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The Computer and the Incarnation Ahriman

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The Computer and the Incarnation Ahriman

On-line since: 28th April, 2017

3. Premises of the History/Demonstration


In this section I will describe the premises or axioms on which the more concrete history that follows is based, or, from another point of view, which permeate and animate the historical events. According to the principles of the logic introduced in the previous section, all that it will be possible to do here is to identify the relevant premises, name them, and give a preliminary, rather structural description of them. Nonetheless, I will try to enliven the descriptions by giving some of the direct consequences and correlates of the axioms by way of illustration.

In the world as we usually think of it there is no room or place for any beings which are not manifestly and obviously part of it. Since I will draw a connection between such a being and the world, evidently I am not talking about the world as we usually conceive it, which conception is in itself a symptom of the influence of Ahriman. In order to reveal the existence and presence of Ahriman we must put aside the concealing conception and replace it with something that may be (for convenience) called the “created world.” This is the first axiom.

A created world is one which does occupy a certain level of existence, but does not do so necessarily. It does not generate its existence out of itself. One need not say that the creation took place at a certain time, before which there was nothing; rather, one says that the major work of creation is the establishment of the world's matrix, the (metaphorically speaking) place which will contain the world's content. This matrix or vessel we call space and time. From this it is clear that the world was created at the beginning of time, since there was not time before it was created.

The “place” where the world would be was empty before the world was created, but this requires that there be something in some other (symbolically speaking, higher) “place” which does exist and is capable of initiating existence, and which did in fact perform the act of creating our world. It is irrelevant to explore this world further. To think of it as “heaven” or “God” would be improper and inexact. It is sufficient to realize that an existence of a different and higher kind than our own is a logical necessity if our world may properly be termed “created.”

The condition of the created world is formed or permeated by an axiom of high order which we may call “twoness.” This axiom appears in many guises, and is at the root of several concepts which will prove fundamental to our discussion. It is perhaps more familiar to us as the notion of “polarity” in which two mutually contradictory principles are seen as dynamically opposed to each other, and are in fact complementary aspects of a unified entity. The physicist Niels Bohr, who did so much to establish such polarities as wave/particle duality against great resistance, stated it as, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” Polarity, while serving as a good introduction to it, is not identical to twoness, but is only one of its facets; we shall meet more of them later.

Leaving “oneness” aside for the moment, let us now turn to the axiom “zeroness,” or “nothingness,” which we have already touched upon in describing what there was when there was no created world. The difficulties we have in understanding this axiom within the context of the created world, itself ruled by twoness, provide a good illustration of the meaning of twoness. For how are we to understand nothingness, except by imagining what there is when there is not something? We have trouble picturing nothingness as an absolute, depending on itself alone for its definition — we are forced to admit that nothingness would be »indefinable, have no meaning at all, were it not for a “something” with which to contrast it. But zeroness is an axiom that exists independently of twoness, even though we are bound to picture it from within a created world where twoness is the rule. Beyond what little has already been hinted at, though, there is (appropriately) little indeed that may be said of zeroness.

Oneness, which may also be termed “unity”, stands intermediate to the previous two axioms. Oneness rules when the world has been created in its existence, but before it has been given form. Unity prevails in the matrix of the world mentioned above, the being which holds the world, which is then cast into a state of multiplicity, the state in which we encounter the unified being. Unity prevails if one manages to climb back up the ontogenetic ladder of creation out of where twoness rules — then one speaks, as the Buddhists do, of overcoming the false distinction between subject and object (a facet of twoness), or, as in Islam, of the absolute and unqualified unity of God.

Now we will explore several of the major facets of twoness in the created world. One such facet is known by the names of its two ends, microcosm (little world) and macrocosm (great world). This facet is important because it is identified with the human being, and is a door through which knowledge of the things described here may be obtained directly. Specifically, every person participates in and is a variation of the prototypical human, which is the microcosm. Universal man, the macrocosm, is identified generally with the non-human world at large, and specifically with the celestial world — the world of the seven planets and the twelve signs. Microcosm/macrocosm is an aspect of twoness which defines the structure of the world as it is experienced by every human being; it describes how a potential human being is inserted into the created world.

The process of inserting a human into the created world which has just been mentioned is generally referred to as “incarnation,” and merits discussion in its own right. In order for a potential human being to become a part of the created world, he must follow the path of the world's creation — otherwise, he would end up in some place other than merged into the created world, which is the presumptive goal of the incarnation process. The human is first lifted out of nothingness and into simple being, into what is for us the way station of oneness or unity. Then the human crosses the boundary from oneness to twoness, appearing simultaneously at the two boundaries of the created world. The first boundary, corresponding to the microcosm, is the indefinitely small point, physically represented by the fertilized egg cell. The second boundary, corresponding to the macrocosm, is the indefinitely distant plane or sphere, the periphery of the universe, symbolized by the zodiac. This transition point between oneness and twoness is represented symbolically by the ouroboros (the snake biting its tail), because the head and tail of the snake are more distant from each other than any parts of the snake, but may also be joined more intimately than any other parts, in which state the snake is a closed figure, without beginning or end. Once the transition into twoness has been effected, essential merger with the created world has been achieved, and the incarnation is completed by means of a metamorphic development, the details of which need not concern us here.

