Star Trek and Anthroposophy
by Tarjei Straume
I love Star Trek. I'm not a "fan", and I'm most certainly not a "trekkie". Neither am I a collector of props and costumes that people from all over the world paid huge amounts of money for in an unprecedented and record-breaking New York auction a little while back. I have never entertained the notion that humanity will travel to distant galaxies at warp speeds, beam up and down alien planets encountering humanoids and other beings who speak English, where perceived higher life-forms, or living beings more evolved than humans, are either resembling characters from Disneyland, or they’re electrical energies, force fields, and computers in an intergalactic society where the social order is, for all intents and purposes, an expansion of the U.S. Air Force with all its terminology and ranks and so on from the US Navy, replete with Starfleet military brass, first gone global and then intergalactic: United Federation of Planets, ruled by Starfleet Command. It’s a military culture, an imagined future evolution of the military industrial complex through NASA.
This fantasy should not be confused with reality any more than Harry Potter and friends flying through the air on broomsticks while casting magic spells.
Still, Star Trek is the best TV entertainment ever made. I'm an old-fashioned type of Star Trek lover with a strong penchant for The Original Series (a retronym referred to as TOS to distinguish it from the spinoffs that followed). This series was cancelled by NBC after only three seasons in 1968. But in my opinion, it's Star Trek at its best for the same reason, perhaps, that many people have found Sean Connery to be the best embodiment of James Bond.
I just saw a survey on a website where votes were taken about who is the best captain of the Enterprise, William Shatner's Kirk or Patrick Stewart's Picard. The latter got almost 80%, so I'm definitely in the popular minority here. Apart from the fact that I love his charm, his guts, his Western style bare-fisted combats and romantic adventures with gorgeous women, his highly innovative, skilled and intuitive cat-and-mouse strategies in combat situations with enemy star ships when on the bridge and so on, it's not just him, it's the ensemble that I would call The Magnificent Seven, namely Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu, with The Fab Three in the center: Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Because the very quality of the Original Series rests upon the personal relationships between the leading characters, which is why the background of these relationships is the subject of the latest movie: Star Trek (2009). Yes indeed, this prematurely cancelled TV series evolved into a cult phenomenon that is very much alive and kicking more than four decades after its inception in 1966.
“The Magnificent Seven” plus nurse Chapel
Curiously, the motion picture and television company that Gene Roddenberry established in 1963 was called Norway Production. The irony is, people in Norway have no relationship to the Original Series, because to the best of my knowledge it was never aired in this neck of the woods. They've seen some of the latter series -- The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager -- at least through some Swedish channel and probably all the motion pictures on the big screen, but in the late sixties Norway had only one national TV channel and the only American TV series I remember were Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, The Flintstones, The Lucy Show, The Doris Day Show, and The Fugitive. There may have been others, but no science fiction. No Outer Limits, no Twilight Zone, and certainly no Star Trek, which barely got off the ground on NBC thanks to Lucille Ball who headed Desilu.
I was fortunate enough to get a few glimpses of Star Trek in the early seventies when living in London, because BBC began to show it in 1969. And only a few years later, I caught up with most of the episodes through reruns in the US.
The original Star Trek series (TOS) has the largest number of subsequent spinoffs among all television shows in history. As my point of departure, I have the TOS in mind because it establishes the base, the core, the backdrop of this entire fascinating fictional cult phenomenon. I’ll also make some references to the motion pictures featuring the original cast and characters, with special emphasis on Mister Spock because he is the most intriguing and interesting of them all.
Latter day "trekkies" often prefer the spinoffs because they make it easier for the audience to suspend disbelief with a lot of updated technical terminology and special effects. 40 years ago, people weren't using cell phones, laptops, the internet, weather satellites, Google Earth and so on and living in a global cybervillage. The communicators, for instance, used by Kirk and his crew, look crude and primitive compared to our modern cell phones, which makes it challenging to imagine that they're supposed to represent 23rd century technology. Theater, however, is mutual make-believe between performers and audiences, future science gadgets are only props, and the audience needs to participate in the interactive magic not only in the stage theater but also in the cinema and in front of the TV screen -- or the computer screen!
The problem is that "trekkies" don't want to make a distinction between fantasy and reality; they don't like to be reminded of it. Some have proven so crazy that William Shatner used to run for his life if he saw one coming toward him. One trekkie who was stopped by Highway Patrol somewhere for speeding and asked to show his driver license, opened his wallet and began to yell "Scotty, Scotty, beam me onboard immediately!" When the officer realized that the man was not playing with him but dead serious in his delusion, he cracked up so hard he couldn't write him a citation. So if the guy was really faking it, the trick worked.
This unwillingness among trekkies to distinguish between fantasy and reality may be symptomatic of something much deeper -- at least as a psychological theory if you will. J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and George Lucas’ Star Wars provide excellent comparisons for this purpose. The cult followers of these sagas don't have a “Trekkie problem,” the problem with fiction versus reality. One reason for this may be that The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars carry a reality that is inside humanity, a spiritual truth that makes it pointless to desire an exteriorization of the fictional backdrop.
Star Trek and Atheism
Gene Roddenberry was raised as a Southern Baptist. He did not embrace this faith, however, and considered himself a humanist and an agnostic. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic by faith, and George Lucas was born and raised in a Methodist family but identified more strongly with Eastern religious philosophies and eventually came to state that his religion was "Buddhist Methodist." This seems to strengthen my hypothesis that the cause of trekkie madness, i.e. problems with the gap between fantasy and reality, between maya and truth, lies in the strict atheist ideological underpinnings of Star Trek as ordered by its creator – at least according to Brannon Braga, producer and screenwriter for Star Trek since 1990, who came with the following statement at the International Atheist Conference in Reykjavik in June, 2006:
"Star Trek, as conceived by Gene Roddenberry, portrays the epic saga of humanity’s exploration of space and, in turn, their own struggles as a species. Every episode and movie of Star Trek is a morality tale in which human beings find solutions to conflict through enlightenment and reason. Through science. Through wit and intellect. Through a belief in our potential as animals that can supersede our baser instincts. In Gene Roddenberry’s imagining of the future (in this case the 23rd century), Earth is a paradise where we have solved all of our problems with technology, ingenuity, and compassion. There is no more hunger, war, or disease. And most importantly to the context of our meeting here today, religion is completely gone. Not a single human being on Earth believes in any of the nonsense that has plagued our civilization for thousands of years. This was an important part of Roddenberry’s mythology. He, himself, was a secular humanist and made it well-known to writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and superstition and mystical thinking were not to be part of his universe. On Roddenberry’s future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it."
I have the deepest admiration and respect for Gene Roddenberry. I value his idealism and progressive imaginative thinking. But the first flaw that strikes me about Braga’s dogmatic idealism is the illusion that man will bring heaven down to earth so to speak by making human, physical society into a paradise. It's an illusion that is typical among atheist idealists, like the Communists and kindred political ideologues for instance. They imagine a world without suffering, without death and disease and tragedy and sorrow. And this makes it difficult to approach topics like aging and death, which is also made clear in Star Trek on repeated occasions, how such topics are dodged. The only exceptions are premature deaths in the line of duty, death by accident and so on. In Star Trek: Anonymous expendable crew members, combat casualties among characters that have not bonded with the audience. So as a commentator not only musing about Star Trek but also about anthroposophy in this same article, I hope the late great Roddenberry will forgive me for rocking the boat a little with ideas incorporating precisely what he might have called "religion and superstition and mystical thinking" – unless he knew how to make the clear distinction between religious mysticism and spiritual science as an extension of natural science.
One major problem with atheism as "prime directive" for Star Trek writers – especially if it’s to be as dogmatic and fanatic as Braga describes it -- is that it inevitably leads to innumerable contradictions and inconsistencies. Kirk actually makes a reference to his own belief in monotheism – the most irrational and illogical of all religious systems – when confronted by a gross, mechanized, perverted caricature of the Greek god Apollo in the TOS episode Who Mourns for Adonais? (written by Gilbert Ralston and Gene L. Coon). And yet, this grotesque distortion of Apollo is declared by Spock and Kirk to have been the real thing in ancient Greece, in pure Erich von Däniken style.
But although all of Star Trek is thoroughly dominated by such atheist mythology, there are occasional New Age and even anthroposophical hints that seep through from time to time. This has made some non-trekkie atheists suspicious. They claim, perhaps with a tiny speck of justification, that there is some "pseudo-religious" message in Star Trek.
What is "pseudo-religion"? It's a pejorative term applied to all kinds of New Age beliefs by traditional religionists and atheists alike. From this perspective, anthroposophy has been honorably labeled not only pseudo-religious but also pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-scientific. And from the looks of it, this is one badge of honor that is shared by Star Trek and anthroposophy alike.
While we're on the subject of pseudo-religion, there is however one aspect of mainstream religion that is directly influenced by Star Trek. In addition to the idealistic and mythological support of atheism -- at least the way zealots like Braga see it -- the "Beam me up Scotty" idea has also inspired Christian fundies subconsciously, those who believe in the "rapture." Without being fully aware of it, these holy rollers have a vision that is intimately related to that of Erich von Däniken and others who claim that the gods are astronauts. So "Beam me up Scotty" becomes "Beam me up Peter," with Captain Jesus on the bridge of the star ship and Mother Mary as Uhura, the same ship with which he left Earth at the Ascension. At the "second coming," Jesus will beam his elect onboard, which is why many people drive around with bumper stickers that read, "In case of rapture, this car will be driverless!"
This is crazier than the most eccentric trekkies calling for Scotty when stopped by Highway Patrol. "Left Behind" is a series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with "Christian End Times," in which many have been "raptured," leaving the world shattered and chaotic. It's the "Christian" eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world. Twenty of these books have reached the New York Times best-seller list.
Rudolf Steiner on Atheism
There are many contradictions in Rudolf Steiner’s works that may be more accurately described as paradoxes. In the tenth chapter of The Philosophy of Freedom (1894), he writes:
“The highest stage of development of naïve realism in the sphere of morality is that where the moral commandment (moral idea) is separated from every being other than oneself and is thought of, hypothetically, as being an absolute power in one's own inner life. What man first took to be the external voice of God, he now takes as an independent power within him, and speaks of this inner voice in such a way as to identify it with conscience.
