Sunday, September 16, 2018

The banal polarity of evil

“In the Sign of the Five” is a difficult book by T H Meyer, filled with slightly bizarre speculations based on Rudolf Steiner's writings. Steiner was the founder of Anthroposophy, arguably one of the strangest religious systems out there. Had it simply been a compendium of astrology, angelology and occult chronology, it would probably have passed under my radar.

However, what struck me when reading the book was Meyer's murky ideas of evil. To the author, evil is necessary for human evolution and is really a conscious creation of the good angels! Good and evil are part of a polarity which humanity is supposed to balance (compare Steiner's idea that Christ balances Lucifer and Ahriman, the two Devil figures of Anthroposophy). But this is surely absurd – evil and good aren't a polarity in the same way as, say, the feminine and the masculine, or freedom and authority. Rather, it's a very fundamental contradiction. How do you *balance* good and evil? Meyer at one point says that there is a really good Good in the angelic realm which doesn't need evil as an opposite force, but is this Good really similar to the absolute good found in, for instance, Christianity? It's apparently good because it isn't locked in a polarity with evil, but that could simply be interpreted as a restatement of the need for “balance” between good and evil. Besides, the true good *must* be locked in a polarity with evil, as long as evil hasn't been vanquished (not “balanced” away as Meyer would have it). I think these weird ideas about evil somehow being necessary are dangerous, especially when coupled with notions about “getting to know evil” or “transforming evil from within”, notions apparently also held by this author. What can that possible mean, and what kind of spiritual practice will it lead to?

I'm not saying these ideas are unique to Anthroposophy. In fact, the notion that good and evil somehow complement each other, that both are necessary for growth, that both come from God, or that “what doesn't kill you makes you stronger” are fairly common among occultists and within the New Age. The banality of evil? More singular is the claim that Judas was somehow doing the Lord's work, and that he was reincarnated as St Augustine and Leonardo da Vinci! Meyer seems to regard the Gnostic apocryphon “The Gospel of Judas” as authentic source material.

Another thing that struck me when reading “In the Sign of the Five” was the apocalyptic element. The world is said to be under attack (a good evil attack, presumably) by Sorath, the sun-demon, whose number is 666. Sorath was somehow behind 9/11 and the War on Terror (the author is opposed to both al-Qaeda and the Bush administration). He is preparing the way for the physical incarnation of Ahriman, which will take place around 2020. Ahriman will apparently attack Anthroposophy and create a counter-religion based on false miracles and wonders, including magic and clairvoyance, in order to lead humanity astray. He will also create social strife all over the world. Even if Ahriman fails, there will be more evil attacks in the distant future organized by Sorath.

Finally, I noticed a conspiracist and even slightly paranoid streak in Meyer's little book. He seems to be a “Truther”, although this is never spelled out, perhaps for prudential reasons. He singles out an unnamed Mormon scholar who studies Anthroposophy as a minion of Sorath, presumably because his conclusions about Steiner are somewhat critical. The author is also anti-technological and seems opposed to computers and the Internet, claiming that Silicon Valley is the modern Gondishapur, a town in ancient Persia where an academy of higher learning was located (in Steiner's speculations, they were “the bad guys”)! For a person who believes in the necessity of evil, the author deep down seems to fear it…

I can't give “In the Sign of the Five” five stars, and after some internal deliberations, only give it two. It will be interesting to follow Anthroposophy in the near future. Will they follow the logic of Meyer and transform themselves into yet another cranky apocalyptic cult, reproducing everything they claim to oppose? Or will they continue peacefully with eurythmy, bio-dynamic farming and the breeding of horned cattle?
That is the question.

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