nav-left cat-right

Anthroposophy vs Theosophy III

Yesterday’s quote was written while Steiner was still General Secretary of the German section of the Theosophical Society, and would continue to be for another 6 years. Pages 61-64 of the same book also contain a discussion of Blavatsky from a letter written in 1905. It appears that Steiner’s opinion of Theosophy was more or less unchanged from 1902 up to his death, and is hardly unflattering.
Potentially confusing to the researcher is the fact that Steiner was very hesitant to indulge in criticism, generally favoring a tendency to emphasize the positive aspects and remain silent on what he considered negative traits. Most of his direct criticisms such as the one above come from private correspondence. This silence on negative traits has lead a number of people to misunderstand Steiner’s relationship to Haeckel, for example. Steiner gave his reasoning for this in the following manner:
“An affirmative attitude is always enlivening, while negativity is exhausting and deadening. Not only does addressing the positive aspects of the situation require moral strength, but positivity always has an enlivening effect as well, making the souls forces independent and strong.”
Rudolf Steiner. “First Steps in Inner Development” Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1999. Page 52.
Steiner recommended positivity for his students in a number of places, and generally followed this himself. When he did feel it necessary to stake out a position different from mainstream Theosophy, he tended to be quite subtle. Paying attention to these subtleties is crucial to understand how Steiner differed from mainstream Theosophy. And by “how” I mean the method as well as the details of doctrine. In the end, I find in many examples much to substantiate Steiner’s claim that he discovered Anthroposophy entirely out of himself, and used only the vocabulary of Theosophy where it suited his purposes.
In summary: There are many similarities between a variety of spiritual streams. There is a significant overlap between Anthroposophy and Theosophy on a number of points, and this is especially evident in the terminology. But there are very significant differences in the meaning of common terms, so researchers need to be careful not to confuse an understanding that is valid for Theosophy as applying equally in Anthroposophy, even if the same word or phrase is used. This is true of such basic phrases as “astral body” and “akasha chronicle”, and even more so in other areas.

Comments are closed.