But in doing this he has already gone beyond the stage of naïve consciousness into the sphere where the moral laws have become independently existing standards. There they are no longer carried by real bearers, but have become metaphysical entities existing in their own right. They are analogous to the invisible “visible forces” of metaphysical realism, which does not seek reality through the part of it that man has in his thinking, but hypothetically adds it on to actual experience. These extra-human moral standards always occur as accompanying features of metaphysical realism. For metaphysical realism is bound to seek the origin of morality in the sphere of extra-human reality. Here there are several possibilities. If the hypothetically assumed entity is conceived as in itself unthinking, acting according to purely mechanical laws, as materialism would have it, then it must also produce out of itself, by purely mechanical necessity, the human individual with all his characteristic features. The consciousness of freedom can then be nothing more than an illusion. For though I consider myself the author of my action, it is the matter of which I am composed and the movements going on in it that are working in me. I believe myself free; but in fact all my actions are nothing but the result of the material processes which underlie my physical and mental organization. It is said that we have the feeling of freedom only because we do not know the motives compelling us.”
(Rudolf Steiner: The Philosophy of Freedom: The Reality of Freedom, Chapter Ten: Freedom -- Philosophy and Monism, GA 4)
So Steiner’s point of departure when he challenges Kant’s epistemology, is entirely humanistic with no reference to spirituality or higher worlds. And yet, he reveals the natural-materialistic conception as delusional, namely that the original causes of our existence are merely chemical, physical, mechanical. According to Rudolf Steiner’s thinking, it is illogical to assume that life does not come from life, but from lifeless matter and randomness.
When Steiner speaks in his lectures from later dates, he repeatedly calls agnosticism a misfortune and atheism a disease, and he says the difference is crucial. (Roddenberry was an agnostic; Braga is an atheist.)
"If we know this and then look upon the appearance of atheism, upon the complete denial of the Divine, we shall find the reason for this atheism. Only those human beings, my dear friends -- naturally, we need the methods of spiritual science in order to recognize this -- only those human beings are atheists in whose organism something is organically disturbed. To be sure, this may lie in very delicate structural conditions, but it is a fact that atheism is in reality a disease.
This is the first thing we have to hold fast: atheism is a disease. For, if our organism is completely healthy, the harmonious functioning of its various members will bring it about that we ourselves sense our origin from the Divine -- ex deo nascimur."
"Not to find the Father god, to be an atheist, is an illness. Not to find the Son God, the Christ, is a misfortune.
And what does it mean if we do not find the Spirit? To be unable to take hold of one's own spirituality in order to find the connection of one's own spirituality with the spirituality of the world signifies mental debility; not to acknowledge the Spirit is a deficiency of mind, a psychic imbecility."
(Rudolf Steiner: The Mission of the Archangel Michael, IV: The Culture of the Mysteries and the Michael Impulse. Self-knowledge and its Permeation of the Three Strata of Consciousness, Dornach November 28, 1919, GA 194)
Anthroposophical Concepts in Star Trek
One of the many fascinating things about Star Trek is that sometimes advanced and sophisticated ideas are introduced with crystal clear parallels in anthroposophy. I'll cite one concrete example: In the TOS episode Tomorrow Is Yesterday (written by D. C. Fontana), the Enterprise is thrown back in time to Earth in 1969 by the effects of a high-gravity neutron star (referred to as a "black star"). Spock and Scott inform Kirk they have an idea for returning to the 23rd Century, by slingshotting their way around the Sun. The theory works, and time reverses as the ship races toward the gravity of the star, then, as the ship breaks away, time quickly runs forward again. This technique is repeated in the fourth motion picture, The Voyage Home, when they slingshot around the Sun to time travel back to 1986 on Earth in order to save the whales from extinction.
The parallel to anthroposophy has nothing to do with physical time travel per se, whether we are talking about H. G. Wells’ 1895 novella The Time Machine (adapted into at least two feature films) or some of Einstein’s most eccentric and daring thought experiments. Time travel as such is unfeasible and delusional by any stretch of the imagination in the real world. The only time travel possible in “anthroposophically oriented spiritual science” consists of reading the past, through the Akasha. Trends toward the future can also be read but not predicted. But what I'm getting at is the idea of choosing a slingshot around the sun as a means of time travel. Here is an interesting excerpt from a lecture by Rudolf Steiner concerning the relationship between time and the sun:
"There in the Universe we have the Sun, with all that there appears to us to be immediately connected with it -- all that is contained in the blue of the heavens, in the world of the stars. At another point in the Universe we have the Earth with humanity. When we look up from the Earth to the Sun, we are at the same time looking into the flow of Time.
Now from this there follows something of great significance. Man only looks up to the Sun in the right way (even if it be but in his mind) when, as he gazes upwards, he forgets Space and considers Time alone. For in truth, the Sun does not only radiate light, it radiates Space itself, and when we are looking into the Sun we are looking out of Space into the world of Time. The Sun is the unique star that it is because when we gaze into the Sun we are looking out of Space. And from that world, outside of Space, Christ came to men. At the time when Christianity was founded by Christ on Earth, man had been all too long restricted to the mere Ex Deo Nascimur, he had become altogether bound up in it, he had become a Space-being pure and simple. The reason why it is so hard for us to understand the traditions of primeval epochs, when we go back to them with the consciousness of present-day civilisation, is that they always had in mind Time, and not the world of Space. They regarded the world of Space only as an appendage of the world of Time.
Christ came to bring the element of Time again to men, and when the human heart, the human soul, the human spirit, unite themselves with Christ, then man receives once more the stream of Time that flows from Eternity to Eternity. What else can we human beings do when we die, i.e. when we go out of the world of Space, than hold fast to Him who gives Time back to us again? At the Mystery of Golgotha man had become to so great an extent a being of Space that Time was lost to him. Christ brought Time back again to men."
( -- Rudolf Steiner: The Whitsun Festival, Its place in the study of Karma, Dornach 4th June, 1924, GA 353)
Without Christ, the God of the Spiritual Sun, who gives Time back to humanity, man renders himself a mere space being. And ironically, mentally imbalanced people including the nuttiest of the trekkies, are commonly called space cadets. In reality man is a time being, a time traveler, not a space traveler. When the idea of physical time travel is introduced in science fiction, the space concept is imposed upon time, which takes attention away from the fact that a human being, as he appears in the physical world, is born, grows, matures, ages, withers and dies just like all living organisms in nature.
There is one quite fascinating TOS episode called The Deadly Years, where Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scott and other crew members are infected by something similar to radiation sickness caused by a strange comet-like object, making them age at the rate of 30 years per day (i.e. per 24 hours since one can’t really talk about “days” -- which is contingent upon the interactions between the earth and sun -- on a star ship). So Scotty, McCoy and Kirk get white hair and wrinkles, and Kirk develops memory loss and arthritis. They have to hurry up to find a cure for this before they die of extreme old age within hours, while also becoming senile in the process. The drug is found, Kirk reappears on the bridge with all the symptoms of aging miraculously gone in an instant and gets the Enterprise out of trouble with a dozen Romulan ships through that characteristic stealth and daring tactics that we love him for, and his punch line is, “Well now, this is an experience we’ll remember in our old age, which won’t be for some while I hope.”
The Sun or the Son?
In the TOS episode Bread And Circuses, the Enterprise arrives at a planet which resembles 20th century Earth in many ways, with the same proportion of water and land, big cities with air pollution, modern technology (of the 1960’s) etc. The culture, however, is thoroughly Roman with an Emperor and everything; in this world the Roman empire never fell. So they have slaves being forced to die in gladiator combats on live television, replete with marketing and commercial breaks. Kirk, Spock, and Bones get involved with a group of runaway slaves who call themselves “children of the sun” (from the sound of it) and are persecuted because of their faith, which is about brotherhood and love and freedom and so on. The leading characters (our familiar heroes) are also forced to fight as gladiators and are scheduled to be killed because they refuse to cooperate. When, as expected, they’re safe back onboard the Enterprise at the end of the episode, a discussion takes place on the bridge about the sun worship because this wasn’t a part of the Roman culture, and this is puzzling:
Spock: ”It seems illogical for a sun-worshipper to develop a philosophy of total brotherhood. Sun-worship is usually a primitive superstition religion.”
Communications Officer Nyota Uhura, however, the only female among the senior officers on the bridge, (4th in command), has listened to some radio transmissions:
Uhura: ”I’m afraid you have it all wrong, Mister Spock, all of you. I’ve been monitoring some of their old style radio waves. The empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion. But he couldn’t.” (She rises.) ”Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God.”
Kirk (amazed): “Caesar and Christ, they had them both. And the word is spreading only now.”
Bones: “Philosophy of total love and total brotherhood.”
Spock: “It will replace their imperial Rome, but it will happen in the 20th century.”
Kirk: “Wouldn’t it be something to watch, to be a part of? To see it happen all over again.”
This confusion, misunderstanding, of sun and son is possible only in English because the pronunciation is the same. But what’s interesting here is that Spock speaks about the sun worship of antiquity as a superstitious and primitive religion while they are all obviously treating the Christian religion with acknowledgement and respect. This is based, of course, on the orthodox conception of Christianity’s roots, where one does not see any connection between the sun and the Christ. Or the Christ as a sun god. According to anthroposophy, however, the sun god that was worshipped in ancient times was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ, who later came down to the Earth from the Sun. (The same applies to the Greek god Apollo.) The dialogue above reveals that Gene Roddenberry wasn’t as restricted to atheist ideology as described by Brannon Braga, because it was Roddenberry who wrote this episode.
Apart from the idea that the brutality of the Roman Empire persisted into the technological culture of the 20th century because the Mystery of Golgotha had not intervened earlier, it is also extraordinarily interesting that it’s precisely Uhura who clears up this misunderstanding. In connection with the historical event of the risen Christ being discovered and recognized by precisely three women, Rudolf Steiner explains why sometimes women are much more perceptive than men when it comes to certain spiritual mysteries:
“At this point I should like to remind you of something I have often pointed out with regard to the difference between male and female, pointing out the fact that to some extent the female element — not the single individual woman but rather “womanhood” — has not entirely descended to the physical plane, whereas the man — again not a single individuality, not man in a particular incarnation but “manhood” — has crossed the line and descended lower. As a result true humanity lies between man and woman; and it is for this reason that a human being also changes sex in different incarnations. But it is already the case that the woman, as such, because of the different formation of her brain and the different way in which she can use it, is able to grasp spiritual ideas with greater facility. By contrast the man because of his external physical corporeality is much better adapted to think himself into materialism, because, if we wish to express the matter crudely, his brain is harder. The female brain is softer, not so stubborn, that is to say in general — I am not referring to individual personalities. In the case of individual personalities there is no need to flatter oneself, for many truly obstinate heads sit on many a female body — to say nothing of the reverse! But on the whole it is true that it is easier to make use of a female brain if one is to understand something exceptional, as long as the will to do so is also present. It is for this reason that the evangelist after the Mystery of Golgotha allows women to appear first.”
