Echoes of the 9th Century in Our Time

This article was first published in New View magazine Issue 81 Autumn 2016

“Matthew was an angel as a young child – sensitive, well-behaved, affectionate, often joyful, and often dreaming away on another plane. After turning nine, however, he soon changed into quite a different person.  He was sometimes rude and critical, and often moody if not downright wretched…. Prior to age seven or eight, most children are sunny, smiling, exuberant, joyful beings – little angels, for the most part. Around the ninth birthday, however, a tinge of melancholy and self-consciousness begins to creep in…. the harmonious resonance between child and the world quickly fades. The child begins to separate from the world and finds herself standing apart and alone…. Emotionally, the child experiences a withdrawal into the self for perhaps the first time, a shutting out of the outside world… the child now wants more independence and privacy…. This new desire for privacy and solitude can be unsettling for the parent: “My little baby is becoming a stranger with an inner, private life of which I cannot be part!”” (1)

Teachers all over the world are familiar with what happens in a child’s soul life around the 9th year. In Waldorf education it’s called the 9th Year ‘Crisis’ or ‘Change’. An element of shadow enters into the child’s soul, the beginnings of doubt and fear and loneliness. As human beings we have to find our way in life between contrary forces inspiring imbalance – between excessive soul expansion (e.g. vanity, self-aggrandisement, unworldliness) and excessive soul contraction (e.g. fear, self-abasement, timidity).   Rudolf Steiner described the contraction of the soul as being inspired by spiritual beings of contraction, which he called ‘ahrimanic’ forces, (derived from the old Persian (Avestan) name for the spirit of the Lie and of Darkness – Angra Mainyu, in Middle Persian (224 BC -645 AD) called Ahriman). Normally in life, assuming the child has not been surrounded by fear and hostility from a very young age, it first encounters these ahrimanic forces of soul contraction at the time of the 9th year change. One of the ways in which Waldorf education attempts to assist the child in passing through this crisis and giving it the confidence to do so is by exposing it to the Norse myths in the Waldorf curriculum at this time, with their powerful images of light and dark and their heroic and courageous figures. In our day, the works of authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling are often very much appreciated by children at this age. What might seem at first a negative development in the life of the child at this time actually has its place in the child’s development because the experience of soul contraction prepares the child for its experience of itself as an individual and not just a member of a family or collective. In adolescence, this sense of separation then develops intensely, and many of the issues that occur in a young person’s life in adolescence, for good or ill, depend on how the child went through the 9th year crisis or change. Ahrimanic forces begin to steal into the child’s sub-consciousness at this time and supportive adults at home, in school and elsewhere, can take action to help the child cope with this experience.

Ahriman Head
If we now turn to history, at the end of the years of the First World War, in November and December 1919, Steiner spoke for the only time about the approaching incarnation of the spiritual being of Ahriman ‘himself’ in the West; from what he said the period of this incarnation could well be sometime in the 21st century. Steiner spoke about this in a threefold context in 1919, relating the coming incarnation of Ahriman to the incarnation of the being Lucifer in China c.3000 BC and to that of Christ in Jesus 2000 years ago. Three great incarnations, each of which,  he said, only occurs once on the earthly plane. They are like three great pillars in the history of mankind. We can also think of Christ crucified and the two thieves crucified on either side of Him, one of whom rejects Him and the other of whom recognises Him and asks for forgiveness. In the context of this article we could say that ‘the East’ recognises Him and ‘the West’ rejects Him. Whilst at first this may seem a rather strange notion, it begins to have an authentic, somewhat prophetic, ring to it when we see how today, in China and Korea and other parts of Asia, Christianity is growing steadily, whilst in the West, especially the English-speaking world, it is under increasing intellectual, academic, legal and governmental attack, as well as in the media. Steiner first spoke of those three great incarnations within the context of the movement for the threefold social organism that emerged from within the anthroposophical movement in the years 1917-1922, during and just after the First World War. We shall see that there is a particular relation between the period of the last 100 years, and especially the First World War, and the 9th century and the 9 year change in the child. What this relationship is about is the encounter with Ahriman, the ‘inspirer’ of spiritual contraction – in the individual soul of the child at 9 years old, in the world of the 9th century, and now in the 21st century, as humanity as a whole faces the imminent incarnation of Ahriman. Furthermore, there is a particular individual who stands at the centre of these developments in the 9th and 20th centuries and links them.

