Ahriman and Lucifer in the Teachings of Rudolf Steiner
John F. Nash
Originally published: The Esoteric Quarterly
This article discusses Ahriman and Lucifer, as depicted in the esoteric Teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner claimed that Lucifer incarnated some five thousand years ago, and Ahriman will incarnate sometime in the future. Their polar-opposite influences, mostly evil but occasionally favorable to human develop- ment, have been felt throughout history. Stei- ner’s thesis was that the dualism of Lucifer and Ahriman is mediated and balanced by Christ.
The article recalls the long history of Ahriman and Lucifer in scriptural and other writings and the links between them and the personages in Steiner’s work. It also discusses the various types of dualism, often depicted in human or animal forms, and the moral choices they pre- sent. The biblical Behemoth and Leviathan, which may be considered early models for Steiner’s personages, are selected for special comment.
Steiner’s teachings on Lucifer and Ahriman raise many questions, including their relation- ship to the trans-Himalayan teachings and the very nature of evil. The two entities personify dualistic evil, or at best moral ambiguity; but mediated by Christ, they seem to become agents of Divine Purpose.
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), alone among modern esoteric teachers, except for his own followers, spoke of Ahriman and Lucifer as beings with polar-opposite qualities and in- fluences. Dualism of that kind is unknown in Christianity but appears in other religious and philosophical writings. Important examples can be found in Buddhism and the Kabbalah.
Although Ahriman and Lucifer are generally depicted as evil, their influence was sometimes favorable to human development. Steiner went so far as to regard them and Christ as compris- ing a trinity, in which Christ balances the po- lar-opposite influences and builds upon what- ever good they had to offer.
According to Steiner both Ahriman and Luci- fer have influenced humanity’s development throughout history. Lucifer’s influence in- creased during the post-Atlantean epoch, be- came dominant when he incarnated in physical form, some three millennia before Christ, and slowly declined through the early centuries of the Common Era. Ahrimanic influence re- mained low for several millennia but has be- come dominant in modern times and is ex- pected to peak when he incarnates sometime in the next several centuries. The precise timing of Ahriman’s incarnation and the damage it will cause are said to depend on human action.
This article places Lucifer and Ahriman in the context of earlier religious and philosophical writings. Ahriman was an evil Zoroastrian god, while Lucifer was the product of a medieval legend that interpreted—or misinterpreted— passages in scripture to create a fallen angel and arch-demon. “Lucifer” became another name for Satan. But the two characters did not step unmodified into Steiner’s esoteric teach- ings. In fact Ahriman did not even feature in Steiner’s early work but substituted for another character whom Steiner explored and discard- ed. The way Lucifer and Ahriman evolved immediately prior to and during Steiner’s teachings makes an interesting story in itself.
The article identifies, but does not seek to an- swer, important questions raised by the discus- sion of Steiner’s Lucifer and Ahriman. One question concerns the worrisomely small over- lap with trans-Himalayan teachings. None of the trans-Himalayan teachers discusses Lucifer and Ahriman as dualistic entities. And the an- ticipated incarnation of Ahriman is hard to reconcile with the Master Djwhal Khul’s prophecies of the reappearance of the Christ and externalization of the Hierarchy.
Other questions concern the very nature of evil: whether it is monistic or dualistic, wheth- er it is necessarily personified in “beings,” and whether evil—despite its usual connotation— may play an essential role in the unfoldment of human consciousness: whether in fact it can be considered an instrument of Divine Purpose.
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