RUDOLF STEINER AND ANARCHISM
The following text is based upon a post I made to the email group Anthropos-Science on December 15, 1998, in response to the allegation that I had insisted that Rudolf Steiner advocated anarchism.
It needs to be made emphatically clear that the anarchist interpretation of "Philosophy of Freedom" is my sole responsibility as an individual. Steiner was studying anarchism in the 1890's (Max Stirner in particular) and that he told Henry Mackay in a personal letter that he might be called an individualist anarchist, but he did not advocate anarchism! He was tempted to do so by Mackay's proposal, but this was experienced by him as a temptation - involving ahrimanic powers I assume.
This must be perfectly clear. It is quite possible for an individual like myself or anybody else to be an anarchist and an anthroposophist, but that must not be construed to the allegation that I view anthroposophy as anarchism. This is an extremely complicated and difficult topic (the relationship between Steiner's philosophy and anarchism) - a difficulty that should not be underestimated or taken lightly. In my view, anthroposophy may be related to anarhist philosophy in its most idealistic sense, but not directly to politically oriented anarchist activism, which involves an ahrimanic element and which would in a subtle but sinister way exclude non-anarchists and anti-anarchists from anthroposophy as a path to the spirit.
In his Steiner-biography "Rudolf Steiner: Herald of a New Epoch" (Anthroposophic Press, 1980), Stewart Easton writes in Chapter 5 (page 87-88):
"Mackay had written a fairly widely circulated novel called 'The Anarchist' [I think the correct title was 'The Anarchists'] and had tried his hand at poems which were too didactic for most tastes, though Steiner claimed to like them. According to Steiner, he was at all times a pure idealist, believing that men should be converted to his viewpoint entirely by persuasion. He also was well aware that before a man could act ethically in a free manner and without any coercion he must have undergone a kind of spiritual conversion. He refused to accept any traditional moral precepts just because they had been imposed by some political or religious authority. Mackay was a disciple of Max Stirner, a thinker about whom Steiner said many favorable things, and he had edited some of Stirner's writings, although not in agreement with all of them.
"Clearly such 'anarchistic' ideas had some similarity with those expressed by Rudolf Steiner in his Philosophy of Freedom, but [as was explained in the last chapter] he believed he had shown in that book that thinking was a spiritual activity and that only through a developed thinking could the human spirit imagine for itself free deeds. Probably Mackay no more understood this concept than Steiner's other friends had done, but he seems to have been closer to Steiner in other respects, and the friendship between them was a very warm one. Even after they had become separated in later years Steiner continued to speak of him with great warmth, always praising his 'noble and self-reliant' nature. It may have been only for a brief moment, but it does seem that Steiner was tempted by the possibility of using his own philosophy as a basis for Mackay's political dreams, and for a time he did actually engage in promoting his ethical individualism as a political ideal. His way of discussing this episode so many years later in his autobiography makes it clear that he did indeed regard his inclination of that time as a real temptation.
"'It was remote from my temptation when I formulated this,' he tells us, 'to make it the basis for a political conception. But the effort was made [by whom?] to change this conception from something belonging to the inner being of man into something external. The esoteric was to be diverted into the exoteric.'
"Two phrases in this statement are worthy of closer examination - the unexplained repetition of the words 'the effort was made' and 'the esoteric was to be diverted into the exoteric.' It sems clear that the effort of which Steiner speaks was made by hindering powers rather than simply by Mackay and his friends, and the temptation was that an earthly rather than a spiritual goal should be pursued. If Mackay, who had his own following and was a man with wide experience of the world, had indeed taken up the ethical individualism that was at the center of The Philosophy of Freedom, then not only would that ethical individualism have been cheapened and misunderstood, but it would have been thought of as another moral philosophy derived from purely human thinking, instead of being, as Steiner held it to be, the only philosophy consonant with the free activity of the human spirit and a necessary consequence of man's spiritual nature. In Steiner's view there can be no truly free act without free spiritual activity. Nothing can be more certain than that Mackay, Tucker, and their friends in adopting Steiner's ethical individualism would simply have stated his conclusions. These would then have become the moral principles of the 'individualistic anarchism' that they were promoting. These principles, as Steiner said, were noble in themselves, but if they had been preached without relating them to his teachings about spiritual activity, then indeed 'the esoteric' would have been 'diverted into the exoteric.'"
Stewart Easton's analysis is excellent in my view, but he is not entirely free from what I would call a slight bourgeois slant in his attitude to anarchism. This slant makes Steiner's anarchism a hot potato that must be explained away at all costs as a passing flirt, a temptation he never indulged in. But this is not true. He did confirm himself as an individualist anarchist, though I emphasize anew that he did not advocate anarchism. (That would have been an intrusion upon the spiritual freedom of others.)
In Philosophy of Freedom, Steiner writes that every one of us is destined to become a free spirit just like every budding rose is destined to become a rose. My personal conclusion: The Gods are indeed Anarchists, and the goal of human evolution is the Divine Anarchist: Anarcho Sapiens.
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