Helmuth von Moltke
There was a military man who figured very large in the life of Rudolf Steiner. He did so just when Steiner’s life was experiencing its great crisis in terms of its mission and task in his latest incarnation, namely, the First World War which threatened to ruin much of what he had worked to build up – literally, in the case of the great building he began to construct in Dornach, Switzerland as an international centre for the anthroposophical movement.(2)  Nor should we forget Steiner’s words at the Anthroposophical Society’s Christmas Conference which re-founded the Society on 25 December 1923, when he said, after speaking the ‘Foundation Stone meditation’ (3)  for the first time in public: “My dear friends! Today when I look back specifically to what it was possible to bring from the spiritual words while the terrible storms of war were surging across the earth, I find it all expressed as though in a paradigm in the trio of verses your ears have just heard… only in the last decade have I myself been able to bring it to full maturity while the storms of war were raging.” (emphasis – TB.) When war broke out, Steiner closed the esoteric School he had been leading for several years before the war, yet it was during the war itself that he brought to fruition his own profoundly esoteric thoughts relating to the threefold human being, the threefold social organism and the threefold nature of human and cosmic reality, as we find it expressed in the Foundation Stone meditation.(4) Indeed, the war itself had a threefold nature because although it appeared to be at first a struggle between two armed blocs of three Powers each: the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey) and the ‘Triple Entente’ (Britain, France, Russia), there was very much a threefold motif to it in that Central Europe found itself under attack from  East and West.


It is often forgotten that German territory was attacked and invaded by both France and Russia in the opening days and weeks of the war, well before the German army entered France on 24 August. War having begun between Germany and Russia on 1 August, with France on 3 August and with Britain on 4 August, the French and Russian armies invaded the German Empire on the same day, 7 August, in an obviously long-planned and coordinated move (5): on that day the French moved into Alsace in southwestern Germany, and the Russians invaded East Prussia in north eastern Germany. In overall charge of both defending German territory in the East and the West and also of supervising the German offensive in the West against France was the military figure mentioned above: Helmuth von Moltke (1848-1916), Chief of the German General Staff, who died on 18 June 1916, a hundred years ago. Although Moltke had shown some interest in Steiner’s work before 1914 his wife Eliza had been one of Steiner’s closest pupils since 1903 – that interest only really deepened after his dismissal by the Kaiser in November 1914, after the failure to win the critical Battle of the Marne in early September. In the last 1½ years of his life Moltke entered much more into the anthroposophical life, although he never actually became a member of the Anthroposophical Society. After his death on 18 June 1916  – he suffered a heart attack while giving a speech in commemoration of his late friend General Colmar von der Goltz, who had died in April outside Baghdad leading the Turkish forces against a British invading army – Steiner gave two addresses commemorating Moltke himself on 19 and 20 June at Moltke’s bier. For eight years after this (24.7.1916 – 17.6.1924) he was in communication with the soul of the deceased Moltke and passed on what he received from the Moltke individuality to Moltke’s widow, Eliza. He never did this with any other person. Nor was this any kind of unconscious or semi-conscious ‘channelling’; Steiner was fully conscious throughout these communications.

Pope Nicholas I
Sometime in late 1914 or 1915 Steiner had revealed to Moltke the enormous ramifications of Moltke’s own karma through the fact that he had been, in a previous incarnation, Pope Nicholas I (24.4.858 – 13.11.867), sometimes called ‘Saint Nicholas the Great’. The conventional view of Pope Nicholas is as follows: “Christianity in Western Europe was then in a most melancholy condition. The empire of Charlemagne had fallen to pieces, Christian territory was threatened both from the north [Vikings] and the east [Muslims; also from the south], and Christendom seemed on the brink of anarchy. Christian morality was despised; many bishops were worldly and unworthy of their office. There was danger of a universal decline of the higher civilization. Pope Nicholas appeared as a conscientious representative of the Roman Primacy in the Church. He was filled with a high conception of his mission for the vindication of Christian morality, the defence of God’s law against powerful bishops.”(6) Nicholas was faced with four great challenges: from the Franks (west), from the Vikings (north), from the Byzantines (east), and from the Muslims (south).

The “powerful bishops” referred to above were particularly Frankish bishops of the kingdom of Middle Francia, or Lotharingia, who supported King Lothair II against Rome and Nicholas’ assertion of papal control. Lotharingia, created in 843 at the Treaty of Verdun when Emperor Louis the Pious’ Carolingian Empire, inherited from Charlemagne, was split into three parts, consisted of a long collection of territories between what is now France and Germany, running from Holland in the north, through Belgium, the Rhineland, Switzerland and northern Italy down to Rome in the south. From Lotharingia comes the name Lorraine. The other two parts of the divided Empire were western Francia, ruled by Charles the Bald (this would later become France) and eastern Francia; ruled by Ludwig or Louis the German, this would later become Germany. Much of European history over the next thousand years would have to do with the heritage and destiny of the territories of what was Lotharingia in the 9th century.

But the rulers of all these lands were originally from the Germanic peoples, who had invaded the Roman Empire centuries before, and these Germanic invaders brought a strong impulse in the direction of individuality, both tribal and personal. For example, these tribes fiercely defended and affirmed their own people’s characteristics as distinct from those of other tribes, and had traditionally chosen their leaders on the basis of respected personal qualities of leadership and courage rather than on inherited blood.  In the fragile state of Europe in the 9th century, which was also being beset by the Vikings and the Muslims – and, from the Roman Catholic point of view, by Byzantine religious and cultural influence from Constantinople – the individualistic propensities of the barely Christianised Germanic rulers often tended towards anarchy. Seeing the Church as the bastion of civilisation and order, Nicholas was determined to bring the Germanic rulers and the bishops who supported them to heel. Another individualistic element coming from the north and west, behind this Germanic Frankish element, was the remaining heritage of Celtic Christianity which had had a profound influence throughout west-central Europe due to Irish monks’ missionary efforts since the 5th century. This was still very much present among the common people on the continent even after the defeat of the Celtic church by the Roman, symbolised by the Synod of Whitby in England in 664.(7)  Celtic Christianity tended to be more focused on the experience of individual personalities and on the circumstances of local regions than the Roman Catholic church, with its universalist pretensions, which saw itself as the inheritor of the order of the Roman Empire, the Empire-become-Christian allegedly by divine will, as it were. The two streams of Celtic spirituality and Frankish Germanic ‘political’ self-assertion, which included the beginnings of what later would become the cult of the knights and of chivalry, combined to produce, precisely in the 9th century, in the lifetime of Pope Nicholas, the historical origins of the Grail legend. This focused on the individual’s search for his own path to the spirit, which would become crucial after the beginning of the modern period in the 15th century, but in the 9th century, according to Steiner and other anthroposophers such as Walter Johannes Stein (8), Pope Nicholas and his counsellor Anastasius Bibliothecarius (‘the Librarian’) judged that the societies of western and central Europe were not yet ready for such an individualism; the Celtic and Germanic tendencies to individualism would have to be combatted, as, obviously, would the pagan Germanic impulses reappearing in the Viking raids and invasions. In 845, the Vikings sacked Paris; in 860 the Danes threatened Paris again but were bought off, the Varangian Rus (mostly Swedish Vikings) attacked Constantinople; in 865 the Great Danish Heathen Army invaded England and was ultimately only stopped from conquering all of England by the victory of King Alfred (‘the Great’) at the Battle of Edington in 878. In 885-6 came another, much more massive Viking assault on Paris, which failed. Throughout the 9th century, the Vikings raided, plundered, pillaged, raped and settled along the coasts and up the rivers of western Europe from Scotland to Spain and Italy.

The 9th century
They also headed east from Sweden into Russia, established themselves under their leader Rurik at Novgorod in 862 and eventually encountered the Byzantines and the Muslims via the trades routes and great river systems of southern Russia and the Black Sea. Here were two other streams that Pope Nicholas sought to prevent entering western-central Europe, because, according to Steiner, as someone with initiate knowledge, Nicholas knew that the Orthodox Rite (the ritual of worship in the Eastern Christian Church centred on Byzantium/Constantinople), with its emphasis on mystical ritualism that had a direct effect on the human etheric body (9) through the combined effect of art and repeated rhythmical habits, was not suitable for the peoples of western-central Europe. It kept people in a more collective state of consciousness which was more similar to those of the cultures of Asia, against which the Greeks and Romans had long struggled. Something similar could be said of the Muslims, who combined the universalist pretensions of the Roman Church with a rejection of Christ as the Son of God and of the individual human will which was to be absolutely subject to Allah. In Byzantine Christianity and in Islam, Nicholas and Anastasius saw something Asiatic and heretical that could not be allowed into their European world. To sum up: the dangers were of too much individualism for the souls of Europeans coming from the north and west (Celts, Franks, Vikings) and too much collectivism coming from the south and east. These influences had to be kept out of western and central Europe. A spiritual and political bulwark had to be erected against these influences, and a spiritual and political offensive had to be conducted against them. Hence the great energy for which Pope Nicholas I is known.  Nicholas and Anastasius wanted to preserve a kind of balance of the soul in Europe, a balance that would be held by the Roman Church through its intellectual dogmas and through its moderate (compared to Orthodox rites) use of ritual in the Mass. This, they felt, would serve best to guide the still semi-barbaric peoples of western-central Europe in their time. But Nicholas, indeed more likely, Anastasius, also had an initiated perspective of the future; they knew that, from their time, the 9th century, the ahrimanic element had to enter thoroughly into human evolution, so that a thorough knowledge of the material world could be gained by human beings. There were, of course dangers associated with this development – which indeed we have with us right into our time today – that morally and socially people might be overwhelmed with the opening of all this knowledge and, with it, a certain control over the material world. Yet a way had to be prepared for this and Europe would be the cultural stage for it. According to Steiner, Nicholas and Anastasius knew that individualism, tempered and controlled by the Church, and intellectualism, fostered and guided by the Church, would be essential to provide a basis for the coming materialistic European culture and its ahrimanic impulses. Just as Christ knew what Judas had to do and why, and enabled him to do it so that the Crucifixion and the Resurrection could occur, Nicholas and Anastasius knew that Ahriman and his impulses had to enter into European culture if a natural science were to develop that could be, eventually, complemented by a spiritual science.

This is a profound perspective. It points to the understanding of the role of evil, radical imbalance, in human evolution. Every good drama requires a ‘bad’ element, to provide the resistance to proper human development against which humanity can struggle and effect change. Judas betrayed Christ; that betrayal was a necessary, indeed an indispensable part of the great drama of Golgotha. His betrayal involved 30 pieces of silver. Peter denied Christ three times; from the Bible we learn that a rooster crowed each time he did so) and it is of interest that Nicholas apparently was the Pope who ordered that a rooster be put on the top of every Christian church to remind the faithful of Peter’s denial of Christ. Given that Nicholas was Pope of the church that claims to ground its authority in Christ’s words to Peter (the rock), Nicholas’ order may well indicate a remarkable degree of insight into the role of evil (which the Catholic Church sees as sin, beginning with the ‘original sins’ of Lucifer and Adam – the ‘serpent’ and Man in the garden of Eden) in human development. Within this ‘fallen’ world, evil has a crucial role to play. Without it, we do not in fact progress in moral development. This was also the insight of the Rosicrucians and the reason for their symbol of the cross and the rose, a flower which even has a thorn as part of itself.

RC 3F cosmos

First, there is darkness, then a split into light and dark and then a gradual enlightenment of the darkness by the light, and finally there is all light. Little children live and play in the light but then comes the ‘fall’ of puberty and hopefully, later in life a re-finding of light with the wisdom of maturity. But little children also live in the ‘darkness’ of unknowing, of ignorance; they grow into the light of knowledge but again, with puberty, that light of the mind often becomes cold, aggressive, critical  yet with maturity, warmth and wisdom can transform the light of knowledge. There is ‘crucifixion’ (fixity) into death, suffering and darkness, and then there is ‘resurrection’, a raising up into the light, into what is right, joyful and serene. One could also see in this way the relationship between materialistic natural science that developed out of the thoughts of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and others in the 17th century and spiritual science, which in anthroposophy emerged in the 20th century out of the Rosicrucian stream. Natural science observes the fixed facts; spiritual science raises these up into dynamic life in the light of spiritual realities. The 17th century Rosicrucians themselves were part of a stream that could be said to have its deeper roots in the Grail story that began in the 9th century, although there is no space to go into that here. It is a story in which moral light and darkness are intimately intertwined.

Helmuth & Eliza von Moltke

Nicholas, guided by Anastasius, could perceive some of this long-term historical development. Whether they could also perceive the coming incarnation of the being of Ahriman in the 21st century is another matter, but in the 20th century, Nicholas (in his incarnation as Helmuth von Moltke) made his own way to anthroposophy, guided by his wife in that new life, Eliza. In his after-death communications to Steiner, he shows (22.6.1918) that he understands that in his next life, his task will have to be the opposite of what it was in the 9th and 20th centuries. Instead of protecting Central Europe from influences from East and West, which he did as both Pope and General, he says (19.10.1916) he will now have to strive to link eastern and central Europe, German and Slavic culture, which will be the crucial determinant of future cultural progress in Europe, as the Slavs will be the vanguard culture in the Europe of the future, that vanguard having previously moved over the ages from the south to the north, west and centre, from the Mediterranean to the Germanic peoples. In the after-death communications, the Moltke individuality reveals that in the 9th century “the counsellor [Anastasius] would often say then: ‘the spirits will withdraw from Europe but later on the Europeans will long for them. Without the spirits the Europeans will make their machines and institutions. They will excel at that. But in doing so, they will breed in their midst the western people who will drive ahrimanic culture to its highest peak and take their place”(28.7.1918). The “western people” no doubt refers to the English-speaking people who, being Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings) were bred among the Europeans but who, in America have driven ahrimanic culture, in everything to do with computing, to its highest peak. Indeed, whereas in the year 869, at the 8th Ecumenical Council of the Church (also known as the 4th Council of Constantinople), according to Steiner, the Church “abolished the human spirit”, rendering the human being a Dichotomy (dual being) of body and soul only, without an individual spirit, and in the 19th and 20th centuries, British and Central European psychology, natural science and Marxist politics, abolished the soul, reducing the soul  to “the forces in an individual that influence thought, behaviour and personality” which were all regarded as material in origin, so today, in the 21st century, American cyberneticists and ‘transhumanists’ such as Ray Kurzweil (10) are seeking to abolish the human body altogether and replace it with a mechanical, ceramic or other kind of ‘vehicle’ for consciousness: a threefold abolition of the human spirit, soul and body. These are all phenomena that have been part of the preparation over the past 1200 years for the imminent incarnation of Ahriman on the physical plane. Such is the necessary process that has, since the time of Bacon and then the  Industrial revolution,  been forced through by “the western people who will drive ahrimanic culture to its highest peak.”

