The Imagination of Pentecost: Rudolf Steiner and Contemporary Spirituality

The Imagination of Pentecost: Rudolf Steiner and Contemporary Spirituality

by Richard Leviton
Anthroposophical Press, Hudson, N. Y, 1994; paper, 464 pages.

Channeling, the purported bringing forth of messages from beings on the "other side," has become a key aspect of the metaphysical revival of the past decade. Methods of channeling vary, ranging from a person going into a trance and letting another being speak through the person's vocal cords, to just writing down what one hears on the "inner," But how are we to evaluate channelers, the "entities" being channeled, and the information which comes forth?

Richard Leviton, in The Imagination of Pentecost, suggests that one way to evaluate channeling is to consider the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, An early member of the Theosophical Society, Steiner later founded the Anthroposophical Society and is perhaps best known for his educational ideas and for having introduced Waldorf education into the world. Besides being well-versed in Theosophy and Western philosophy, Steiner also claimed to be clairvoyant. He broke from the Theosophical Society when Annie Besant began speaking of a new world teacher and when Steiner's own clairvoyant insights seemed to contradict certain Theosophical concepts. His own ideas were also solidly rooted in the Christian mythos more than in the Eastern tradition on which Theosophy draws.

Leviton gives an overview of Steiner's rather complex ideas, including his evolutionary view of history. In the planet's early his history, Steiner said, humanity bad easy access to the higher dimensions, but individual humans had no egos of their own. As time went on, they began to develop egos, but the price was that they became increasingly materialistic and lost access to the higher dimensions. According to Steiner, this decline had reached its lowest point at the time Christ incarnated on earth in Jesus of Nazareth,

The development of ego was actually a necessary step in human evolution, according to Steiner, but the time had come to bring spirituality back to the planet. By shedding his blood in the crucifixion, Jesus forever established an etheric link between Earth and the spiritual worlds (blood, Steiner said, contains etheric energy). From then on, humanity as a whole has been able to access the spiritual worlds but, unlike ancient times, humans also now have individual wills, In Steiner's view, evolution has taken an upward turn and humanity will therefore become increasingly spiritual.

Steiner also said that Christ returned earlier in this century, but not in a physical body, Christ "came down" to the etheric level of the Earth, where all will eventually be able to see Him after developing spiritual perception.

What does all this have to do with channeling? Steiner frowned on channelers (or mediums, as they were called at the time), who go into a trance and are totally unaware of the messages they bring forth. He said that this is a throwback to earlier times in history when humans did not have individuality. In our age, we must consciously access the spiritual worlds and consciously develop our spiritual abilities. In fact, Steiner said that in the future we will all be able to speak as the Logos, just as the apostles were able to do at Pentecost.

Leviton points out that Steiner would have considered the current fascination with Unconscious channelers who bring forth messages from astral beings a dangerous trend. In fact, Steiner believed that there are two spiritual beings, Lucifer and Ahriman, who try to mislead humanity (even though they, too, are ultimately part of the Divine Plan). Leviton describes these beings in great detail and offers his own ideas about their work.

Leviton has embarked on a monumental task in attempting to show how Steiner's ideas apply in our time. While largely successful, he often presents Steiner's ideas with an excessively reverent attitude. Steiner's warnings against unconscious channeling were hardly new, having been expressed in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions and by H. P. Blavatsky and other early Theosophists as well.

Perhaps what is most troublesome about this book is the fact that although Leviton reiterates Steiner's emphasis on conscious spiritual development, readers are given no idea how to go about developing their own spiritual potential. It is left unclear whether Steiner gave any spiritual exercises for people to do. If he did, Leviton should have included at least some preliminary exercises. In the introduction, Leviton tells of his own spiritual awakening, but it was apparently not achieved through Steiner's techniques.

The Buddha told his followers to test all his words for themselves, and gave techniques for doing so. Without a means of verifying another person's clairvoyant or spiritual revelations for oneself, a person is left with little reason to value those revelations over any other. Without a means for the reader to verify the material, it matters little whether the channeler is conscious or unconscious.

Despite these flaws, Leviton has, on the whole, done a great service in bringing Steiner's ideas into the modern age, In many ways, this book acts as a kind of "Cliff's Notes" for Anthroposophy. Whether one agrees with Leviton or not (and many, including Theosophists, will find points to disagree with), he does stimulate thought and offers an intelligent and spiritually perceptive look at many metaphysical teachings. In a time when books with watered-down, simplistic metaphysics abound, this is an important contribution.


Spring 1995