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Protestantism and Non-Christian Religions

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by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

A religious system developed by Rudolf *Steiner (l86l-1925) from *Theosophy as a means of arriving at true knowledge and of final liberation from enslavement to the material world. Anthroposophy, as a theory of knowledge, claims that man originally shared in the spiritual consciousness of the cosmos and that his present mode of knowledge is only a dreamlike vestige of a primordial cognitive state. Through various disciplines it is possible to regain more or less of this innate intuition. In its metaphysical aspect, Anthroposophy holds to the existence of spiritual worlds that are more real than matter and knowable through direct vision by the higher but latent powers of man.

As the name implies, Anthroposophy postulates a “wisdom of man” that calls for two selves in each person: a lower self that knows and a higher ego that is known. In this sense, it is not unlike philosophic *Hinduism, in which Brahman, or the impersonal Absolute, is identified with Athman, or the inner Self; and all human striving after the divine is a quest for self- knowledge in the deepest ontological terms. Similar to Hinduism, Anthroposophy requires certain physical, mental, and spiritual exercises to arrive at final wisdom. The enlightened one thus becomes a Hellscher, or master of clear vision, gaining supersensible means of perception that are familiar in Buddhist psychology.

Theosophy teaches that besides the material world there are six invisible worlds of subtle matter, which interpenetrate the visible world as water permeates a sponge. Man possesses three bodies, a physical body of motion, an astral body of feeling, and a mental body of thought. Anthroposophy adopts the same premises, but considers the invisible world immaterial and gives man seven corporeities in addition to body, soul, and spirit that correspond to the common triad of the physical, astral, and mental Theosophy. The seer of Anthroposophy gradually comes to understand these seven “bodies” and especially the most intimate “I” that forms the human personality. The same septet obtains in the world outside man. There are seven colors to the spectrum and seven planets to the universe—Saturn, Sun, Moon, Earth, Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. As the clairvoyant penetrates into the recesses of his own ego, he also learns the secrets of the world around him, always in greater depth as one after another the elements of the cosmic septet unfold.

Steiner elaborated on this higher knowledge in all his major writings, but mainly in the Akaska Chronicle. He differed further from the Theosophists in assigning a leading role to Christ in his system. Whereas Theosophy makes Christ to be merely one of many arhats (master teachers) or avatars (incarnations), Anthroposophy holds that Christ is the one avatar, or divine manifestation, yet only in the sense of a greater solar being who appeared among men to rescue the human race from its own destruction. The merger of Christianity and Anthroposophy was due largely to the efforts of Friedrich Rittelmeyer (1872-1938), former Evangelical pastor, who organized the existing societies into Christian Fellowships and promoted the establishment of a sacerdotal class of priests and priestesses to care for the ritual aspect of the movement.

Furthermore, Christ is claimed to possess the full revelation of the supersensible world. Contact with him affords deeper penetration into his own profound vision of reality. Accordingly, celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is considered the highest act of worship in the Christian religion. Anthroposophy teaches that the bread and wine are changed with the spirit and body of Christ, through which the communicant becomes truly human, whereas before he was only an image distorted by hostile powers. The service is called Act of Consecration of Man, and has a liturgy filled with Steiner’s teachings, yet modeled on the Catholic Mass.

Anthroposophists are found mainly in Germany, Britain, and the U.S., especially among those in search of religious experience outside the normal channels of church life. Anthroposophy was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in 1919.

Bibliography: G. A. Kaufmann, comp. and ed., Fruits of Anthroposophy (London 1922). R. Steiner, The Story of My Life, ed. A. Freeman (London 1928); World History in the Light of Anthroposophy, tr. G. and M. Adams (New York 1951). F. Rittelmeyer, Reincarnation (New York n.d.).

New Catholic Encylopedia
Vol. 1, 1967, pp. 615-616

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

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