Britain’s choice
But here we are faced with two great challenges. Clearly, the role of the British people in this ahrimanic development has been superseded by the Americans over the past 100 years, in all areas – technology, the military, business, finance and culture. But on 15.1.1917, after a discussion of the relationships between the Latin peoples and religion, the French and politics and the military, and the British and economics,  Steiner said: “nobody need believe, therefore, that the mission of the British people will not  – out of inner necessity – become fact: namely, the mission to found a universal commercial and industrial monarchy over the whole earth… nobody should believe that British politics will ever be morally reformed and withdraw, out of consideration for the world, from the pretension to dominate the world industrially and commercially.” Yet in January 1917, it may well not have been clear to Steiner how far and how soon the USA was in fact going to supersede Britain and take its place as a result of the world wars of the 20th century, how far America was going to take Britain into “imperial receivership”, as the popular American mid-century writer James Burnham put it in his bestseller, The Managerial Revolution (1941). It does not seem that Steiner imagined the British Empire would collapse as quickly as it did as a result of the two world wars.. But today it is a fact: Britain has become but a puppet state of the USA, taking its lead from its former colony in almost all areas of life  – except perhaps soccer! Much was made by the proponents of Brexit in this year’s EU referendum of the issues of ‘independence and sovereignty’. Britain would be able to take back control and regain its sovereignty by leaving the EU, claimed the Brexiteers. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP and the man who arguably had done more than anyone else to bring about the referendum, trumpeted after victory on 23 June that “this is Britain’s independence day!” But while it may have signalled the beginning of the end of dependence on the European Union, it did nothing whatsoever about ending Britain’s status as chief overseas puppet of the USA, or “Airstrip One”, to use the Orwellian term from Orwell’s novel, 1984. As one of his last acts as Prime Minister, David Cameron managed to slip in a parliamentary debate and vote on a new generation of US-built Trident nuclear missiles just before the summer recess. There is no prospect of such missiles ever being an “independent” deterrent that could be used without an American say-so, and Britain will be dependent on the US for technical upgrades etc. The cost over the 30 year lifetime of the new missiles has been estimated to be in the region of £179 billion (11). At a time when the country was exhausted after the Brexit referendum and looking forward to the summer holidays, and following a very short period of debate in Parliament and no real national debate on the issue, Parliament voted on 18 July to renew Trident by 472 votes to 117. Nigel Farage soon resigned as leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and popped up in the USA, speaking in support of Donald Trump’s bid for the US Presidency. It is likely that Farage will continue to ‘trumpet’ Britain’s loyalty throughout the world to the cause of the ‘Five Eyes’ (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), the five states that share intelligence secrets only with each other and with no non-English-speaking countries and are thus in a position to maintain a culturally-rooted, monolingual – in effect, chauvinist -  global surveillance network. After the Brexit vote, if the British are really interested in ‘independence and sovereignty’, it is a declaration of their own independence from their former colony that they will need to issue at some point, and until they do, ‘independence and sovereignty’ will be empty words, whereas those words of Steiner in January 1917 are likely to remain essentially valid. The Brexit vote then has brought the British people to a historic crossroads – to decide whether they, as individuals, wish to take responsibility for their country remaining an American puppet state and thus, vicariously, part of the Anglo-American elite drive “to dominate the world industrially and commercially”, or whether they wish to take responsibility for seeking a very different, non-hegemonic future for their country, a future in which economic life is not seen as competitive national warfare, survival of the fittest, but as an opportunity for global human cooperation between producers, distributors and consumers.

USUK AA flag archway

From North and South…
If, as seems to be the case, Nigel Farage and UKIP head towards “an ever closer union” with what they perceive to be Britain’s racial and linguistic cultural progeny and relatives, then we shall in the  21st century be faced with yet another echo of the 9th century: in his after-death communication of 28.7.1918, Moltke also said that from the 9th century onwards “the spirits [would] withdraw from Europe but later on the Europeans [would] long for them.” The ‘spirits’ that some men end up longing for may not be necessarily benign, and this is the situation today across Europe.  It is widely recognised that traditional forms of the Christian religion have substantially faded in Europe since the First World War, notably in Britain and the Czech Republic. But it has been said that if men reject religion and faith they will inevitably feel the need to fill the void with a substitute because, as human beings, we need to make sense of the world; we need a worldview, be it great and uplifting, as with spiritual science or mean, trivial, and essentially non-human such as the animal struggle for survival, survival of the fittest etc. This was the worldview that Adolf Hitler adapted from Social Darwinism and through it, turned faith in race and nation into a religion for a ‘New Order’. Although most leading Nazis, such as Hitler and Himmler, had been brought up Catholics, their actions were fundamentally anti-Christian and they looked to restore aspects of neo-pagan culture – some of the ancient customs and beliefs of northern Europe.

Today, under the surface of what is presented by the mainstream media, yet indirectly stimulated by those media in many respects, a ‘new’ neo-paganism, a new ‘Viking’ spirit, is spreading throughout Europe and N. America. People rightly sense that the old establishment forces are decaying and have nothing to offer, but they feel that the  Old Marxist Left has nothing to offer either, so they look, especially the young, increasingly to groups such as the American ‘Alt-Right’ (12)(since 2009) or in Europe, the Identitarian Movement (since 2002)(13). These movements are still relatively small, but they are no flash-in-the-pan phenomena like the Occupy Movement of 2011-2013.(14)  They have been gradually building since the end of the 1980s. Despite being localist, nationalist, or racist, these groups are often united across national lines by concern for what they call ‘defence of the white race’, resistance to ‘white genocide’. The slogan of the Identitarian Movement in Germany, for example, is: “Freiheit, Heimat, Tradition! Multikulti – Endstation!” (Freedom, homeland, tradition. Multi-culti stops here!” They use the Internet to organise and communicate internationally and increasingly adopt provocative forms of street protest or street activism reminiscent of left-wing groups. They either assert traditionalist European ‘Christian’ values or, more radically, reject the Semitic religions altogether and look to revive some form of Nordic Odinism, sometimes referred to as ‘Asatru’. This is already far beyond older established Right-wing groups such as the KKK, the Aryan Nation in America, the National Democratic Party in Germany, the Front National in France or the British National Party in Britain, and it is mainly driven by young people. An international group of vigilantes called the ‘Soldiers of Odin’, founded in Finland (!) in 2015  has already  spread throughout many countries from N. America, a number of European countries and Australia; their activities can be observed on Youtube. In the void caused by the breakdown of traditional structures, and in the absence of any viable alternative spiritual and cultural answers to today’s problems, answers that seek to create new community on the basis of free individuals  – in the absence of spiritual science in their lives, for example – many young people today, looking for inspiring ‘heroic’ ideals, are drawn to modern rehashes of ancient collectivist values in order to defend what they see as ‘their culture’ from ‘foreign invasion’ – usually the talk is of invasion by ‘Islam’. The migrant crisis that accelerated in 2014, driven by the war in Syria that has itself been a proxy war between Russia and America and its Arab allies, has given an enormous stimulus to these movements. These young people’s modern, usually ‘liberal’ education has utterly failed to help them learn to think as individuals who can feel rooted in themselves as spiritual beings or who can practise the discernment needed to thread their way through the cacophony of competing ideas all around them; instead, they feel the need to turn to unconscious will forces that false thinking associates with neo-paganism, Odinism (Asatru), etc. – which has usually been generated by people much older than themselves. In this distorted form of idealism, which is actually a longing for a spiritual worldview, one can see many of the features that marked the young people who were drawn to Nazism in the confusion of Weimar-era Germany (c. 1918-1933).

And, as in the 1920s and 30s, this longing is often shaped and defined in relation to a  ‘dangerous Other’ that is perceived as a threat to one’s own group. Ironically, this is very similar to what motivates young Muslims to join a group like I.S.- the sense that one’s people (the Muslim umma, or community) are being invaded, assaulted, and mistreated in their own homelands by outsiders. When the Moltke individuality said that “a world age has come to an end. It began in the ninth century in Rome“ (29.7.1923) and that “the Europe initiated then [in the 9th century] has run its course. It must be understood that this is the past not the present” (13.1.1924), he was referring to the impulse given by himself as Pope Nicholas in the mid-9th century when he initiated the drive towards central control by the Papacy. As the intellectual ‘head’ of Europe for the next 700 years (c.860-c.1560) that claimed to determine the direction of Europe and informed that of the ancien regime for the following 400 (c.1560-1918), the Church of Rome’s European order came to its ultimate end in the First World War.

But in this early part of the 21st century, it is striking that we are seeing significant echoes of the 9th century in Europe in the re-emergence of neo-paganism from within Europe and in the Muslim challenge to Europe from without. Whether or not some or all of the terrorist outrages in Europe in recent years have been so-called ‘false flag’ operations organised by western ‘security’ (!) services along the lines of NATO’s Operation Gladio in the 1970s and 80s (15), the fact remains that within the enormous waves of overwhelmingly Muslim migrants that have come to Europe since 2014 there has been plenty of opportunity to use these for terrorist purposes. Meanwhile, some extreme radical Muslims who have been living in the Europe for decades openly brag that within a generation or two Muslims will have bred Europeans out of their own continent and indeed, at least until the emergence of ISIS in 2014, the number of European converts to Islam was steadily rising. In 2011 the American Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimated that  “the Muslim share of the population [of Europe] is expected to grow by nearly one-third over the next 20 years, rising from 6% of the region’s inhabitants in 2010 to 8% in 2030”(16). That’s from 44.1 million to 58.2 million.

East and West
In addition, we are seeing today a highly tense situation in relations between Russia and the West, that is, between a culture that sees itself as the inheritor of the Orthodox Byzantine tradition and a culture that sees itself as the inheritor of Europe’s western religious tradition(s). We see real strain between two presidents (Obama and Putin) where in the 9th century there was a conflict between a Pope (Nicholas) and a Patriarch (Photios), a conflict that eventually led to the split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches – a split that still has not seen a formal reconciliation. In many respects Britain and America, though not Roman Catholic states as such, have elites that have historically regarded themselves as the inheritors of the Roman Empire, while Moscow, since the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, has long laid claim to being the ‘Third Rome’. So here too, we see a situation that bears comparison with the 9th century. And finally, just as the 9th century gave birth to the historical circumstances of the Grail story which would later be so important for Christian esotericism, but which at that time was latent, all but hidden beneath the turbulent events of the times, so also today, in Europe there is the Christian esotericism of anthroposophy, further on in its own historical development than was the 9th century Grail impulse in a way, but also barely visible beneath the turbulent events of the times. It took 400 years before the Grail stories surfaced in literature c.1200 and another 400 years before the Rosicrucian impulse brought the Grail impulse of esoteric Christianity into full public view with the Rosicrucian Manifestos (1614, 1615) and the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1616). In Steiner’s time spiritual science certainly became publicly visible, especially after 1918. His impulses in relation to social threefolding were supported by many leading figures, such as the writer Hermann Hesse, and attacked by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. How long will it be before the impulses of spiritual science become visible again in wider public life?

The Year 869
There is one other sense in which the 9th century echoes powerfully in our time. The Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne spanned most of the century, from 800 to 888 when it collapsed under the assaults of Viking and Muslim invaders and also due to the infighting and venality of its own elites. We can find a contemporary complement to this if we apply a certain principle of esoteric history, first introduced by Steiner on 17.2.1918 (Collected Works GA 174a) which we can call the ‘axial principle’; on that occasion Steiner said: “in the deeper structure of events as they proceed we may [find] a repetition of what preceded them. … starting from an incisive historical event (emph. – TB), you will find the preceding spiritual event repeated in the subsequent one.” So the years equidistant of a certain central axis point stand in a certain relationship to one another: the preceding spiritual event(s) of the year and the subsequent earthly event(s) as consequence. Let us take the year 1413 as an incisive year in spiritual history, the year Steiner always gave as the beginning of our modern epoch. If we look ahead 544 years from that date to the year 1957, we find the earthly event of the Treaty of Rome, which founded the European Economic Community and was a major milestone in the development of the European and American elites’ project to create a United States of Europe. Looking back 544 years from 1413, we come to the year 869, one of the most significant years in spiritual and earthly history. In that year events occurred at a number of levels; according to Steiner (27.8.1924, GA 240), at the highest level, “there took place a meeting of the Christ with His own Image, with His own Life-Spirit brought over from pagan, pre-Christian Christianity.” This refers to the spiritual meeting of the Christian Grail stream coming from the East encountering the Arthurian Celtic stream coming from the West which had carried a Druidic knowledge of the Christ Being in the elements since at least the time of the Incarnation. That was in 869! Also in 869, in the spiritual world, there was a meeting, says Steiner, between the  individualities of Alexander the Great and his teacher Aristotle and Harun al-Rashid and “his Counsellor” (probably Yahya ibn Khalid; Steiner does not give the name); this was a meeting between what Steiner calls “Mohammedanised Aristotelianism” and “Christianised Aristotelianism”, that is, between the Aristotelian impulse which had passed through Islamic culture and that which had entered into Christian culture. This meeting would be of great significance for the later emergence of Rosicrucianism in the 17th century, when Harun al-Rashid reincarnated, says, Steiner, as Francis Bacon. We recall that Rosi-crucianism consists of the two aspects the Cross and the Rose, which give us natural and spiritual science respectively.

Hagia Sophia Interior

Meanwhile, in the same year, two very significant events occurred on earth, one of which, says Steiner “was an earthly shadow of something that took place in the spiritual world. A constant connection was maintained between what was proceeding in the physical world and in the immediately adjacent spiritual world” (27.8.1924, GA 240). This was the disastrous 8th Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (5.10. 869 – 28.2. 870), referred to earlier, which “abolished” the individual human spirit and declared the human being to be a being of body and soul only – the reduction of the human Trichotomy to a Dichotomy. In parallel to this was the Treaty of Meerssen (8.8.870) which abolished and divided the kingdom of Lotharingia between the French and German brothers of King Lothair II of Lotharingia, who had died exactly a year earlier on 8.8.869. Here a political Trichotomy was reduced to a Dichotomy. From this time onward the rulers of France and Germany would fight for centuries over the territories that had constituted Lotharingia. The Carolingian Empire continued in nominal existence under the grandsons of Charlemagne but it finally expired in 888, with the death of the incompetent Charles the Fat, under whom for a short period the entire empire had become reunited; he was great-grandson of Charlemagne. Now, if 869 corresponds to 1957 around the axis point of 1413, then the first year of the Carolingian empire, 800, around that same axis point, corresponds to 2026. The empire ended in 888, which, around the axis point of 1413, brings us to 1938, the year of Hitler’s seizure of power in Austria and of his triumph in the Munich crisis; it was the eve of the Second World War, out of which came the plans for the United States of Europe, announced by Winston Churchill in three major speeches in 1946, ‘47 and ’48 in Zurich, London and The Hague respectively. It is known that Jean Monnet (1888-1979), arguably the architect and ‘fixer’ of the EU project, though not its ultimate conceiver, was already thinking while in Algeria in 1943 (17) of how a kind of economic ‘Lotharingia’ (his term) could be recreated that would yoke together the French and German coal and steel industries as the basis for the joint economy of a United States of Europe. This process towards such a union has been maintained since that time. Today, after Brexit, EU bureaucrats are planning the next step: a single European treasury or finance ministry and a single budgetary regime.


