Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Satan in Mormonism and the Works of Rudolf Steiner

I haven't kept it a secret that I'm a big fan of early-twentieth-century esotericist and mystic Rudolf Steiner. He's a bit "weird," yes: he talks about reincarnation, Atlantis, and previous "planets" that the human race lived on before earth. But seeing as I'm a Mormon, who am I to judge? That's not to say that I literally believe in everything he says; I take a lot of what he says as a symbolic truth more than a literal one. I may get to some specifics later on in this post.

I bring him up today because I just finished a book of Steiner's called Love, Sexuality, and Partnership. It contains all of Steiner's remarks on sexuality, gender, love, and the relationships between the sexes, but what I found most interesting in the book was only obliquely related to those topics. Namely, his discussion of "Lucifer" and "luciferian spirits" struck me as similar to how we Mormons conceive of Satan and the role of evil in the world.



The Mormon take on Satan

Mormons, Satan doesn't have an entirely negative role. He's the embodiment of evil, yes, but as Mormon scripture makes clear, evil is necessary for good's existence. For instance:
"And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet" -D&C 29:39
And this:
"Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other." -2 Nephi 2:16
Satan is kind of a "guarantor" of free will. Without Satan's enticings toward evil, we wouldn't have the contrast necessary to freely choose good. In a way, Satan or Lucifer is therefore what gives us independent being, since if we could onlychoose good, we would only be automatons or "robots" following God without any choice in the matter. By giving us evil, you could say that Satan is what ensures we're individual beings.

Of course, Satan's original plan was to deprive us of free will, so it's ironic that his efforts are now being used against his original intent. However, this doesn't need to involve contradiction. Satan leads us toward evil, and since the root of all evil is selfishness, it makes sense that he's the one who originally gave us an independent, free-choice "self." Since both free will and the possibility for selfishness come from the existence of an independent self, Satan can reasonably be the author of both evil and human agency.


Rudolf Steiner on Lucifer


Rudolf Steiner, on the other hand, said many of these same things. In Steiner's writings, Lucifer is the spiritual being who enabled the human soul to "descend" into the lower spheres of earthly incarnation. This is where the name "Lucifer," meaning "light bringer," becomes relevant--he is effectively the principle that transmutes the astral or "soul" world of love in to the physical world of light (reference Swedenborg's idea that heavenly light is not light as such, but comes from love). In his own words:
"Love and light are the two elements, the two components, which permeate all earthly existence: love as the soul constituent of earthly being, light as the outer material constituent of earthly being. However, for these two elements, which otherwise would exist separately throughout the great course of world existence, to become interwoven, a mediating force is needed that will weave light into love. This is where the luciferic beings come into play....The luciferic beings are at work wherever and whenever our inner soul, which is woven out of love, enters into any kind of relationship with the element of light in any form; and we are, after all, confronted with light in all material existence. When light touches our being in any way whatsoever the luciferic beings appear and the luciferic quality weaves into the element of love.”
Lucifer and his cohort of spirits are the force that connects the physical world of light to the astral world of love. As in the New Age conception that all things are made out of vibrating "energy," everything we experience in the physical world comes from light either "compressed" into opaque matter or rarefied into light proper. The world of light therefore corresponds to Swedenborg's "sensory" level of reality, which is "lower" in the spiritual hierarchy than his heaven, also a world of love. Lucifer is "the great physicalizer;" by tempting Adam and Eve, he brings everything spiritual down a notch into the dense, opaque world of physical "stuff." This nicely corresponds to Mormon doctrine, as you can see above.

