Can anthroposophy coexist peaceably with orthodox Christianity?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

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Question: What is anthroposophy, and why should Christians be wary of it?

Answer: Anthroposophy is a philosophy based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) which maintains that we can have cognitional experiences of the spiritual world if we use certain of his prescribed self-discipline techniques. Steiner claimed that this method would bring the rigor of the scientific method into the spiritual realm. But there are many reasons for Christians to steer clear of it.

In the USA, Steiner’s philosophy is very much alive in the “Waldorf Education” movement… and I will admit to loving a teaching philosophy that includes spiritual awareness — especially when I contrast it to what I see more as indoctrination than education in today’s public schools. But not every spirit is from God (1 John 4:1) — not even every spirit that says it is — and I’m not sure whether this type of spiritual awareness is any less harmful to the individual than is physicalism, its polar opposite.

The main problem with anthroposophy is that it is a complex, one-man (Steiner) system that has flashes or orthodoxy, brilliance… and lunacy! For example, what Christian wouldn’t be encouraged by finding fellow trichotomists?

“Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner education is based on an anthroposophical view and understanding of the human being, that is, as a being of body, soul and spirit.”

Now, belief that we have a body, soul and spirit may separate us from the physicalists, but it does not necessarily separate us from pagans or even atheists! Below is a partial answer from Jean Yeager (Administrative Director of the Anthroposophical Society in America) to the question, is anthroposophy a religion?

“No, anthroposophy is not a religion, nor is it meant to be a substitute for religion. While its insights may support, illuminate or complement religious practice, it provides no belief system. The Anthroposophical Society is open to persons of any faith but also those who do not adhere to a particular faith.”

“What is of interest in anthroposophy is the living spiritual insights of its members and the activities that flow freely from those insights. Members are not prescribed a specific form of spiritual practice but many [freely] practice meditation (contemplative thinking, visualization or imagery), artistic expression and study.”

“Anthroposophy has no profession of faith -- no oaths or vows are required for membership. Anthroposophy has no sacred texts; members of the Anthroposophical Society are free to work with any texts they consider to be spiritually significant. While it is not a requirement, many members read the works of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Anthroposophical Society, in order to study how he arrived at his spiritual insights. “

True Christianity is biblical Christianity… and we already have our book, thank you!

This is the clearest reason to dodge anthroposophy and Waldorf education. Since they do not subscribe to biblical authority, any similarities between their practices and the true faith will be incidental, not purposeful… although, they try to be “inclusive” of the Bible by saying, “Anthroposophy honors each member's own faith and the moral injunctions of that faith.”

But here’s the problem with that. Christianity claims that Jesus Christ is the only door to salvation (John 10:7-10), not one of the doors. So, they do not “honor” us by saying that all ways are equally honorable. That just brings Jesus down to the level of everyone else… and Jesus will have none of that (John 14:6).

Interestingly, Steiner “found” Jesus Christ… well… sort of. But I don’t think that Jesus would be pleased with what he found. Steiner said that Christ’s earthly mission (“bringing individuated consciousness”) had an important place in human evolution. He said that Christianity has evolved out of previous religions, that Christ manifests in all faiths and that these were all valid in their time. Furthermore, Christianity has and will transform to meet human evolution. But, this is not our Christ. Our Christ doesn’t evolve (Hebrews 13:8)… and, definitively so.

Steiner's views of Christianity diverge from conventional Christian thought in key places, and it includes gnostic elements:

One central point of divergence is Steiner's views on reincarnation and karma.

Steiner differentiated three contemporary paths by which he believed it possible to arrive at Christ:

Through heart-filled experiences of the Gospels; Steiner described this as the historically dominant path, but becoming less important in the future.

Through inner experiences of a spiritual reality; this Steiner regarded as increasingly the path of spiritual or religious seekers today.

Through initiatory experiences whereby the reality of Christ's death and resurrection are experienced; Steiner believed this is the path people will increasingly take.

Steiner also believed that there were two different Jesus children involved in the Incarnation of the Christ: one child descended from Solomon, as described in the Gospel of Matthew, the other child from Nathan, as described in the Gospel of Luke. (The genealogies given in the two gospels diverge some thirty generations before Jesus' birth, and 'Jesus' was a common name in biblical times.)

His view of the second coming of Christ is also unusual; he suggested that this would not be a physical reappearance, but that the Christ being would become manifest in non-physical form, visible to spiritual vision and apparent in community life for increasing numbers of people beginning around the year 1933.

He emphasized his belief that in the future humanity would need to be able to recognize the Spirit of Love in all its genuine forms, regardless of what name would be used to describe this being. He also warned that the traditional name of the Christ might be misused, and the true essence of this being of love ignored.

Steiner also promoted a calendar of the soul — sort of weekly “devotional” thoughts… like short poems. If you want to know Steiner’s heart (and, therefore, the heart of anthroposophy … because they cannot be separated) read a few of these. Here’s an example from the thirty-fourth week (translated from the German).

In secret inwardly to feel
How all that I've preserved of old
Is quickened by new-risen sense of self:
This shall, awakening, pour forth cosmic forces
Into the outer actions of my life
And growing, mould me into true existence.

I’ve read a representative sampling of these — and trust me — they have nothing to do with Christ… so the Christian should have nothing to do with Steiner, Anthroposophy or Waldorf Education (1 Thessalonians 5:22). You see, there is nothing in its commendations which can overcome the aggregate of its condemnations. So, let me state this plainly: the cumulative case against anthroposophy representing orthodox Christianity is overwhelming. You just have to wade through a lot of weeds to get the total picture.

Andy Lewis is a cult critic. Back in 2012, he stepped up and called Steiner’s organization a cult. Now, I suspect that Lewis, like me, had stayed his hand for a while because of the occasional rays of light. But his description of anthroposophy will be my conclusion because it shows why he’s not afraid to call it a cult.

“The only way I can really describe Anthroposophy is as an esoteric crypto-religious organisation based on a mystical and racist view of humanity and an astrological and clairvoyant view of understanding science.  Anthroposophy is full of barmpot ideas, such as the literal existence of gnomes, that the British Isles floats on the sea, homeopathy works, and burning mice ritually will protect your crops from them. Oh, and if you are good, you will be reincarnated as an Northern European Ayrian….”

Thanks for asking. Forewarned is forearmed.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20180813 Steiner, Waldorf Education and anthroposophy).

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