( -- Rudolf Steiner: The Gospel of St. Mark, Lecture 10, Basel 24th September, 1912, GA 139)
Spock's remark, “It will replace their imperial Rome, but it will happen in the 20th century,” does however expose a flaw in his logic, which in this case means Gene Roddenberry's logic. The Mystery of Golgotha wouldn't happen in their 20th century merely because the technical development resembles that of 20th century Earth, with race cars, firearms, televison and so on. The birth of Christ marks the beginning of time for man, which is why the years and centuries of Earth-time are calculated from that historical event. The reason for this has already been expressed by Rudolf Steiner in the above quoted excerpt from GA 353 (The Whitsun Festival, Its place in the study of Karma):
"Christ came to bring the element of Time again to men, and when the human heart, the human soul, the human spirit, unite themselves with Christ, then man receives once more the stream of Time that flows from Eternity to Eternity. What else can we human beings do when we die, i.e. when we go out of the world of Space, than hold fast to Him who gives Time back to us again? At the Mystery of Golgotha man had become to so great an extent a being of Space that Time was lost to him. Christ brought Time back again to men."
In other words, the people on the planet portrayed in "Bread And Circuses" would be living in their first century in spite of their anachronistic technological advancement, and their calculation of time to follow would concur with this principle.
From an outside point of view, one would often need an equal amount of disbelief-suspension to "buy" Rudolf Steiner's cosmology, etheric and astral bodies, higher hierarchies, planetary evolutionary conditions, Lemuria and Atlantis etc. that one would need to believe in warp speeds, transporter teleporting, artificial gravity that never fails even when all power is out and the very life support system is compromised, parallel universes, collisions with anti-matter and all the rest. In both of these systems, namely that of Gene Roddenberry and that of Rudolf Steiner, there is a lot of mumbo jumbo to be deciphered and digested as prerequisites to acceptance.
Of course there are fundamental differences beyond the obvious philosophical and epistemological chasm. Anthroposophy has never pretended to be fiction; on the contrary it claims to be not only a science but the only genuine science of the future, with its own sets of alleged absolute facts that are supposedly verifiable by any researcher who develops the same necessary tools of cognition that were mastered by Rudolf Steiner. And only the future will provide a clear answer to this, depending upon whether or not Rudolf Steiner was right about the evolution of human consciousness and spiritual powers.
For this reason, anthroposophy has attracted strong opposition from certain quarters, especially from atheist ideologues who represent a culture where hostility to anthroposophy is spreading and may indeed be increasing. The core cause of all this -- that is, without getting into mighty spiritual considerations on the other side of the threshold which are purely anthroposophical and would take us far beyond the scope of this article -- the major reason for atheist hostility against anthroposophy is that it does not claim to be a religious belief system but a science that takes the culturally heretical leap from belief to knowledge in a manner that is enticing and alluring even to the most highly developed scientific intellect. This makes anthroposophy the most formidable competitor of atheism in the battle for the modern human psyche.
And while we're on this subject, it goes to show that Mister Spock, the half Vulcan and half human master of scientific logic, is so extraordinarily intriguing and compelling that he alone could redeem the entire Star Trek fantasy from all its philosophical flaws if properly reflected upon -- in the light of anthroposophically oriented "religion and superstition and mystical thinking," of course. The character is a true work of art, and Leonard Nimoy deserves tremendous credit for building him up.
Although somewhat distorted because he represents the key part of the Star Trek atheist mythology and utopia, Mister Spock resembles a level of development that lesser mortals should strive to emulate, not only because he is so smart and strong, capable of telepathic mind fusion, complete control and tolerance of pain through strenuous effort etc. -- no, the key component of Mister Spock is his exalted personal code of ethics, his morality and nobility, his selfless loyalty to the ultimate truth that he always calls "logic."
The word "logic" is extremely overused by the writers of Spock's lines, the lines of his father Sarek, and in the casual descriptions of the Vulcan culture in general, often for humorous reasons, but nevertheless to the point where it becomes tiresomely repetitive and monotonous. Because what Mister Spock calls logic is so much more than that, and when he says that the Vulcans eliminated all emotions from their very existence because they were destructive, something essentially different comes across, and a distinction needs to be made, at least with reference to Spock and the Vulcan culture, between the terms "emotion" and "feeling." So instead of always using the word "logic," one should sometimes substitute this word for expressions like "intellect," "power of thought," and "judgment." Mister Spock masters all of these virtues to perfection, but he always calls them "logic," which means that one of the major flaws among the writers is their impoverishment of language in the psychological area -- or to put it more bluntly, in the soul-spiritual realm. It's almost as if they're putting Mister Spock into a philosophical strait jacket in order to prevent the character from assuming a life of his truly own to then come across as someone who might almost resemble an initiate.
Indeed, with his power of thought developed to perfection, in addition to other admirable disciplines he has mastered, Mister Spock might easily represent the ideal student of Rudolf Steiner's major basic books, especially The Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4), with its appeal to rigorous, honest logic, and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds And Its Attainment (GA 10), where the strictest control of feelings, impulses, and mental habits is crucial to progress. When in addition to all that, Spock goes through a genuine Star Trek style Mystery that involves death and resurrection in the second and third motion pictures, he has by all intents and purposes gone through an initiation proper in the most profound meaning of that term.
The very name of Spock's home planet is a most enigmatic intuitive idea coming from a man like Gene Roddenberry. According to anthroposophical cosmology, the planetary sphere inhabited by humanity is going through seven conditions that are called Manvantaras in Sanskrit. These are: Old Saturn, Old Sun, Old Moon, Present Earth, Future Jupiter, Future Venus, and Future Vulcan. These planetary evolutions span across time periods so enormous that it's impossible to speculate about durations. Our future Vulcan condition, which lies as far into the distant future as it's possible for the most highly developed initiates to perceive from the vantage point of our present Earth condition, will have brought humanity to the stage of being fully developed gods dwelling on a sun, and the heat and light of this sun will have its very origin within each individual, fuelled by the power of love, similar to the condition of present-day sun-gods who light up our stars, suns, and galaxies and give life and growth to the beings they have created. And from there, humanity will also create new worlds and new beings in their own image.
So if we take into consideration that Vulcan is the name of the highest perceivable stage of human planetary evolution, it is indeed interesting that Gene Roddenberry should have chosen this name for a planet that harbors his most highly evolved character, and at the same time the noblest and most heroic.
Man versus Machine
Quite frequently, Dr. McCoy (Bones) insults Spock, apparently in a hopeless attempt to get an emotional reaction out of him that he never gives up, by calling him a computerized brain, a mindless machine and all that, plus a green-blooded, pointed-eared monster and so forth. And at least up to a point, the authors of this atheist utopia may have envisioned a self-aware robot of sorts as the most perfect representative of such a future. (I am not discussing the character Lieutenant Commander Data here, who is a “sentient android,” because he belongs to the later TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation [TNG], which is beyond the scope of this article.)
The idea of human robots, or sentient androids, is a recurring theme of science fiction that has been part and parcel of the Anglo-American imagination for a long time, warmly embraced by writers like Isaac Asimov and reminiscent of all kinds of stories, movies, and TV series about beings that are part man and part machine. Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Robocop etc. It's a level of thinking where biological living organisms are approached with the same mindset we use when studying inorganic matter, i.e. the mineral kingdom that we exploit to create technology. Thus medical treatment of a man or animal is thought of as some sort of engine repair.
Spock is not a robot, however; he only has a "non-human" or "alien" physiology with green blood, a different arrangement of internal organs etc. But his brain is supposed to be more or less a match for any artificial intelligence. So it's no wonder that in the TOS episode entitled Spock's Brain (written by Gene L. Coon), a mysterious woman actually steals his brain out of his body in order to use it as a "Controller" -- a living computer for the Eymorgs, hoping it will last 10,000 years.
In the TOS episode Metamorphosis (written by Gene L. Coon), Kirk, Spock, Bones and Commissioner Nancy Hedford crash-land with the shuttlecraft Galileo on a planet, having been deliberately disabled by a strange glob of energy that turns out to be an intelligent, immortal being. (It seems like elves in folklore stories and fairy tales become electrical globs in science fiction like Star Trek.) They also meet Zefram Cochrane, a young-looking man who turns out to have been 87 years old 150 years ago, who was saved from certain death and has been kept young and healthy all these years in a state of physical immortality by the rejuvenation bestowed upon him by this glob, called the Companion, which turns out to be a female who loves him.
Kirk explains to the Companion, through a translator machine modified by Spock, that she can’t love a human the way another human can. If the Companion truly loves Cochrane, she would let him go. The Companion at first seems to disagree, then suddenly she enters Nancy Hedford 's body. Nancy has been dying from a fever that the Companion could not cure, but now she rises, fully recovered. The Companion, speaking through Nancy, then says she has merged with her, and the two are now one. This is now the only thing keeping Nancy alive: if the Companion leaves her body, she will die. The Companion then restores the shuttlecraft's systems allowing Kirk and the others to leave as they please.
Cochrane with Companion
In a moment alone, Cochrane discusses with Nancy/the Companion his plans for their future together back in civilization. Nancy explains, however, that her "essence" belongs on this planet and that if she were to leave she would "cease to exist." Cochrane then decides to remain behind and live with Nancy for the rest of his life. The Companion cannot rejuvenate Cochrane and keep him immortal any longer, because she now has limitations, including a normal human life. In other words, the Companion abandons her immortality and superior powers in order to become a mortal human, because she loves Cochrane.
