Christ in Relation to Lucifer and Ahriman
A Lecture by
Linz, May 18, 1915
The Linz lecture, which is here translated, presents the group in a world-historical context and relates the significance of the Lucifer-Christ-Ahriman configuration to the events surrounding World War I. Steiner sees a parallel between Christ's central, but equalizing position and Central Europe's mission in World War I. He implies that Germany's and Austria's militarism and political intransigence alone did not lead to war against the world powers in the East (Russia) and the West (France, England and, since 1917, the United States). According to Steiner, World War I was the earthly expression of a struggle between luciferic forces in the East and ahrimanic forces in the West, and it was Central Europe's destiny to mediate between these forces.
The fundamental polarization of East and West that Rudolf Steiner saw emerging more than six decades ago is now a political reality. While most historians today concede that World War II was in part caused by the circumstances surrounding World War I, few would accept Rudolf Steiner's statement from his Linz lecture that World War I was “destined by the European karma” or, to state it more concretely, that it was unavoidable. If the war could not have been avoided, then the question of who was to blame or who caused it is, as Steiner says, irrelevant. Based on this position, Steiner suggests that only one question has relevancy: “Who could have prevented the war?” This question seems to contradict Steiner's statement that World War I was destined by the European karma. A quick glance at the historical record may help to clarify what Steiner meant.
In suggesting that the Russian government and possibly England, could have prevented the war, Steiner simply deals with possibilities outside the realm of what had to happen according to European karma. Russia's instigation of the two Peace Conferences in the Hague (1899 and 1907) was indeed self-serving and hypocritical, for it was Russia that, in 1914, mobilized its armed forces without considering British proposals for peace negotiations. Under these circumstances and considering the political immaturity of the German leadership, it was not surprising that the German Raiser and his generals over-reacted to the Russian mobilization and interpreted it as a declaration of war. Kaiser Wilhelm II and Czar Nicholas II, who were cousins, frantically exchanged telegrams in which one beseeched the other to preserve the peace, but to no avail. The war machinery was already overheated by the forces of chauvinism and materialism so that even from this vantage point Steiner was correct in maintaining that war was unavoidable.
Regarding the possibility of preventing the war, a glance at the major Western powers involved in the controversy, and at Germany, reveals the following historical facts. France, for thirty years an ally of Russia, did nothing to prevent the war because she did not attempt to delay the hasty Russian mobilization. Her representatives said later that France regretted the Russian action, but there seems little doubt that France was more interested in presenting herself as the innocent victim of an attack. On the other hand, England's foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, could have prevented the war if he had taken earlier measures to discourage Germany's militarists from asserting themselves in their country, but in view of the English tradition and the English Constitution, this was probably not possible. Finally, the confusion in Germany itself was caused by a lack of understanding of who had legitimate authority to make decisions. Eventually, the political decisions were made by generals who managed to spread the belief that the fatherland was in peril and that Germany herself was not the attacker, but the attacked. Thus, theoretically, any one of these three powers could have prevented the war but that, as Rudolf Steiner points out in the lecture, is not the real issue.
Furthermore, the war did not emerge out of a French or Russian moral conviction that was responsive to Germany militarism. Rather, the goal of crushing German militarism emerged well after the war had begun. The war could be interpreted, in this sense, to be inevitable because it was not generated from a goal, but exploded and then developed its goals. In this war of attrition, materialism camouflaged itself with nationalistic sentiment and strove for absolute expression and triumph.
It is against such a background of perplexity and misguided fervor that Rudolf Steiner's message to Central Europeans must be read. In rejecting the question of who had caused the war, Steiner dismissed as equally irrelevant the question of who was to blame for materialism. Materialism was there, as was Ahriman. Steiner admonished the Central Europeans to counterbalance materialism by adopting a spiritual perception of life and by striving for an encounter with the Christ.
This profound spiritual responsibility that Steiner put on the Germans in 1915 was disregarded and the challenge passed by. After World War I it was not the Christ, but Adolf Hitler who, under the guise of “savior,” emerged as Germany's Nemesis and was thus catapulted into a central position. When Hitler was finally destroyed, Central Europe broke up into two parts, one of which disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, while the other aligned with the West.
As it stands today, Rudolf Steiner's call to instate the Christ in His central position has yet to be fully received and responded to not only by the people living in what is left of Central Europe, but also in the rest of the world.
— Peter Mollenhauer