“If such authentic souls, such honest anthroposophists can be found…then an upward movement and dynamic will arise. If such souls do not appear, then decadence will take its inexorable downward course…. Today humanity stands before a great crisis: either it will see all civilization collapsing into the abyss, or else spirituality will raise civilization up by the power of the Michael impetus, through which the Christ impetus works, thus continuing, enriching and sustaining it.”
During 1924, the last full year of Rudolf Steiner’s life, he gave a series of urgent, sometimes impassioned, talks to members of the Anthroposophical Society about their karma and its relationship to contemporary culture, referring in particular to the vital task of renewing civilization and preserving it from the threat of decline. Steiner’s words reveal a great gathering of forces to do spiritual battle for the soul of humanity. He presents a striking panorama in which anthroposophists are compelled to broaden their vision—to see true esoteric and exoteric anthroposophic work as a living yeast that can leaven all culture.
To awaken members of the Anthroposophical Society to the significance of their task, Steiner could see that it was essential for them to understand the various karmic threads that form the fabric of the anthroposophic movement. Such recognition—of both difference and unity—offers strength of diversity, which easily leads to division if it remains unconscious and unrecognized.
In the lectures and excerpts in The Karma of Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner speaks of an unprecedented convergence of two specific groups of souls with the anthroposophic movement: the Platonists and the Aristotelians. Thus, a conflict of approaches forms the karmic background, whereas today’s task calls for unity based on love and knowledge—to work with the Archangel Michael and Christ in the face of Ahriman, materialism, and the possibility of social collapse and decadence.
Given the challenges we face today, it is urgent for those who embrace spiritual science to study, absorb, and take to heart the substance of this critically important material.
Prelude: The Ghosts of the Past
1. Tracing the Threads of Karma
2. The Convergence of Two Groups
3. Unity for Renewal: Platonists and Aristotelians
4. Let Michael Think in Us
5. Hearts Inscribed in the Michael School
6. A New Michael Age and the Battle with Ahriman
7. Hearkening to the Voice of Karma
8. The Sundering of the Ways
9. The Redress of Karma
10. Christ of the Elements, Christ in the Heart
11. The soul of an Anthroposophist
Postscript: The Work of the Future
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Matthew Barton is a translator, editor, teacher, and poet, and taught kindergarten for many years at the Bristol Waldorf School. His first collection of poems was Learning To Row (1999). He has won numerous prizes for his work, including an Arts Council Writer’s Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship.