Worse Than Satan: Ahriman – The Antichrist –
as described by Rudolf Steiner a Century Ago
Despite years of research while writing Antichrist 2016-2019, I had never read about Ahriman – an evil spiritual being in early Persian religion and legend. But the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) wrote about Ahriman at great length in his final years, portraying him as a future counterbalance to Christ.
Some students of Zoroastrianism think Ahriman may be the first description of the Antichrist. In the earliest texts of Zoroaster, in Yasna 45:2 of the Avestan language Gathas, “Angra Mainyu” was the “angry spirit” or spirit of destruction or evil which was Zoroaster’s antithesis to Ahura Mazda, the spirit of good and creation. In the Persian language that followed Avestan, “Angra Mainyu” became “Ahriman.” Much later Persian traditions would write Ahriman’s name upside down in contempt for the destructive one “whose religion is evil.”
Even later concepts of Ahriman describe the Creator’s omniscient foreknowledge of Ahriman’s future evil rebellion, but that it would be wrong “to punish Ahriman before he wrought evil” before he commits it. The world must wait for the conclusive battle between good and evil, even though the Creator knows how and when evil will inevitably lose. For centuries very little was said about Ahriman until the topic was revived by Rudolf Steiner. In addition to his expertise in German philosophy, Steiner was an adept of ancient wisdom teachings and occult traditions – but towards the end of his life he adopted Christianity (at least in some ways) on top of other unorthodox beliefs.
In the traditional Christian concept of the battle between good and evil, the personification of all that is good and holy is Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God and a form of God incarnate, while the main evil being Lucifer (also known as Satan) is the one attempting to overthrow God’s plans for the universe – and humanity in particular. In many non-Christian traditions, a lesser god does this by introducing fire or knowledge or technology to mankind and is viewed not as completely evil but as the wisdom-bringer or light-bringer. In similar traditions Satan/Lucifer suggests that instead of obeying God and accepting God’s limitations for us, through greater knowledge men can become like gods themselves. Steiner said: “Luciferic wisdom was of the utmost benefit to man” and should not be viewed as inherently evil unless taken to the extreme in which God’s supremacy is questioned.
This is certainly a rare perspective on Satan, but in line with the idea that before his fall from heaven, Satan was the wisest, most beautiful, and most powerful archangel of God. Whether viewed as a light-bringer or as completely evil – the culmination of Satan’s plans to take over Earth and humanity – in traditional religious thinking – will be at the end of the present world age through Satan’s own “son” or incarnation in human form, the Antichrist.
But Steiner seems to argue for a powerful triad of influences on mankind: at the center of Steiner’s theosophic view, Christ is the good and powerful center, balancing against two distinct sources of evil extremes. (This reminds me of “the middle path” of spiritual ascent in Buddhism.) On one side, Satan acknowledges the existence of God and human spirituality, but argues that we should not be limited by God’s rule or restraints on our behavior or our acquisition of knowledge. Satan argues that we should aim to be like gods ourselves.
Ahriman, in Steiner’s theosophy, influences mankind to believe that there is no God or spirituality at all; that the material world is the whole of existence, therefore morality and religion are useless. While Satan may have helped to reveal scientific thinking and add it to early spiritual beliefs, Ahriman attempts to conceal by denying spirituality and removing religion from modern scientific thinking.
How did Steiner come to such views, and why should we take him seriously as having any kind of authority or knowledge on these topics? Steiner was an editor on the works of Goethe and Schopenhauer, and an expert on German philosophers in general. He received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Rostok – he was an accredited intellectual – and he founded his own new philosophy of Anthroposophy. This concept postulates an objective, intellectually understood spiritual world which can be directly experienced through the development of one’s mental faculties of perception, imagination, and intuition. It values independent thinking and conclusions based on intuition, though subject to rational, scientific verification. Anthroposophy merges science and spirituality without dogma or institutions, just individual rationalization.
This view of reality came after a personal vision Steiner had of meeting Christ in person. In Steiner’s words, his personal “experience culminated in my standing in the spiritual presence of the Mystery of Golgotha in a most profound and solemn festival of knowledge.” It may be difficult to take some of his unorthodox views seriously, but Steiner was not crazy. In addition to earning a PhD, lecturing in many countries, teaching as a university professor, authoring many books, and writing several plays – Steiner was also an innovator in many unrelated fields. He influenced local architecture and banking and the formation of “Camphill” homes for the developmentally disabled. He spoke out against anti-Semitism and the dangers of the new and rising Nazi party in Germany until Hitler made him flee Germany in fear. He founded the science of biodynamic agriculture, a holistic method of integrating entire farms into one organic “organism” which is now practiced widely in the United States and Europe. He founded the first Waldorf Schools, which holistically integrate their elementary school students’ intellectual and artistic development with practical applications – in over 2,000 schools in over 60 countries. Steiner was a renaissance man of many talents, but conforming to traditional religious views was not one of them.
In 1919, Steiner gave a lecture in Zurich under the name “The Ahrimanic Deception.” Early in the lecture, he said: “From many anthroposophical sources, you will know that the further we go back in mankind’s evolution, the more we find a different constitution of the human soul, and something like an ancient, original wisdom underlying the whole evolution of humanity. You know, further, that certain traditions of an ancient wisdom of mankind were preserved in close, secret circles, right into the nineteenth century. They have even been preserved into our own time — but not, for the most part, at all faithfully.”
Steiner felt that all versions of “the truth” or “religion” or “the word of God” have been warped and mistranslated and abused, such that the forms we know today are – both by accident and intentionally – are misrepresentative of the true nature of things. Steiner stated that, “a great part of mankind today is already under the control, from one side or another, of Ahrimanic forces… The Ahrimanic impulse proceeds from a supersensible Being different from the Being of Christ or of Lucifer.… The influence of this Being becomes especially powerful in the Fifth Post-Atlantean Epoch… the true nature and being of man is essentially the effort to hold the balance between the powers of Lucifer and Ahriman; the Christ Impulse helps present humanity to establish this equilibrium…”
Steiner continues: “Now it is characteristic of such things that they are prepared long in advance. Ahrimanic powers prepare the evolution of mankind in such a way that it can fall a prey to Ahriman when he appears in human form within Western civilisation… Ahriman will appear in human form and the only question is, how he will find humanity prepared?”
Will we have a strong Christian tradition and resist Ahriman, or will we have lost our spiritual way? Will we be mired in materialism and the glorification of the individual’s pursuit of pleasure – or will we cling to God and Christ through hard times (the Great Tribulation) or submit to evil (the great apostasy) under the dictatorship of Ahriman? Although the entire concept seems to present Christ as a mere balancing act, Steiner does acknowledge that while both Satan and Ahriman attempt to ruin humanity’s relationship with the divine, Christ raises humanity up from its descent into the material and brings us back to the spiritual.
Even this is hardly in line with standard Christian concepts, but since many writers delving into this subject say “Ahriman would seem to equate with the Christian perception of the Antichrist” – and I have been very interested in calculating the timing of the arrival of the Antichrist – I was intrigued to read enough to learn more about Steiner’s thoughts on this “Fifth Post-Atlantean Epoch” and see if he felt that his studies of the occult clued him in to a more precise timing of the arrival of this Antichrist figure he called Ahriman.
From all my other research, I have concluded that the last great human civilization probably was at its peak around 10,500 B.C. and was destroyed no later than 9,600 B.C. Steiner seems to say that his ages correspond approximately with 2160 year zodiac ages, so if we are about five ages in then our current time frame is certainly in the same ballpark for the arrival of Ahriman – but this still leaves us with a vague range spanning a minimum of several centuries. Has Steiner been more specific? Yes he has.
Steiner believes that Lucifer incarnated into human form first, most heavily influencing human civilization up to and for a few centuries beyond the time of Christ. Eventually Christian teachings became widespread and influential, but there was no clear demarcation from one age to another, as in different places influences from Satan lasted longer before Christian concepts were introduced and took hold. Israel was also influenced by pre-Christian concepts long before Christ, as the Old Testament had been preparing His way since at least the time of Moses.
Likewise, Steiner says that secret societies like the Illuminati and Freemasonry have been aiming to achieve an “Age of Reason” for centuries, and this attempt at a New World Order in which Christianity is just for the weak and stupid masses as Frederick Nietzsche wrote in his philosophical book: Antichrist. This also creates a chronological overlap of influence in which materialistic and Ahrimanic principles have been pushed for centuries ahead of Ahriman’s arrival.
Steiner said: “Viewed historically, we find that the Luciferic preponderated in certain currents of cultural development of the pre-Christian age and continued into the first centuries of our era. On the other hand the Ahrimanic influence has been at work since the middle of the fifteenth century and will increase in strength until an actual incarnation of Ahriman takes place among Western humanity.” Steiner believed that Lucifer incarnated into this world in China in the third millennium B.C. – over 2,000 years before the central event of Christ’s incarnation in Israel. Although Steiner ‘s “Christianity” included some highly unusual views like: “men understood the Christ through what they had received from Lucifer” – Steiner still viewed Christ as the central pivot of humanity’s spiritual influences – and chronologically, that means that Ahriman should be expected to incarnate just over 2,000 years after Christ’s incarnation.
Geographically, since Lucifer was east of Christ, Steiner expects Ahriman in the West early in the third millennium: “there will be a Western incarnation of the Ahriman being some little time after our present earthly existence, [not long after those present at the lecture in 1919 are dead] in fact, in the third post-Christian millennium.” One blog writer even claimed many years ago that: “researcher Rudolph Steiner also spoke of Ahriman. He would, said Steiner, emerge in the early 21st century in North America.” While I cannot find these exact words elsewhere, and said blogger may have sensationalized such specific details, it does appear that Steiner believed in ancient wisdom teachings suggesting that the Antichrist spirit will incarnate into a Western leader soon after the year 2000. Is there any significance to such occult teachings, or is it all deceptive nonsense? Steiner seems to be against Ahriman, but he seems at least somewhat supportive of Satan.
We can see this in Steiner’s giant sculpture “The Representative of Humanity” (the sculpture itself is in Dornach, Switzerland, in the Gotheanum – Steiner’s tribute to the works of Gothe… and the image can also be found on the book cover of The Representative of Humanity: Between Lucifer and Ahriman. In the sculpture, Jesus Christ plays a central role, with one hand raised as if to prevent or at least cushion Satan’s fall from heaven – while Ahriman is trapped in a more hellish cave below ground.
We can also detect Steiner’s preference for Satan over Ahriman in his lectures: “Strange as it may appear to many people, it is just as one-sided to view the world solely through the Gospel and reject any other search into true reality, as it is to view the world from the standpoint of Galileo and Copernicus, or of university materialistic science in general… For do not forget what I explained at the beginning of today’s lecture, how in the time in which the Gospel falls, men were still permeated by the Luciferic impulse in their thought, feeling and general views, and that they could understand the Gospel by a certain Luciferic Gnosis. But the grasp of the Gospel in this old sense is not possible today. No real understanding of the Christ can be gained if one relies merely on the Gospel, especially in the form in which it has been handed down.”
Steiner is hardly a Christian source of information. So when his conclusions on the timing of the Antichrist are supportive of my own conclusions, should I still view this occult knowledge as knowledge none the less, especially when it agrees with what I have determined from the Bible? Satan has access to the very throne room of heaven… he knows the truth… but does he deceive or enlighten? Does he use Steiner to give a misleadingly wrong time frame for the arrival of the Antichrist to throw us off course? Or does he use Steiner to give us the true timing from an occult perspective knowing Christians will then cast the baby out with the bath water and discard the truth because of the source?
Although I do not believe in “Ahriman” or agree with Steiner’s theosophical triad or that Satan and Ahriman are opposite extremes of evil, this early 21st century timing for the appearance of the Antichrist does agree with my own timeline. In researching my recent books, I calculated from biblical information and other ancient sources that the politician who is eventually revealed to be the Antichrist will be a powerful Western politician and will have Satan incarnate into his assassination surviving, miraculously revived body in June 2016.
But even if I am one hundred per cent correct in my interpretation, the date and the identity of the Antichrist cannot be conclusively known by the entire world until that day, when God commands The Restrainer to stop restraining. Only then will evil incarnate into an apparently assassinated politician at a new Jewish Temple in Jerusalem which, as of 2015, has not yet been rebuilt on the Temple Mount. No amount of academic evidence can prove my timeline ahead of God’s schedule. My books may offer unique insights into the biblical Antichrist – but in the end we all need to watch and wait to know for sure.
— contributed by David Montaigne, author of
Steiner, Rudolf. (Matthew Barton – translator.) The Incarnation of Ahriman: The Embodiment of Evil on Earth: Seven Lectures Given Between October and December 1919.