But Steiner also writes that Lucifer grants us a level of individuality that would be impossible without evil:
" Through Jehovah, human beings were predestined for a group-soul existence; love was to penetrate into them gradually through blood-relationship. It is through Lucifer that the human being lives as a personality. Originally, therefore, human beings were in a state of union, then of separateness as a consequence of the luciferic principle that promotes selfishness, independence. Together with selfishness, evil came into the world. It had to be so, because without the evil, human beings could not lay hold of the good. When human beings gain victory over themselves, the unfolding of love is possible. Christ brought the impulse for this victory to humans in the clutches of increasing egoism, and thereby the power to conquer evil. The acts of Christ bring together again the human beings who were separated through egoism and selfishness. The words of Christ concerning acts of love are true in the very deepest sense: ‘Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.'"
In this conception, Jehovah gives a oneness without individuality and Lucifer gives individuality but alongside selfishness. A dialectic then starts to become clear: Jehovah's principle of absolute unity and Lucifer's principle of necessary, though selfishness-inducing, independence don't mix well. We need a third, reconciling principle, and that's what Christ's atonement accomplishes. In the Book of Mormon's language, Christ reconciles the demands of justice (the consequences for those who followed their Luciferic independence from others) to the claim of mercy (the reach of divine oneness or love).

Steiner also writes that the "Fall of Man" involved a descent from "world-consciousness" into "self-consciousness." This is what Jung and others call the "participation mystique," where animals and undeveloped people completely project their minds outside of themselves onto their surroundings; Satan extinguished this participation mystique by giving us both self-awareness and selfishness, both consequences of having a separate "self" in the first place. Swedenborg also says this in his Secrets of Heaven: human beings were originally "one" with everything surrounding them, and the fall inherent in leaving the "Garden of Eden" brought us to a spiritual place where a separate "ego" began to develop up and against the world. Separateness--and with it, death--entered our perception at this point, since only a being that perceives the world as separate can really die. Death, after all, is only a withdrawal of a person's innermost being from the outer world, and a person who sees no fundamental barrier between inside and outside or spirit and matter wouldn't really know death at all.

Steiner says quite a bit more about Lucifer when he writes:
As you know, the luciferic spirits have remained stationary at other levels of evolution and bring something foreign into the normal evolutionary process. They are deeply interested in seizing hold of us and preventing us from gaining free will because they themselves have not achieved it. Free will can be gained only on earth, but the luciferic spirits want to have nothing to do with the earth; they want only Old Saturn, Old Sun and Old Moon evolution and nothing beyond this."
"Luciferic spirits" are stuck in their spiritual evolution. They never descended to this physical world, which is a view that Mormons share. Steiner writes that they're stuck in the state of "Old Saturn," "Old Sun" and "Old Moon," which is a particularly weird notion of his. But he writes somewhere that these previous "planets" which human souls inhabited at earlier stages of their spiritual evolution correspond to different spiritual states. That is, "Old Saturn" and "Old Sun" are the human habitation in the "spirit world" before human beings incarnated here, while "Old Moon" is the prior human habitation in the "soul world." When he says that Luciferic spirits are stuck on the Old Moon, he's therefore just saying that they still live in the soul or astral world, which is a notion not at all far removed from Mormon doctrine.

To give a final quotation from Steiner's works, take this passage:
Now Lucifer has the tendency to mix these two worlds [the soul world and the physical world, as above] with each other. In human love, whenever a person loves in the physical sense world for himself with a trace of egoism, it occurs because Lucifer wants to make physical love similar to spiritual love. He can then root it out of the physical sense world and lead it into his own special kingdom. This means that all love that can be called egoistic and is not there for the sake of the beloved but for the sake of the one who loves is exposed to Lucifer’s impulses.
Since he is the guarantor of individuality, Lucifer wants us to become individuals as fully as possible--far more than we should. Instead of our using the physical world to encounter another in his or her own being, he wants us to only love them for our own selfish purposes. Selflessness is anathema to Lucifer; Jehovah's group-soul existence (mentioned above) rubs him entirely the wrong way. Lucifer wants us to see all things as mere means toward our self and our selfishness, and while Steiner says that a degree of self-concern is good for spiritual growth, "love ought to be directed to the self only in order to place it in the service of the world: the rose should adorn itself only to adorn the garden." Love is important; self-consciousness is important. However, love should only be directed at self-consciousness so that it can service the world. The self should be a means, never an end.


Conclusion


I take Steiner as a way that Mormons can fertilize their own faith with new perspective. As I said above, I don't take everything Steiner says at face value. Far from it, actually--he's far too confident in the literal reality of his intuitive experiences for his own good. But I love what I can discern from his intuition "beneath" his words, since I think that stuff is all gold.

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