There are many parallels to this in mythology, folklore, and literature, like in The Lord of the Rings when 2700 year old Arwen, the elf, chooses to abandon her immortality in order to be united with her love, king Aragorn. And when we’re talking about man as machine, we have a very moving moment at the end of Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov, which was adapted to the big screen starring Robin Williams (1999). It’s about a robot that has become self-aware and is therefore an immortal machine being. He befriends a scientist who helps him become more human in appearance, then he falls in love and is made biologically human, and after that he decides to become a completely mortal human through the final stages of the procedure involving blood transfusions, because, he says, he would rather die as a human being than live forever as a machine.
So we see that the ideologues of an atheist utopia populated by machines and robots, recognize that being a mortal human is preferable to any other existence, in spite of their belief that death itself extinguishes individual existence completely.
Spock's claim to being entirely and exclusively logical and totally free from all feeling is something he frequently contradicts, not only with his behavior but with his own statements. He constantly finds things, events and situations "interesting" or "fascinating." Interest and fascination are indeed sensations coming from the life of feeling, but the writers may have overlooked this because they are feelings that stimulate and activate the intellect, the brain. In other words, Mister Spock is a self-contradictory impossibility even in fiction if one is to adhere strictly to the idea of him as written, or "by the book."
But Mister Spock does not play by the book. His judgment is as self-dependent as that of any other, like in The Menagerie (written by Gene Roddenberry), when Spock uses deception and sabotage against Kirk and also against Starfleet in order to transport the severely injured captain Pike to a forbidden planet where he needs to be for his own good. Going to this planet is a crime punishable by death in this 23rd century atheist paradise, which is a glaring reminder that in this fantasy, humanity has not really progressed morally, at least not when the writers are 20th century Americans. One would assume that a universal ban on the death penalty had been passed by Starfleet at a very early stage, if this future is indeed to be as humane and civilized as claimed.
Anyway, Leonard Nimoy solves the problem of Spock's complicated relationship to his life of feeling in a manner that only a true artist can. Not by removing the contradiction from the script, because the lines are spoken with the monotonous repetitions of "logic," but he rescues the character by creating something truly compelling in him, something that also becomes deeply moving, exalting, and heroic.
If there's anyone you can really trust in the world of Star Trek, it's Spock. You can't trust a computer, a robot or a machine – at least not before the arrival of Data in a later series -- but Spock is none of these things and Bones knows it. Because in spite of all his insults and verbal attacks, nobody understands Spock's real self and inner workings better than Dr. McCoy, except perhaps Spock's human mother Amanda. Bones will defend Spock vehemently whenever he perceives him threatened because of his unique vulnerabilities. And that's why this medical officer is the optimal choice for a human host when such is needed to preserve the deceased Spock's entelechy or individuality -- i.e. both soul and spirit; in Star Trek Vulcan-lingo they call it his katra, meaning his essence -- in the third motion picture, The Search for Spock, where Spock is brought back from the dead, even into his original physical form at the same chronological age, through a kind of metaphysics that may be acceptable to atheists, although it has elements in it that bear an almost eerie resemblance to the ancient Egyptian Mysteries with one significant deviation that I'll come back to.
Spock's Death and Resurrection
The key premise of atheism is that life, existence, consciousness, is completely inconceivable outside physical biology. This is extremely important. Existence of life, of individuality, whether conscious or not, is postulated to be an impossibility without the presence of a physical organism. The existence of a living being without a physical counterpart is taboo. This is important because it's a major distinction between the two types of thinking we're dealing with here, namely the narrow natural-scientific thinking that leads to atheism on the one hand, and the spiritual-scientific thinking that leads to anthroposophy on the other hand.
Furthermore, this crucial difference lies at the very root of atheist hostility against anthroposophy. It's based upon fear, subconscious but strong fear of Spirit, and as Mister Spock knows very well, fear is the most dangerous and destructive of all primitive emotions.
Atheists may feel alienated by religion, but they don't feel threatened by it, because what people believe doesn't challenge one's own trust in logic, science, and technology. But if someone with the same acknowledgement of physical science also points to a deeper science as a compatible extension of the former, it is experienced as a threat on the epistemological level.
Let's do a little backtracking on Spock's resurrection in the third movie that follows his death in the second movie. This procedure does indeed resemble the ancient Temple Mysteries in some respects with significant radical deviations, and the most important of these is that when Spock is dead, he is not in the spiritual world but in the physical world, namely inside Bones' body, so the poor doctor has to juggle two individualities inside himself at considerable risk to his own life and sanity.
In the ancient Mysteries, the candidate for initiation was brought to the stage of complete physical death for three nights and days. For reasons of physical and metaphysical evolution of the human organism, this complete separation of physical body from life body -- the latter is commonly called "etheric body" in anthroposophy -- is no longer possible like it was millennia ago. When the candidate was revived, he had spent 72 hours in the spiritual world and learned a great deal that he could share with the others. This was a carefully guarded secret until Christ ended this secrecy by publicly
initiating Lazarus in this manner. This was the act that sealed his own fate, the death penalty, because betrayal of the Mysteries had always been punishable by death. And then, by going through death himself and rising on the third day, after 72 hours, Christ performed the final mystery of all mysteries, which is why this deed of his is commonly called "The Mystery of Golgotha" in anthroposophy.
Dr. Leonard McCoy, nicknamed "Bones" (DeForest Kelley)
These ancient Temple Mysteries were common in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and elsewhere, but the Egyptians had an additional agenda with regard to death. They embalmed the dead, preserving their physical bodies, thus enabling departed souls to see their former physical sheaths from the spiritual world, a practice that brought about the materialism we have been experiencing in the last centuries, especially since the 1840's.
All of this is getting a little too deep and involved for the subject matter of this article, so let's instead backtrack "The Spock Mystery" in the third movie and go to his actual death in the second movie. Spock is, as previously pointed out, the very noblest of souls in Star Trek, and this is demonstrated very clearly when he suffers the death of a true, selfless hero.
From a review by Jamahl Epsicokhan:
"Also well conceived is the film's running theme on the Kobayashi Maru simulation exam -- something that pays off with true story significance. The no-win scenario opens the movie with Saavik at the helm of a simulation that ends in disaster. We're told that back in Kirk's training days he beat the exam. How? By cheating, of course -- reprogramming the simulator to make it possible to rescue the survivors. It's of no small irony that Kirk's face-off with Khan forces him to attempt cheating death again for real. He finds, however, that life deals him all-too-real consequences.
This of course brings us to the defining moment in Star Trek II -- Spock's decision to sacrifice himself to save the Enterprise from the Genesis Device explosion. It's a decision he's able to reach using pure logic, and yet it's impossible not to be moved by it based on the pure selflessness of his act. Fittingly, by using Vulcan logic, Spock is able to do something that is nothing short of heroically human.
Spock's death would be heartbreaking to anyone familiar with the Trek universe. It's almost unthinkable: How could they kill Spock, perhaps the franchise's most beloved character? Spock's death and subsequent funeral are scenes that manage to generate substantial, genuine emotional power. And it's Shatner who must carry these scenes, because the audience is in Kirk's shoes, saying goodbye to a well-known friend."
Spock's final, dying words to Kirk in the second movie: "I have been... and always shall be... your friend. Live long... and prosper." This is a line we hear from Spock again, when he regains physical consciousness in the third movie as well as in the last movie (2009) when, as an old Spock from the future, he encounters a very young Kirk in a cave and says these words to identify himself to him. But what is of interest here is that Spock says "I have been and always shall be your friend" when he is actually dying in an atheist universe, because it's as if he's saying "I shall always be with you although I'll be dead," not unlike Christ's final words to his disciples prior to his Ascension. The problem is that pre-existence (existence in the world of pure spirit prior to conception and birth) and post-mortem existence or "life after death" as it's usually called, these things are definitely taboo in an atheist frame of reference.
When Spock is brought back from the dead in the third motion picture, The Search for Spock (1984), through a technique reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian Mysteries, this is ingeniously masterminded in such a fashion that it leaves the spiritual world, populated by gods, angels, demons, nature spirits, and fellow departed souls, completely out of the equation. Not the slightest hint is given about the extensive journey through the Zodiac that all humans -- or to include the Vulcans, all self-conscious individualities -- need to make between death and rebirth. This renders the story safe for consumption by atheists who desire the Star Trek universe to be their very own mythology, free from the corrupting influences of "religion and superstition and mystical thinking."
The nobility of Spock's spirit comes across across very clearly in Shatner's moving performance at his funeral service:
"Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... [his voice breaking].... human."
Human! For all his denial of human qualities and his almost total suppression of his human half, Spock is described by his closest friend to be the most human of them all.
The attitude to death is revealed in Kirk's dialogue with his son David:
David: "Lieutenant Saavik was right: You never have faced death."
Kirk: "No. Not like this. I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing."
This is a little ironic when we keep in mind all those "expendable crew members" that frequently die on Enterprise missions, usually prompting merely a comment from Kirk about one -- or three -- of his men having been killed.
The major beloved characters, however, are different. Here Kirk speaks for all of Star Trek. Death is something they do not want to know anything about, because man would then, because of his aging and mortality, be recognized as a time traveler rather than a space cadet.
On the other hand, the death and resurrection of Spock -- which at closer spiritual-scientific analysis must be designated as an initiation of the highest order -- reveals the bond between the characters from the Original Series in a deeply moving way. The relationship between the leading characters, the ensemble that I’m calling The Magnificent Seven, is what makes Star Trek great. Add to that their incredibly exciting adventures. Some of these are plain silly, of course, like Spock's Brain and Who Mourns for Adonais?, but they're highly entertaining nevertheless. And what the atheism is concerned, the ban against theological notions is a good thing. Atheism definitely has its merits. It leaves man naked, on his own, against the elements, unencumbered by traditional articles of faith that have for the most part degenerated into superstition; man is a god in his own right, no longer clinging to the apron strings of higher beings. The only alternative would have been to open the gate a little bit toward a new science in its infancy, something that would require imagination, inspiration, and intuition, not necessarily all the way to the point of initiation but based upon a solid understanding of what this future path for humanity would entail. And perhaps -- just perhaps -- this may characterize the science fiction of the future, transforming the genre into some sort of spiritual fiction science.
The Initiation of Spock
Gene Roddenberry crossed the threshold in 1993, two years after the last motion picture featuring the entire original cast. After 16 years in the spiritual world, his perspective on the universe is without a doubt quite different from when he was living on the physical plane. While it's true that anthroposophical studies help us create spiritual forces that are transformed into higher organs of perception when we cross the threshold through the gate of death, the same principle applies to artistic creativity and imagination. For this reason, I think the Gene Roddenberry individuality approves of my suggestion that we make Spock an initiate proper and simply add this dimension to his biography.
