Bruce Charlton has recently written interesting things about what he calls Ahrimanic Evil. Ahriman is the spirit of darkness in the Zoroastrian theogony, but Charlton uses the term in the specialized sense it was given by the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner. Like Zoroaster, Steiner saw that Ahriman hates the light, but Steiner refined this idea by identifying light with the creative evolution of the human spirit. Steiner’s Ahrimanic Evil is therefore present in every effort to prevent creative evolution of the human spirit by keeping men and women in the dark about spirit.
In Steiner’s day materialist philosophy was the most potent expression of Ahrimanic Evil. Materialist philosophy included Newtonian physics, Darwinian biology, and the “dismal science” of political economy—most especially Marxism. Regular readers know that I like to put this under the heading of “Pig Philosophy,” Thomas Carlyle’s name for the doctrine that the universe is a sty, men are swine, and our highest aspiration is to have larger troughs and more plentiful supplies of swill.
Charlton’s notion of Ahrimanic Evil takes all of this in, but is more especially concerned with the way in which Carlyle’s universal pig sty has become an “Iron Cage of totalitarian bureaucracy.” I take this to mean that Ahriman is not content that men outwardly conform to life in the sty, oinking when we wallow in the mire and squealing when we jostle for our swill. Ahriman hates the light, and is therefore bent on destroying even the memory or hope that we might be something more than swine.
I believe this is what Charlton is getting at when he writes about the
“despair-inducing, soul-destroying, utterly-demotivating Iron Cage of totalitarian bureaucracy—where all is a single system and all Men are merely cogs to serve it.”
A bureaucrat has been wholly absorbed into his office, which is to say his function, and his function is entirely controlled by impersonal techniques, procedures and routines. He is forbidden to exercise personal judgment, considers it a sin to be “arbitrary” or “biased,” and would shrink in horror at the suggestion that he be creative. Thus a bureaucrat is reduced to an instrument that has no use for reason or will, but rather behaves (like a body in Newton’s universe, or like “a cog in a machine”) according to prescribed laws and in response to external stimuli.
As a professor, I still have considerable freedom to conduct my classes as I see fit. This means that I still exercise personal judgment and creativity, and that I am not yet an instrument performing a function controlled by impersonal techniques, procedures and routines. But I have considerably less freedom than I had even fifteen years ago, and there are powerful forces at work to lock me in the Iron Cage of a “standardized syllabus” and “best practice pedagogy.” In other words, my job is not altogether bureaucratized, but Ahrimanic Evil is seeping in on every side.
Political correctness is the most recent triumph of Ahrimanic Evil, since political correctness reduced thinking to a bureaucratic function, forbids the exercise of personal judgment (which it calls “hate”), and teaches us to shrink in horror if anyone is creative. This was the stinging insight of the recent NPC meme that depicted the politically correct as mere cogs without reason or will. Bonald just posted an excellent reflection on THE FEAR of Ahrimanic Evil that now haunts everyone who remembers or hope that we might be something more than swine.
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Ahriman hates the light, and Ahrimanic Evil therefore seeks to destroy the memory and hope of light. Steiner’s system proposes a second sort of evil that he calls Luciferic, naming this after Lucifer the “light-bringer.” As one of Steiner’s disciples wrote, two grave dangers threatened to bring about the “downfall of the Western world,” and these were “known in the language of Spiritual Science as the ‘Aharimaic and Luciferian dangers.’”*
Charlton has written interesting things about Luciferic Evil, which he identifies with the passions and sees expressed in ruthless gratification of personal lusts. Thus, Charlton writes that it is:
“instinctive, short termist, selfish and psychopathic—for example the lust which desires other people merely for sexual exploitation, or the sadism that desires torture, or the power that desires to humiliate and crush.”
This is certainly a form of evil, and it is at least superficially opposed to the cold and impersonal bureaucracy of Ahrimanic Evil. Indeed, I was very interested in what Charlton had to say about the way this Luciferian Evil serves to justify expansion of Ahrimanic Evil, and then this expansion of Ahrimanic Evil serves to provoke even more outrageous orgies of Luciferian Evil (otherwise known as the Devil’s dance of “anarcho-tyranny”).
But I wouldn’t call this evil Luciferian because it is not particularly concerned with light.
In Steiner’s anthroposophism, Luciferian Evil is, moreover, the danger that “comes out of the East.” Ahrimanic Evil is the danger that “comes out of the West.”* Now if you bear in mind that Steiner was writing primarily for central Europeans, it becomes clear that Ahrimanic Evil is the materialism of the French and English in Western Europe, and that Luciferian Evil therefore has something to do with “the wisdom of the East.”
This “wisdom of the East” included the eclectic Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, but Steiner’s Luciferian Evil encompassed any teaching that originated with what Blavatsky called a “Master of Ancient Wisdom.” Steiner was an apostle of spiritual evolution who believed that digging up the bones of old sages killed spiritual creativity just as surely as the Ahrimanic Evil of materialism.
Thus, as the disciple recently quoted wrote, the tell-a-tale mark of Steiner’s Luciferian is “to retrogress, and to act in opposition to the laws of spiritual evolution.”*
The term Luciferian comes from Steiner’s peculiar demonology, where it denotes the lowest class of defective angels who failed to evolve. Although failed as angels, these “Luciferic Spirits” are still vastly superior to humans, and were therefore sent to earth to act as teachers, guides and masters. Many of these Luciferic Spirits were “able to incarnate in human bodies,” and some became the founders of races and religions. Steiner mentions Cadmus, Cheops, Pelops, and Theseus.
Steiner believed that these Luciferic Spirits were “light bringers” in their own time, but as an evolutionist he also believed they caused nothing but mischief once their time had passed. They became, as it were, religious relics. Here is Steiner:
“We shall be able to watch a later period of civilization in which beings sent to be guides are certainly there to direct the normal progress of evolution, but in which, at the same time, other beings are intervening who were left behind at an earlier stage.”**
For Steiner, Luciferian Evil was a religious relic (or relic religion) intervening in the spiritual evolution of mankind after its time had passed. His argument is the same as the one Christians made against residual Judaism, Protestants made against residual Catholicism, and Liberal Protestants made against residual Puritanism. Steiner’s Luciferian Evil is the veneration of dead churches, or, to speak in Christian idioms, it is to make a sham religion out of old wineskins and trees that no longer bear fruit.
And nothing helps Ahrimanic Evil like the preposterous superstitions of sham religions.
This is, of course, the argument of the modernists, and although hardly so fresh and attractive as it was one hundred years ago, it is one that we traditionalists must take seriously. I don’t admit to venerating dead churches, old wineskins, or barren trees, but I do admit to being the sort of man who might be tempted to do so.
*) Ernst Boldt, From Luther to Steiner, trans. Agnes Blake (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1921).
**) Rudolph Steiner, The Spiritual Guidance of Man and of Mankind (Bethlehem, Pa.: Times Publishing Co., c. 1915).