We can ask: is the attempt to recreate Carolingian Lotharingia and a United States of Europe  – perhaps even by some of the same, reincarnated, individuals – a direct reflection of the ill-fated attempt in the 9th century to create and hold together the renewed ‘ Roman Empire’, which in the end lasted only 88 years? On Christmas Day Pope Leo III reportedly surprised Charlemagne by suddenly placing the imperial crown on his head in St Peter’s Basilica Rome and calling him Imperator Romanorum (Emperor of the Romans). In the 9th century then, it was the Roman Church that sought to create and maintain a resurrected Roman Empire by using the forces of the Germanic Franks. In the 20th and 21st centuries it has been  the ‘New Rome’, the USA, that has used the forces of the ‘modern Franks’, the French and the Germans, to create and maintain a Neo-Carolingian entity, the ‘European Union’.  If we assume that the present effort to resurrect such a new ‘Roman Empire’ (recall that key founding moment in 1957, the Treaty of Rome) began with the Second World War c.1938, will it last longer than the year which corresponds to 800, namely, 2026? Certainly, after Brexit, the prospects of the EU lasting beyond the mid-2020s do not look so good…

(2) Attacks on Steiner’s activities in Switzerland during the war – he was not a Swiss citizen – meant that that there was a continual danger he would be expelled from the country and would thus be unable to finish the ‘Goetheanum’ building in Dornach.
(3) The 4 verses of the Foundation Stone meditation are a kind of encapsulation of anthroposophy itself, which Steiner saw as a foundation for members’ commitment to the re-founded Society at the Christmas Conference in December 1923, a year after the destruction of the Goetheanum by arson. The meditation relates the threefold physiology of man to the threefold structure of the human soul and of the spiritual world. The first three verses thus have a very threefold and even ninefold structure: three aspects each of body, soul and spirit.
(4) See n.3 above.
(5) Franco-Russian joint military planning went back to the beginning of the secret Franco-Russian military convention, signed on 10 Aug. 1892 which provided for “immediate and simultaneous (joint) mobilisation of the totality of their forces… ” “for an attack on Germany”. See G. Kennan, The Fateful Alliance, (1984) p.181.
(7) At the Synod, at which Bishop Colman of Northumbria spoke for the position of the Iona clergy and Wilfrid for the Roman position, King Oswy of Northumbria declared in favour of the customs of the Roman Church instead of those of the Celtic Church; this signalled the beginning of the end of Celtic Christian dominance in England and through Europe.
(8) See his book The Ninth Century and the Holy Grail (Temple Lodge, 1988).
(9) In anthroposophical teaching, the etheric, or life body is that part of the human organism which sustains life, memory, habits and a sense of time. See R. Steiner, Theosophy, Ch.1.
(10) Kurzweil is, amongst other things, a senior researcher at Google (since 2012). See his books The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) and The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2006)
(12) Alternative Right – alternative conservative white nationalist movement in the USA. Main spokesman: Richard Spencer (b.1978) president of the National Policy Institute and founder of Alternative Right website (
(13) The Identitarian Movement began in France in 2002 as part of the French New Right. Since c.2012 it has made considerable headway in Austria and Germany and is now spreading to other countries. Its symbol is the Spartan lambda glyph.
(14) The ‘Occupy Movement’ claimed to be a street activist, Internet and social media-driven campaign, mostly in wealthy countries, for social equality and ‘global justice’. It began in New York in Sept. 2011, supposedly partly inspired by the Arab Spring. Within two years it had run out of steam.
(15) Operation Gladio – a so-called ‘stay-behind’ network of secret guerrilla forces maintained in NATO countries by NATO in the event of a Soviet occupation of Europe during the Cold War. In the 1970s and 80s they became involved in corrupt right-wing government efforts to force public support for the government by committing acts of terror which were falsely blamed on left-wing terrorists. The worst case incident was the Bologna railway station bombing on 2.8.1980, which killed 80 people and wounded 200.  See Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies – Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, (2005). Also, BBC documentary on Operation Gladio on Youtube:
(17) See Francois Duchene, Jean Monnet – First Statesman of Interdependence (1994), pp.127, 370.