There's a crucial difference between religion and spiritual science. Religion takes hold of the emotions, often to the detriment of thinking and logic, which is why theological notions are so prone to be illogical and irrational. The idea of an almighty, all-knowing deity, for instance, is absurd. Rudolf Steiner puts it this way:
"Besides love there are two other powers in the world. How do they compare with love? The one is strength, might; the second is wisdom. In regard to strength or might we can speak of degrees: weaker, stronger, or absolute might -- omnipotence. The same applies to wisdom, for there are stages on the path to omniscience. It will not do to speak in the same way of degrees of love. What is universal love, love for all beings? In the case of love we cannot speak of enhancement as we can speak of enhancement of knowledge into omniscience or of might into omnipotence, by virtue of which we attain greater perfection of our own being. Love for a few or for many beings has nothing to do with our own perfecting. Love for everything that lives cannot be compared with omnipotence; the concept of magnitude, or of enhancement, cannot rightly be applied to love. Can the attribute of omnipotence be ascribed to the Divine Being who lives and weaves through the world? Contentions born of feeling must here be silent: were God omnipotent, he would be responsible for everything that happens and there could be no human freedom. If man can be free, then certainly there can be no Divine omnipotence.
Is the Godhead omniscient? As man's highest goal is likeness to God, our striving must be in the direction of omniscience. Is omniscience, then, the supreme treasure? If it is, a vast chasm must forever yawn between man and God. At every moment man would have to be aware of this chasm if God possessed the supreme treasure of omniscience for himself and withheld it from man. The all-encompassing attribute of the Godhead is not omnipotence, neither is it omniscience, but it is love -- the attribute in respect of which no enhancement is possible. God is uttermost love, unalloyed love, is born as it were out of love, is the very substance and essence of love. God is pure love, not supreme wisdom, not supreme might. God has retained love for himself but has shared wisdom and might with Lucifer and Ahriman. He has shared wisdom with Lucifer and might with Ahriman, in order that man may become free, in order that under the influence of wisdom he may make progress."
(Rudolf Steiner: Love and Its Meaning in the World, Zurich, 17th December, 1912, GA 143)
If we eliminate religion because it is illogical, irrational, and perhaps even destructive, it would make sense to eliminate emotions also, because they are the soil for religious irrationality. This leaves us with thought alone, with pure thinking -- at least for the sake of contextual simplicity. From this point on, we endeavor to make the leap from Kantism to Goethenism, from Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant to The Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4) by Rudolf Steiner, preceded by his doctoral thesis Truth and Knowledge (GA 3). The very premise of Rudolf Steiner's epistemology is that thinking itself should be examined and analyzed as the prime tool for modern cognition. This represents the first step towards that path of initiation where we meet none other than Mister Spock from Vulcan. And we follow Spock on his determined and disciplined path all the way to his actual initiation when he goes through what I’ve chosen to call “The Mystery of Spock” in the second and third motion pictures.
There is one detail missing from the equation here, of course. If we insert a little anthroposophy, Spock's katra or essence which is carried by Bones in his absence, consists of his etheric and astral bodies but does not include his "I" or Ego, which is in the spiritual world. (This aspect of spiritual science is known from history, when the etheric and astral bodies left behind by initiates were preserved in the ancient Mysteries and sometimes bestowed upon significant personalities. Augustine became a bearer of the etheric body of Christ, for instance, and Francis of Assisi was given his astral body.)
So when Spock finally returns to his physical form, consisting of a duplicate of his deceased physical body, he is indeed a Vulcan initiate. The etheric and astral bodies carried in his katra inside Dr. McCoy blend with the undeveloped etheric and astral bodies that have sustained his duplicate physical body.
Some aspects of this Spock Mystery as portrayed in the third motion picture, when Dr. McCoy carries Spock's katra, which is materialistically assumed to include his "I," has a counterpart in one of the deepest esoteric Christ Mysteries, namely the two Jesus children and the baptism in Jordan. In his twelfth year, the Jesus child of the Solomon ancestry described in the Matthew Gospel became sick and died, and the Zarathustra Ego that had lived in this body passed over to the other Jesus child described in the Luke Gospel, namely the descendant of Nathan. This caused "the Nathan Jesus child" to show extraordinary powers of knowledge and wisdom among the Temple scribes at age 12. And in his thirtieth year, when Jesus from Nazareth was baptized in Jordan, the Zarathustra Ego left the physical, etheric, and astral bodies of Jesus and was replaced by the Christ, the Sun God. These things are described in detail by Rudolf Steiner in The Gospel of St. Luke (GA 114) and in The Fifth Gospel (GA 148).
Thinking, Feeling, and Willing
But back to Spock after his initiation in the third motion picture:
Of course an initiate should not speak of his higher knowledge to anyone unless he is called by higher powers to do so. Furthermore, someone who walks among the gods has no cause to "believe in angels" as long as belief is mere emotion. And like I said before, we should make it clear, at least with regard to the Vulcans, that emotion and feeling are positively not synonyms.
Thinking, feeling, and willing are the three major powers of the human soul that are repeatedly explored, explained, and analyzed by Rudolf Steiner throughout his six thousand lectures. These soul-powers are also intimately related to the idea of social threefolding, based upon the slogan from the French Revolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. And again, these are the ideals promoted by the idealistic Captain Kirk throughout the galaxies, which may come perilously close to the misguided and often disastrous "manifest destiny" of US foreign policy, namely to spread the wonders of democracy, freedom, and Laissez-faire capitalism to all cultures and civilizations through diplomacy, persuasion, coercion, or at gunpoint. In Star Trek, this is tempered by Starfleet's prime directive of non-interference, which coincides with the official policy of the US, based upon the principles of Westphalian sovereignty.
Captain Kirk, however, is a maverick, and throughout the Original Series and especially in the motion pictures, Kirk and his crew often operate as outlaws, defying the Establishment and disobeying orders. And that's precisely one of those qualities that make them so loveable and heroic.
What unites the crew, The Magnificent Seven, of the Original Series, is something much more than military duty and obedience; it's ironclad loyalty, basic agreement when the chips are down and the stakes high, and a mutual bond of affection. And that's why we love Star Trek, even those of us who view it as mildly entertaining and are therefore neither fans nor trekkies.
Gene Roddenberry's philosophy was that it pays off not to underestimate or insult the intelligence of your TV audience. Most other TV entertainment violates this principle, which is why TV is traditionally called "the boob tube" or "the idiot box" -- or, as Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy put it in their excellent song: Television, the drug of the nation.
Many of the episodes feature tough moral dilemmas and choices, and the Original Series made many subtle, and often less-than-subtle, comments on social and political issues of the turbulent 1960's, like racism, sexism, the Cold War, assumptions and prejudices about foreign or alien races and cultures etc.
Nichelle Nichols, the actress portraying Communications Officer Uhura, told Gene Roddenberry that he was doing "morality plays." He acknowledged this as a hush-hush secret of sorts.
"As early as 1960, Gene Roddenberry had drafted a proposal for the science fiction series which would become Star Trek. Although he publicly marketed it as a Western in outer space – a so-called "Wagon Train to the Stars" – he privately told friends that he was actually modeling it on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale."
The Gulliver's Travels model is brilliant; it's the very key to the high entertainment value of Star Trek.
A morality theme is also featured in the fourth movie when they return to 1986 Earth in order to save the whales from extinction. And yet, this is a weak and contradictory element in Star Trek because it entails changing the "future present" (the 23rd century) by travelling to the past in order to change history -- something that was proven disastrous in the deeply moving TOS episode The City on The Edge of Forever (teleplay credited to Harlan Ellison). This episode, which was highly critically acclaimed and awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, is raising a most poignant and enigmatic philosophical challenge with regard to destiny and free will. Of course in reality history cannot be changed; it is not possible to travel into the past physically and act in a bygone time. But the hypothesis presented here poses many questions. Dr. McCoy, under the influence of an accidental drug overdose that makes him paranoid, leaps into the past through a time portal and causes the others to be stranded on a barren planet because he has changed history in such a manner that the Enterprise no longer exists. Kirk and Spock succeed in entering the same time and place through the portal, namely Chicago in 1930. They end up in the 21st Street Mission for the down and out, which is run by social worker Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins). Kirk falls in love with her. Spock manages to construct a computer interface which reveals that if Edith is not killed by a car very soon, she will befriend President Roosevelt and influence him with her anti-war philosophy, thus delaying the US from entering the second world war. This enables the Nazis to develop the nuclear bomb first, through heavy water technology, and Hitler’s Germany wins the war, so that no space program is developed and that’s why the Enterprise disappeared when McCoy had jumped to 1930 and saved Edith’s life. When the crucial moment arrives, Kirk, who is in love with Edith, must hold McCoy back when he is about to rush into the street in order to save Edith’s life. In other words, she was destined to die young so that the Nazis should not win the war because of her pacifism, and Kirk must sacrifice his love in order to save the future. Spock and Kirk say Edith was right, but at the wrong time.
There is a little controversy around this, not only with regard to the authorship, which went through several hands, but because the story was alleged to have originated as an argument against Vietnam War protesters, who in retrospect were 100% right.
Nevertheless, the moral dilemma is compelling. We find the same theme in The Dead Zone, a novel by Stephen King that was made into a motion picture in 1983 starring Christopher Walken. After a coma lasting five years following a traffic accident, Johnny Smith has become psychic: When he touches someone, he sees the person’s future, including accidents, disasters, death. In this manner he discovers that presidential candidate Greg Stillson (played by Martin Sheen) is a psychopath who will win the election and start a global thermonuclear war. He asks his doctor, who is from Germany, what he would have done if he had met Adolf Hitler in the early thirties, knowing what would happen later if he had lived. And the doctor says he would have killed him on the spot. Satisfied with his answer, Johnny tries to assassinate Greg Stillson at a political rally, but he can’t hit him because Stillson holds up a little child between himself and Johnny, the gunman. But this cowardly act is caught on camera, and Johnny sees his destruction and suicide before dying himself from Secret Service bullets.
And again, this is science fiction, which is always based upon a big “What if?” Such stories are thought experiments of the most interesting and intriguing kind, but if it were possible to make physical journeys through time or predict specific future events that are completely unavoidable because of destiny, the universe would be in violation of man’s free will.
