many people believe these self-appointed seers, and transmit their ‘knowledge’ uncritically. This goes for the conspiracy theories that proliferate in anthropsophical milieus as well. Too few stand up and say: hey, how can you be so sure you know this is how it is? There is, I suspect, such a thing as open-mindedness taken too far.

5 thoughts on “2016.01.18

  1. I agree with you completely on this. The response I tend to make when someone (whether an anthroposophist or not) comes out with a new conspiracy theory or a “my guidance tells me…” type of statement is: “Interesting, if true.” But always you have to use your own judgement, both about the person making the statement and about the idea they wish to convey. It helps not to come to an immediate view but to carry it with you for a little while – and then if it feels false, it most probably is.
    Best wishes,
    Jeremy

  2. Woof to you both!

    Yes, Melanie, lots of tree-barkong, indeed. I suspect there’s a perpetual cosmic cat up anthroposophy’s tree. But who knows.

    Jeremy, well, yes. Although I would say that the speed at which one arrives at a view has a bit to do with the nature of the statement. Or its bleeding obviousness. One might manage to carry, for example, the idea that refugees are previously aborted spirits around with oneself for a while — I mean, perhaps they are, who knows (though very unlikely, I’d say) — but in other cases… when someone’s statements run counter to obvious truths about the material world (as opposed to the spiritual realm), it’s rather a task. I suspect that one has to pick and choose what one carries with oneself. (One would quickly become over-burdened, considering the stuff that floats around on the internet.) And is feeling really enough? I imagine that in many cases one would need to add thinking.

    Howl!

  3. “I imagine that in many cases one would need to add thinking.” Yes. That´s the problem, obviously.

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