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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Brilliant, 30 April 2011
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Calico Pye "Calico Pye" (St Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I have a few books on the Rosicrucian (I really liked the Manley P. Hall one), yet I found that this one helped me grasp the fundamental gist, from Steiner's own point of view. It is not a light read (though lighter than most)and I found myself having to put the book down and re-read it, so I could digest it better. However, I still find it a thrilling good read and it ticked most of the boxes, in regards to my own belief system. Well worth it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Theosophy of Rudolf Steiner, 28 Nov. 2014
Rudolf Steiner's "Rosicrucian Wisdom" is a surprisingly good introduction to some key concepts of Anthroposophy, the spiritual path (or new religion) founded by Steiner. It contains a series of lectures delivered in 1907, when Steiner was nominally still a Theosophist. Hence the original German title of this work, "Die Theosophie des Rosenkreuzers" (The Theosophy of the Rosicrucians). In contrast to the mainline Theosophists, Steiner was more interested in Western esotericism and Christianity than in Buddhism and Hinduism. Hence the claim that the ideas in his book are "Rosicrucian", i.e. derived from a mysterious brotherhood of occult adepts supposedly founded in Europe by one Christian Rosenkreuz during the Middle Ages. (Most historians would argue that Rosenkreuz is a purely fictitious character, invented centuries later.) While claiming the Rosicrucian mantle, Steiner's system is really an innovation. On several points, it's similar to Theosophy: the evolutionary perspective and the peculiar speculations about planetary chains and lost civilizations. These ideas, most would argue, are purely modern and very 19th century. Later, Steiner would rebrand his system "Anthroposophy" and consummate the break with the Theosophists around Besant and Leadbeater. Most German Theosophists followed Steiner when he founded his own Anthroposophical Society.

Anthroposophists usually point to three texts as basic for their movement: "How to know higher worlds", "An outline of esoteric science" and "The philosophy of freedom". This particular volume seems to be less well known. It's a pity, since it's shorter and much easier to read. It works pretty well as a "teaser trailer" to Anthroposophy at large. Steiner begins by discussing the different bodies of man: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, etc. He then presents the Anthroposophical view of reincarnation and reveals where the souls dwell inbetween two earthly lives. In Steiner's scenario, souls are usually reincarnated twice in every "culture epoch", once as a man and once as a woman. The time between incarnations is quite long by human standards - over 1000 years. The soul needs to be reborn in conditions very unlike those of his previous incarnation, in order to aquire new experiences and evolve. Steiner's view of the "akashic record" is interesting. When mediums encounter deceased people in the spirit-world who talk and act as they did in earthly life, they are really seeing their reflections in the akasha. In a sense, they are faced by an illusion. The real soul of the departed has moved on, and may even have reincarnated! Steiner also explains that the akasha is very large, and that its lower part reaches into the astral world, creating lot of vivid illusions tricking unexperienced mediums. Naturally, Steiner claims to be able to "read" the higher akasha.

At every point, humanity encounters other spirit-beings, roughly similar to the angels and demons of traditional religion. Evil spirits are those who choose to remain behind, at an earlier evolutionary stage. Some spirits are ambivalent: thus, the Spirits of Egoism both create egoism in the strict sense (which is morally bad) and the possibility of individualism and free will (which is good and necessary for further development). Christ is said to be a highly evolved Sun-spirit, but Steiner says relatively little about him in these lectures. Otherwise, the "Mystery of Golgotha" and the return of Christ "in the etheric" plays a central role in Anthroposophy.

The bulk of the book consist of a detailed exposition of Steiner's enigmatic cosmogony, broadly inspired by Blavatsky's Theosophical magnum opus "The Secret Doctrine". Steiner claims that Earth has undergone several "incarnations", which he dubbs Saturn, Sun and Moon. After the end of our own Earth incarnation, there are three more: Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. Steiner mentions Lemuria and Atlantis, and claim that India was the first high culture of the post-Atlantean epoch. The author's speculations are virtually impossible to take seriously, if taken literally. But then, it's not always clear how "literal" they really are. The physical bodies on "Saturn" seem to have been almost ethereal, "humans" of early Earth epochs are said to have resembled invertebrates or fish (suggesting that they *were* fish, or some kind of fish-like creature evolving towards true humanhood), and even the inhabitants of Atlantis have a strangely elusive character about them. The earlier planetary incarnations are inaccesible to modern science by periods of cosmic dormancy, strongly suggesting that they are really a kind of spiritual states. The chronology is also unclear, with the main text suggesting "thousands of years", while the endnotes claim that Steiner really said "millions of years" (which is more compatible with the long time spans of modern science). Steiner sounds literal enough, but his scenario could be more charitably interpreted as a kind of involution-evolution scheme taking place at several different levels of reality. Modern readers will note that Ken Wilber's ideas (including the pre/trans fallacy) sound like a denuded, demythologized version of Steiner's speculative cosmogony.

The last chapter deals with initiation. Steiner argues that Hindus and Buddhists want to reclaim an earlier condition of evolutionary development by entering Nirvana. Our present task, however, is to move spiritual evolution forward. This forward trust is connected to Western man. Steiner presents two different paths of initiation. He dubs the more demanding one "Christian". It's connected to the stations of the cross and the subsequent resurrection, and seems to be a form of Christian mysticism, where the mystic is expected to meditate deeply on Christ's passion. The less demanding path, represented by Steiner's own system, isn't delineated in any detail in this book. Judging by "How to know higher worlds", it's probably just as demanding! Steiner also calls on his followers to apply Anthroposophy to daily life, without going into details. Anthroposophists do indeed take part in practical activities, such as eurythmy, Waldorf education or bio-dynamic farming, all of them based on Steiner's ideas.

While "Rosicrucian Wisdom" isn't an easy read (at least not compared to New Age paperbacks), it is nevertheless much easier to get through than Steiner's other writings, and hence deserves four stars. It may not tell us much about the original Rosicrucians (provided they even existed at all), but it certainly does give glimpses of Steiner's home-brewed version of Theosophy. And, perhaps, the wisdom of it all!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Rosicrucian Wisdom: An Introduction (Audio CD)
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Rosicrucian Wisdom: An Introduction
Rosicrucian Wisdom: An Introduction by Rudolf Steiner (Audio CD - 2 Nov. 2006)
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