The Spock Mystery
Anyway, we were talking about Spock as an initiate who has pursued the path of perfect thinking, enhanced logic, in classical Vulcan fashion and even gone through an initiation proper that we should call The Spock Mystery, namely his selfless, heroic death and subsequent resurrection in the second and third motion pictures. We've also been talking about thinking, feeling, and willing as the three major forces of the human psyche. At the present time, these three forces have existed as a blend in the human being, but according to Rudolf Steiner, they will increasingly be experienced as three distinctly independent powers. And as previously mentioned, thinking itself is the necessary point of departure.
Captain Kirk is a master of the will, and with all his emotions intact yet under his perfect command and control, he can play on hunches and other useful aspects of this resource that are basically absent in Spock -- at least theoretically, and with the exception of episodes when his mental equilibrium is compromised by drugs, manipulation etc. -- which seems to be the reason why Spock, the best First Officer in all of Starfleet, thinks his friend Kirk far better suited for command than himself.
The TOS episode The Enemy Within (written by Richard Matheson) is tremendously interesting. Due to a malfunction of the transporter, Captain Kirk is spit in two, with two separate identical bodies. One half carries his lower self so to speak, his Doppelgänger, with all the crude passions and instincts, while his other half is the bearer of his refined and civilized self: Compassion, courage, wisdom etc. As it turns out, the "good" Kirk is unable to function as commander without his baser half; he is incapable of making decisions and lacks his strength without his Doppelgänger. The conclusion is reached that man can't live without his so-called evil. What is missing from the equation in this case, is the concept of spiritual evolution. Through repeated implications and hints, evolution is viewed exclusively in terms of Darwinian biology and the type of intelligence that produces technology enabling intergalactic travels in star ships.
If we are to do justice to the Spock character, we need to acknowledge that he has developed the powers of thinking, feeling, and willing to an advanced degree befitting the initiation he has achieved. And in order to accept this in a manner that does not violate the basic idea behind this character and the Vulcan civilization, we must, in the case at hand, make a clear distinction between emotion and feeling.
Spock's definition of human emotion coincides with that of passion. It includes all the base instincts of fear, hatred, jealousy, lust, depression and what have you. In classical religious symbolism, the realm of emotion is presented as water. In The New Testament, Christ appears to his disciples walking on the ocean surface during a storm; then he commands the storm to cease and be quiet. Interestingly, he tells his disciples not to be fearful, because the storm had caused them to be seized by fear, which Spock says is the most destructive of all emotions. From this perspective, Christ's gift to humanity is what the Greeks called Kyrios, meaning "Lord of the Soul." And this Lord of the Soul, this Kyrios, is precisely that aspect of Spock's consciousness that he refers to as "pure logic."
But when we delve into anthroposophy as a spiritual science to shed light on the mystery of Spock's character and the Vulcans he represents, this goes a lot deeper. In the Original Series, Kirk, Bones, and Uhura sometimes joke about Spock's physical resemblance to the Devil, Satan, with his pointed ears and general facial appearance (eyebrows and so on). In anthroposophy, Satan is almost always called Ahriman, a name originating from the teachings of Zarathustra in ancient Persia.
Ahriman and Spock
And here is the rub: This Ahriman, or Satan, is the father of the intellect, of logic! He is an exalted Being, ice cold, pure intellect, who also seeks to seduce humanity through this medium of intelligent thinking to pursue aims and purposes of his own that run contrary to the strivings of so-called progressive deities. One of the major obstacles to Ahriman's aims is man's mortality, which brings each human being back to the spiritual world, a realm where Ahriman cannot reach humans, between death and rebirth.
Rudolf Steiner describes it thus:
"The higher hierarchies contain in their being the forces that have formed Saturn, the Sun, the Moon and finally the Earth. If the higher hierarchies had expressed their teachings amongst themselves, as it were, up to the Mystery of Golgotha, they would have said: We can form the Earth out of Saturn, Sun and Moon. But if the Earth were to contain only what we have placed into Saturn, Sun and Moon it would never have been able to develop beings who know something about death, and can therefore develop the intellect within them. We, the higher hierarchies, are able to let an Earth proceed out of the Moon, on which there are men who know nothing of death, and on which they cannot develop the intellect. It is not possible for us, higher hierarchies, to form the Earth in such a way that it is able to supply the forces which lead man towards the intellect. We must rely, for this, on an entirely different being, on a being who comes from another direction than our own -- The Ahrimanic Being. Ahriman is a being who does not belong to our hierarchy. Ahriman comes into the stream of evolution from another direction. If we tolerate Ahriman in the evolution of the Earth, if we allow him a share in it, he brings us death, and with it, the intellect, and we can take up in the human being death and intellect. Ahriman knows death, because he is at one with the Earth and has trodden paths which have brought him into connection with the evolution of the Earth. He is an initiate, a sage of death, and for this reason he is the ruler of the intellect. The gods had to reckon with Ahriman -- if I may express it in this way. They had to say: the evolution cannot proceed without Ahriman. It is only a question of admitting Ahriman into the evolution. But if Ahriman is admitted and becomes the lord of death and, consequently, of the intellect too, we forfeit the Earth, and Ahriman, whose sole interest lies in permeating the Earth with intellect, will claim the Earth for himself. The gods faced the great problem of losing to a certain extent their rule over the Earth in favour of Ahriman. There was only one possibility -- that the gods themselves should learn to know something which they could not learn in their godly abodes which were not permeated by Ahriman -- namely, that the gods should learn to know death itself, on the Earth, through one of their emissaries -- the Christ. A god had to die on earth, and he had to die in such a way that this was not grounded in the wisdom of the gods, but in the human error which would hold sway if Ahriman alone were to rule. A god had to pass through death and he had to overcome death.
Thus the Mystery of Golgotha meant this for the gods: a greater wealth of knowledge through the wisdom of death. If a god had not passed through death, the whole Earth would have become entirely intellectual, without ever reaching the evolution which the gods had planned for it from the very beginning."
(Rudolf Steiner: Exoteric and Esoteric Christianity, Dornach, April 2nd 1922, GA 211)
Let's add to this a principle expressed through a classical Norwegian fairy tale where the hero steals the gold and silver from the troll. In many of these fairy tales, there is a princess who has been kidnapped and is held captive by the troll, and the hero needs to liberate her. The princess represents the human soul, and the gold and silver in this case represents the intellect. So the real task of the hero is to steal the intellect from Ahriman and give it to Michael, who is the Archai (Time Spirit) of the present epoch. He is also the countenance of Christ, and he was the Archangel (the guardian group-spirit) of the ancient Hebrews.
There are many interesting connections here. Leonard Nimoy, the actor and co-creator of the Spock character, introduced several elements to Vulcan customs that were accepted by the others and included in the script. One of these was the Vulcan Salute, consisting of a raised hand with middle fingers apart and frequently accompanied by the words "Live well and prosper." This salute has its origin in an ancient Hebrew ritual that Leonard Nimoy, who grew up as a Jewish boy in Boston, had observed in a synagogue during a blessing ceremony performed by a rabbi or priest. He held both hands forward with middle fingers apart in a gesture of blessing, and nobody was allowed to look at it because that might have disturbed a somewhat shy goddess from arriving with her blessing. But Leonard was a curious little boy who had to steal a peek, and that's how this ancient Hebrew religious practice was transformed into perhaps the most famous and beloved detail in Star Trek.
There is no doubt about it: Mister Spock's intelligence is thoroughly Michaelic, and with all his actions and statements, he reveals himself as a loyal servant of Christ-Michael, thus being, in essence, a genuine Christian initiate. Mister Spock would not, of course, put it in those terms, and he would never apply the word "Christian" to himself because of obvious misunderstandings. There is nothing remotely religious, theological, or emotional implied when we call Spock a Christian, because there is a world of difference between what this word means to believers and non-believers alike in mainstream culture -- or as the Freemasons would have put it: to the profane -- and what it means in spiritual science, or esoteric Christianity.
Here is Rudolf Steiner's definition of the word at hand:
"Let us imagine that there is a man who knows nothing of the name of Christ Jesus, nothing of what is communicated in the Gospels, but that he understands the radical difference between the nature of wisdom and might and that of love. Such a man, even though he knows nothing of the Mystery of Golgotha, is a Christian in the truest sense. A man who knows that love is there for the paying of debts and brings no profit for the future, is a true Christian. To understand the nature of love -- that is to be a Christian!"
(Rudolf Steiner: Love and Its Meaning in the World, Zurich, 17th December, 1912, GA 143)
This lecture is yet another blow to the irrational and illogical notion of "God Almighty," which is why Gene Roddenberry deserves praise for eliminating religion completely from his fictional future universe. Charles Darwin had been educated as a theologian, but when he became a researcher he found that he had to abandon the Book of Genesis altogether as a tool to understand the origin of life on earth. And by the same token, Rudolf Steiner took Darwinism as his point of departure when he wrote The Philosophy of Freedom in 1894. He preferred atheist philosophers because unlike religionists, they were self-dependent thinkers.
Spock and Ahriman
So we have Spock as an initiate not unlike Rudolf Steiner. And at the same time, nobody knows Ahriman better than Spock, who even bears a physical resemblance to him. This means that Spock has learned all of Ahriman's innermost secrets that he shares with Michael in the spiritual world, but he cannot speak of these things to his fellow mortals, whether they be humans or Vulcans, because he knows very well how easily the deepest occult secrets from the Lord of Darkness may be terribly abused if they end up in the wrong hands.
And this brings us to another intriguing riddle about the 23rd century, when the Star Trek saga is supposed to take place. Just like Lucifer and Christ before him, Ahriman is expected to appear in human form, to incarnate on the physical plane, sometime during the first third of the third millennium, i.e. before 2333. So it's not inconceivable that the Star Trek saga takes place simultaneously with Ahriman's Deed on Earth, or immediately following it, when his most powerful effort is being made to seduce humanity once and forever through the delusions provided by atheist ideology and blind faith in maya, i.e. physical illusion.
Just like Star Trek has its share of nutty trekkies, anthroposophy has its wackos. Deluded fanatics out of touch with reality, common sense, and healthy logic. And some such anthro-wacko may look at this suggestion, this blending of the Star Trek fantasy with anthroposophical concepts, and say that Spock would then be Ahriman incarnate. This is the kind of thinking one gets when the intellect is allowed to run amuck, because it's based upon a total absence of disciplined logic and a blindness to Spock's thoroughly Christ-like character.
Spock would be Ahriman's major opponent. And we may take the liberty of adding one interesting detail here: As a Vulcan, Spock's blood is green. As we know from Goethe's Faust, human red blood is Ahriman's most coveted commodity, which is why Mephistopheles (Ahriman) requests Faust's signature in blood, stating that "blood is a very special fluid." So for the sake of argument in our own little anthro-inspired Star Trek universe, why not assume that Ahriman finds Vulcan green blood totally useless for his purposes? This would give Spock a special edge against him.
What Spock has done, is literally to crawl inside the skin of the Dragon, learning its language and exploring its deepest secrets. And if we visualize the aging of Spock to run concurrent with the aging of Leonard Nimoy, who btw at 78 has calculated in pure Vulcan fashion how many days, hours, and seconds he has left to live in this life -- well, in his next incarnation, the Nimoy individuality will be a female portraying a female incarnation of the Spock individuality, written by another future female incarnation of the Gene Roddenberry individuality. (Incarnations alternate back and forth between male and female, so the individualities of Communications Officer Uhura, Bone’s nurse, and the yeoman ladies will be males.)
The Spiritual Universe
Of course future humanity will be much better off without superstition, religion, and mysticism. What is needed today is not mysticism but science -- spiritual science. And instead of religious beliefs based upon selfish emotions, we need refined feelings guided by sound logic and healthy judgment.
Superstition, however, is another matter altogether, because the most widespread of all superstitions today is the natural-scientific superstition, the idea that the cosmos, the universe, is one huge mechanism consisting of physical particles alone, plus some biological units that constitute life forms. This ahrimanic deception goes hand in hand with the Copernican-Galilean illusion that has been dominant since the 16th century in spite of the fact that it wasn't officially recognized by the Vatican until 1827. Such illusions should not be abandoned, because we would be helpless without them. We need such illusions, but we also need to understand that they are indeed maya, illusion.
"Every star that we see glittering in the heavens is in reality a gate of entry for the Astral. Wherever the stars are twinkling and glittering in towards us, there glitters and shines the Astral. Look at the starry heavens in their manifold variety; in one part the stars are gathered into heaps and clusters, or in another they are scattered far apart. In all this wonderful configuration of radiant light, the invisible and super-sensible astral body of the Cosmos makes itself visible to us.
For this reason we must not consider the world of stars unspiritually. To look up to the world of stars and speak of worlds of burning gases is just as though -- forgive the apparent absurdity of the comparison, but it is precisely true -- it is just as though someone who loves you were gently stroking you, holding the fingers a little apart, and you were then to say that it feels like so many little ribbons being drawn across your cheek. It is no more untrue that little ribbons are laid across your cheek when someone strokes you, than that there exist up there in the heavens those material entities of which modern physics tells. It is the astral body of the Universe which is perpetually wielding its influences -- like the gently stroking fingers -- on the etheric organism of the Cosmos. The etheric Cosmos is organised for very long duration; it is for this reason that a star has its quality of fixity, representing a perpetual influence on the cosmic Ether by the astral Universe. It lasts far longer than the stroking of your cheek. But in the Cosmos things do last longer, for there we are dealing with gigantic measures. Thus in the starry heavens that we perceive, we actually behold an expression of the soul-life of the cosmic astral world.
In this way, an immense, unfathomable life, yet, at the same time, a soul-life, a real and actual life of the soul, is brought into the Cosmos. Think how dead the Cosmos appears to us when we look into the far spaces and see nothing but burning gaseous bodies. Think how living it all becomes when we know that the stars are an expression of the love with which the astral Cosmos works upon the etheric Cosmos -- for this is to express it with perfect truth. Think then of those mysterious processes when certain stars suddenly light up at certain times, -- processes which have only been explained to us by means of physical hypotheses that do not lead to any real understanding. Stars that were not there before, light up for a time, and disappear again. Thus in the Cosmos too there is a “stroking” of shorter duration. For it is true indeed that in epochs when divine Beings desire to work in an especial way from the astral world into the etheric, we behold new stars light up and fade away again.
We ourselves in our own astral body have feelings of delight and comfort in the most varied ways. In like manner in the Cosmos, through the cosmic astral body, we have the varied configuration of the starry heavens. No wonder that an ancient science, instinctively clairvoyant, describes this third member of our human organism as the “astral” or “starry” body, seeing that it is of like nature with that which reveals itself to us in the stars."
( -- Rudolf Steiner: The Whitsun Festival, Its place in the study of Karma, Dornach 4th June, 1924, GA 353)
This illustrates and defines the contrast between a natural-scientific, dead, mechanized universe on the one hand, and a spiritual-scientific vision on the other, which is teeming with life.
Rudolf Steiner again:
"In the fullness of the light lived still higher beings also: the Powers, or Exusiai, or Spirits of Form; the Virtues, or Dynameis, or Spirits of Motion; the Dominions, or Kyriotetes, or Spirits of Wisdom; those spirits who are called the Thrones, or Spirits of Will; finally, in looser connection with the fullness of the light, more and more detaching themselves therefrom, the Cherubim and Seraphim. The earth was a world inhabited by a whole hierarchy of lower and higher beings, all sublime. What radiated out into space as light, the light with which the earth-body was permeated, was not light only but also what was later the mission of the earth: It was the force of love. This contained the light as its most important component. We must imagine that not only light was rayed forth, not physical light alone, but that this light was ensouled, inspirited, by the force of love. This is difficult for the modern mind to grasp. There are people today who describe the sun as though it were a gaseous ball that simply radiates light. Such a purely material conception of the sun prevails exclusively today. The occultists are the only exception. One who reads a description of the sun today as it is represented in popular books, in the books that are the spiritual nourishment of countless people, does not learn to know the true being of the sun. What these books say about the sun is worth about as much as if one described a corpse as the true being of man. The corpse is no more man than what astrophysics says of the sun is really the sun.
Just as one who describes a corpse leaves out the most important thing about man, so the physicist who describes the sun today leaves out the most important thing. He does not reach its essence, although he may believe that with the help of spectroanalysis he has found its inner elements. What is described is only the outer body of the sun.* In every sunbeam there streams down on all the inhabitants of the earth the force of those higher beings who live on the sun, and in the light of the sun there descends the force of love, which here on earth streams from man to man, from heart to heart. The sun can never send mere physical light to earth; the warmest, most ardent, feeling of love is invisibly present in the sunlight. With the sunlight there stream to earth the forces of the Thrones, the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the whole hierarchy of higher beings who inhabit the sun and have no need of any body other than the light. But since all this that is present in the sun today was at that time still united with the earth, those higher beings themselves were also united with the earth. Even today they are connected with earth-evolution.
We must reflect that man, the lowest of the higher beings, was at that time already present in the germ as the new child of the earth, borne and nourished in the womb by these divine beings. The man who lived in the period of earth-evolution that we are now considering, had to have a much more refined body, since he was still in the womb of these beings. The clairvoyant consciousness perceives that the body of the man of that time consisted only of a fine mist-form or vapor-form; it was a body of air or gas, a gas-body rayed through and entirely permeated by light. If we imagine a cloud formed with some regularity, a chalice-like formation expanding in an upward direction, the chalice glowing with inner light, we have the men of that time who, for the first time in this earth-evolution, began to have a dim consciousness, such a consciousness as the plant-world has today. These men were not like plants in the modern sense. They were cloud-masses in chalice-like form, illuminated and warmed by the light, with no firm boundaries dividing them from the collective earth-mass."
(Rudolf Steiner: Egyptian Myths and Mysteries, Lecture 5, The Genesis of the Trinity of Sun, Moon, and Earth. Osiris and Typhon. September 7, 1908, GA 106)
I submit that when the 23rd century finally arrives, science fiction may be written for an imagined future, say, in the 27th century. In the 23rd century, the effects and consequences of Ahriman's deed through his physical appearance will be experienced everywhere. At the same time, a not insignificant section of humanity will have cultivated spiritual science, maybe in secret, depending upon political regimes and their laws and cultures.
And the equivalent of Star Trek will emerge in a new form, elevated by the light shed upon existence, freedom, and love by spiritual science and the seership of initiates -- like Mister Spock.
I did not write the above for the purpose of criticizing Star Trek. I have tremendous admiration for Gene Roddenberry, the writers, and all the directors, co-workers and actors who have given us this treasure through their tireless team effort. But as a lover of the Star Trek series and movies for more than three decades, I suddenly felt the urge to contribute with an enhancement endeavor so to speak, provoked by Braga’s dogmatic atheism, to lift the concept into a more exalted dimension, with special focus on the Spock character. It’s this type of dogmatism, or at least lack of sophistication, that disappoints the audience members like myself from time to time when it is revealed that no matter how much intellectual energy humanity invests in science and technology, unless this intellectual gift is also applied to the Spirit by looking inward, man will neither come to grips with the mystery of birth, nor with aging and dying, i.e. mortality. Instead, he will strive to perfect himself by becoming more like a machine, or he will pursue the highly dysfunctional invention of cryonics as the ultimate solution to the problem of illness and death.
The onesided application of thinking, or intellectualism, to science and technology, brings us away from nature and into something called sub-nature. In fact, so far I have not really criticized the Star Trek vision, nor have I allowed Rudolf Steiner to do so, because as pointed out, we cannot live without our natural-scientific illusions but we need to be aware that they are unreal. So when I finally present a genuine criticism from Rudolf Steiner, this is not directed against the creative imagination but against the dogmatic delusions expressed by Brannon Braga when he says that in the ideal future, “Earth is a paradise where we have solved all of our problems with technology, ingenuity, and compassion. There is no more hunger, war, or disease. And most importantly to the context of our meeting here today, religion is completely gone.” And: “On future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it.”
I conclude this article with an extensive comment by Rudolf Steiner:
“Anyone with more or less normal feelings, even today, will be shaken to learn the truth that in order to bring about birth and death in the physical world, the divine spirits who guide world destinies have to use elemental spirits who actually are the enemies of everything human beings seek and desire for their welfare and well-being here in the physical world. If everything was done just to suit the wishes of human beings -- to be comfortable in this physical world, be fit and well as we go to sleep and wake up again and go about our work -- if all spirits were of a kind to see to it that we have such a comfortable life, birth and death could not be. To bring about birth and death the gods need entities whose minds and whole way of looking at the world give them the urge to destroy and lay waste to everything which provides for the welfare of human beings here in the physical world.
We have to get used to the idea that the world is not made as people would really like it to be and that there exists the element which in the Egyptian Mysteries was known as ‘iron necessity’. As part of this iron necessity, entities hostile to the physical world are used by the gods to bring about birth and death for human beings.
So we are looking at a world that is immediately next to our own, a world that day by day, hour by hour, has to do with our own world, for the processes of birth and death happen every day and every hour here on earth. The moment human beings cross the threshold to the other world they enter into a sphere where entities live and are active whose whole conduct, views and desires are destructive for ordinary physical human life. If this had been made known to people outside the Mysteries before now, if people had been given an idea of these entities, the following would inevitably have happened. If people who are quite unable to deal with their instincts and drives, with their passions, had known that destructive entities were present around them all the time, they would have used the powers of those destructive entities. They would not have used them the way the gods do in birth and death, however, but within the realm of physical life. If people had felt the desire to be destructive in some sphere or other, they would have had ample opportunity to make these entities serve them, for it is easy to make them serve us. This truth was kept hidden to protect ordinary life from the destructive elemental spirits of birth and death.
The question is, should we not continue to keep them hidden? This is not possible, and for quite specific reasons, one of which is connected with a great, important cosmic law. I could give you a general formula, but it will be better to use the actual form it is taking now and in the immediate future to demonstrate this law to you. As you know, not long ago growing numbers of impulses came into human evolution which did not exist before and which are quite characteristic of our present civilization. Try and go back in your mind to times not very long ago. You will find times when there were no steam locomotives, when people did not yet use electricity as we do now; times perhaps when only thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci were able to have the idea, theoretically and on the basis of experiments, that humans could create apparatus which would enable them to fly. All this has come to realization in a relatively short time. Just consider how much depends on the use of steam, of electricity, of the changes in atmospheric density which has made airships possible, or the knowledge of statics which has led to the aeroplane. Consider everything which has come into human evolution in recent times. Think of the destructive powers of dynamite, etc., and you can easily imagine, seeing how swiftly this has gone, that new and different fabulous things of this kind will be the goal of future human endeavour. I think you can easily see that the ideal for the near future will be to have not more and more Goethes, but more and more Edisons. This really is the ideal of modern humanity.
Modern people do, of course, believe that all this -- the telegraph, telephones, the use of steam Power, etc. -- happens without the participation of spiritual entities. This is not the case, however. The development of human civilization involves the participation of elemental spirits, even if people do not know about it. Modern materialists imagine that the telephone and telegraph, and the steam engines driven long distances and also used by farmers, have been constructed merely on the basis of what people produce by the sweat of their brow. Everything people do in this respect is under the influence of elemental spirits. They are always involved and helping us in this. People are not taking the initiative on their own in this field -- they are guided. In laboratories, workshops, really everywhere where the spirit of invention is active, elemental spirits are providing the inspiration.
The elemental spirits who have given impulses to our civilization from the eighteenth century onwards are of the same kind as those used by the gods to bring about birth and death. This is one of the mysteries which human beings have to discover today. And the law of world history of which I have spoken is that as evolution proceeds, the gods always rule for a time within a particular sphere of elemental spirits and then human beings enter into this same sphere and use the elemental spirits. In earlier times, the elemental spirits of birth and death essentially served the divine spirits who guided the world; since our day -- and this has been going on for some time now -- the elemental spirits of birth and death are serving technology, industry and human commerce. It is important to let this disturbing truth enter into our souls with all its power and intensity.
Something is happening in this fifth post-Atlantean period of civilization which is similar to something that happened in Atlantean times, during the fourth Atlantean period. I have spoken of this before. Up to the fourth Atlantean period the divine spirits who guide human evolution used certain elemental spirits. They had to use them because not only birth and death had to be brought about at that time, but also something else, which may be said to be closer to the earth. You will remember some of the descriptions I have given of the Atlantean age, when human beings were still flexible in their physical nature and their souls could make their bodies grow large or remain dwarf-like, with their outer appearance depending on their inner nature. Please call this to mind again. Today the service certain elemental spirits give to the divine spirits on occasions of birth and death is clearly apparent in physical terms. In those times, when outer appearance was in accord with inner nature, certain elemental spirits were serving the gods for the whole of human life. When the Atlantean age had reached its fourth period, people again began to rule the elemental spirits, which had previously been used by the gods, to govern the growth and general physiognomy of human beings. Human beings gained control of certain divine powers and made use of them.
The consequence was that from about the middle of the Atlantean age it was possible for individuals who desired to harm their fellow human beings to use all kinds of creative powers on them -- keeping them dwarf-sized in growth or making them into giants, or letting the physical organism develop in such a way that the individual concerned would be an intelligent person or a cretin. A terrible power was in human hands in the middle of the Atlantean age. You know, for I have drawn attention to this, that this was not kept secret, though not from any kind of evil intent. According to one of the laws of world history, something which initially was the work of the gods had to become the work of human beings. This led to serious mischief in the Atlantean age, so that over the last four or three periods of civilization the whole of Atlantean civilization had to be guided towards its own destruction. Our own civilization was saved and brought across from Atlantis, as I have described elsewhere, and you will recall my descriptions of what happened in the Atlantean age.
In the last three, or two, periods of post-Atlantean civilization in the fifth stage of earth evolution, work now done by the gods will again become work to be done by humanity. We are only in the early stages of the technological, industrial and commercial activities which proceed under the influence of the elemental spirits of birth and death. This influence and its effects will be increasingly more radical. Until now, the elemental spirits of birth and death have been guided by the gods and their influence has been limited to the coming into being and passing away of humans at the physical level. But the civilization of our own and future ages has to be such that these spirits can be active in technology, industry, commerce, and so on.
There is also another, quite specific, aspect to this. As I have said, these elemental spirits are the enemies of human welfare and want to destroy it. We have to see things straight and not have any illusions concerning the radical nature of this. Civilization must progress in the fields of technology, industry and commerce. But by its very nature such a civilization cannot serve the well-being of humanity in the physical world; it can only prove destructive to the human weal.
This will be an unpalatable truth for people who never tire of making great speeches on the tremendous advances made in modern civilization, for they see things in abstract terms and know nothing of the rise and fall which is part of human evolution. I have made Brief reference to the causes of destruction in Atlantis. The commercial, industrial and technological civilization which is now in its beginnings harbours elements which will lead to the decline and fall of the fifth earth period. And we only see things straight and face reality if we admit that we are here beginning to work on something which must lead to catastrophe.
This is what it means to enter into iron necessity. Looking for an easy way out people might say: Alright, I won't take the tram. It might even go so far -- though even members of the Anthroposophical Society are unlikely to take things this far -- that people will not go on trains, and so on. This would be complete nonsense, of course. It is not a matter of avoiding things but of getting a clear picture, real insight into the iron necessities of human evolution. Civilization cannot continue in an unbroken upward trend; it has to go through a succession of rising and falling waves.
There is, however, something else which can happen, something people generally do not want to know about today but which is exactly what modern humanity will have to discover. Insight -- a clear picture of the necessity which exists - is what will have to come to all human minds. It will necessarily mean that much will have to change in the frame of mind in which we consider the world. Human beings will need to live with inner impulses which they still prefer to ignore today, for these go against the good life they want. There are many such impulses. Let me give you just one example.
People today, especially if they want to be good people, wanting nothing for themselves but only to be selfless and desire the good of others, will of course seek to develop certain virtues. These, too, are iron necessities. Now, of course, there is nothing to be said against a desire for virtue, but the problem is that people are not merely desiring to be virtuous. It is quite a good thing to want to be virtuous, but these people want more. If one looks to the unconscious depths of the human soul one finds that in the present time people are not really much concerned to develop the actual virtues. It is much more important to them to be able to feel themselves to be virtuous, to give themselves up entirely to a state of mind where they can say: ‘I am truly selfless, look at all the things I do to improve myself! I am perfect, I am kind, I am someone who does not believe in authority.’ They will then, of course, eagerly follow all kinds of authorities. To feel really good in the consciousness of having one particular virtue or another is endlessly more important to people today than actually having that virtue. They want to feel they have the virtue rather than practise it.
As a result, certain secrets connected with the virtues remain hidden to them. They are secrets which people instinctively feel they do not want to know, especially if they are modern idealists who like to feel good in the way I have described. All kinds of ideals are represented by societies today. Programmes are made, and a society states its principles, which are to achieve one thing or another. The things people want to achieve in this way may indeed be very nice, but to find something nice in an abstract way is not enough. People must learn to think in terms of reality. Let us look at the aspect of reality when it comes to people having virtues. Perfection, benevolence, beautiful virtues, rights - it is nice to have them all in the outer social sphere. However, when people say: It is our programme to achieve perfection in some particular way, benevolence in some particular direction, we aim to establish a specific right', they usually consider this to be something absolute which can be brought to realization as such. ‘Surely’, people will say, ‘it must be a good thing to be more and more perfect?’ And ‘What better ideal can there be but to have a programme that will make us more and more perfect?’ But this is not in accord with the law of reality. It is right, and good, to be more and more perfect, or at least aim to be so, but when people are actually seeking to be perfect in a particular direction, this search for perfection will after a time change into what in reality is imperfection. A change occurs through which the desire for perfection becomes a weakness. Benevolence will after a time become prejudicial behaviour. And however good the right may be that you want to bring to realization -- it will turn into a wrong in the course of time. The reality is that there are no absolutes in this world. You work towards something that is good, and the way of the world will turn it into something bad. We therefore must seek ever new ways, look for new forms over and over again. This is what really matters.
The swing of the pendulum governs all such human efforts. Nothing is more harmful than belief in absolute ideals, for they are at odds with the true course of world evolution.”
(Rudolf Steiner: Fall of the Spirits of Darkness, Lecture 4: The Elemental Spirits of Birth and Death, Dornach, 6 October 1917, GA 177)
http://memory-alpha.org/ Memory Alpha: A free Star Trek database. The site is a wiki, meaning that anyone can edit.
http://www.rsarchive.org/ The Rudolf Steiner Archive.