A facet of twoness which is directly manifested in human experience is that of subject and object. The subject is what (or, more typically, who) we are, while the object is what (rarely who) we are not. Like all aspects of twoness, these appear to be absolutely distinct from each other, with no possibility of their being joined or even truly communicating.

A closely related facet of twoness is that of spirit and matter. The status of this polarity has become clouded in modern times because of the increasingly widespread denial that the term “spirit” denotes anything but delusional thinking. The closest the modern world has come to recognizing this polarity is in the notion in physics of matter and energy, and the equivalence between them. In this conception, a “piece” of matter is seen as a tightly bound concentration of a tremendous quantity of energy, which, like spirit, is thought of as pure dynamism, activity without any substantial or physical basis whatsoever. In Hindu doctrine, the analog of matter is Prakriti, which is passive and substantial, while spirit is analogous to Purusha, which is active and essential.

In the manifestation of a created world, the numbers each rule the world in sequence, though none of them ever ceases every form of existence, as is shown by the possibility of experiencing oneness through mysticism while incarnated into a world where twoness is the rule. This brings us to the notion of sequence in the forms of manifestation of the created world. (I use the word “sequence” in an attempt to dissociate the changes from our ordinary notion of time, which requires the experience of differences, an experience which was first made possible by the rule of twoness.) During oneness, all of creation is together, without real separateness; this state is represented in the Bible as the Garden of Eden. After the Expulsion, the reign of twoness began, and along with it our present time and what may be termed “evolution.” This term is the exclusive property of twoness, and denotes the working out of the essential properties of twoness, the most central of which revolve around difference and distinction. During evolution, distinctions appear where there had been none, and existing differences are sharpened and increased. So one may say that during evolution man is separated from the gods (expelled from the Garden, cut off from higher levels of being); man is separated from his own self (the separation of microcosm and macrocosm, the limiting of communication with the higher self to the “voice of conscience”); languages (the tower of Babel), races, nations, and sexes appear; species appear and differentiate; and in general all being grows fragmented and separate.

The introduction of “threeness” is the turning point in the development of twoness and of evolution. Just as two is the number of evolution, three is the number of what has been called “involution,” which is the inverse of evolution, namely, an overcoming of the differences and a return of a transformed man to the lap of the gods. When threeness completely overcomes twoness, time will come to an end and the sequentiality of the created world in anything resembling its present state will be at an end.

At this point it is appropriate to introduce our three main concepts in the form in which they will appear in the rest of this book: Lucifer, the personified facet of oneness, Ahriman, of twoness, and the Christ, of threeness. Our main protagonist is of course Ahriman, who personifies the tendencies unique to the age in which we live, and who will be associated with that characteristic product of our age, the computer. But understanding something means at least in part seeing it in its proper context, and the context of Ahriman includes Lucifer and the Christ.

In order to form a more vivid initial picture of Ahriman, let us turn to what may be called the mythology of Ahriman. Rudolf Steiner tells us that the ahrimanic beings [23] are “the greatest, the most comprehensive and penetrating intelligences in the Cosmos.” [24] But this intelligence is calculating, it is freezing cold, so much so that “the more [Ahriman] achieves his aims the severer is the frost around him ...” [25] The intelligence of Ahriman reduces everything it works with to measure, weight, and number. It is mechanistic and deterministic. There are ways of being intelligent that are not Ahriman's way; but since “the Gods ... release[d] the cosmic intellectuality so that it may become a part of human nature,” and since the ahrimanic beings used their capacity “to unite with their own being the sum-total of all intellectuality,” [26]  Ahriman stands firmly identified (from one point of view) with a kind of real intelligence.

It should not be difficult to see how Steiner's description related to what has previously been said about Ahriman; it all follows from the nature of twoness. Intelligence, especially when it is cold, sets itself apart from the world, treats the world as an object, and observes it. Separateness is essential to its functioning. The development of intelligence tends to go hand-in-hand with the experience of alienation, in which the gulfs which accompany twoness are made to seem unbridgeable.

Leaving his traits aside for the moment, let us now turn to the activities of Ahriman in history. One central fact is of concern to us here, namely, that Ahriman will incarnate in a human physical body in the west during the third millennium after the Incarnation of Christ. [27] This event will provide a symmetry to the incarnation of Lucifer which occurred in the orient in the third millennium before Christ's Incarnation.

I will now attempt to elucidate this event from two directions. First, in the remainder of the present section, I will show how the axioms already presented shine down into it from various points of view. Second, in the historical section, I will trace the concrete events that have resulted from the coming incarnation, in a way that I hope will make clear their connection to the axioms.

What does it mean for Ahriman to incarnate? From our previous discussion, we know that an incarnation of any kind involves an entry into the created world of the being in two forms: macrocosmic and microcosmic. When the entity that incarnates is an ordinary human, he remains on the surface of things; that is, he has his body, and his nativity is properly expressed in the configurations now studied as “astrology,” but “nothing special” needs to be done to accommodate him. However it may be that Ahriman will take human shape, he is no human; he has roots deeper in the world-structure than any mortal, being actually a part of that structure. When Ahriman incarnates, he cannot remain on the surface of things, since in one guise he himself makes or constitutes the surface of things. This depth is expressed in the fact that what is smallest and what is largest are not, in him, indefinitely distant from each other as they are for mortals, but stretch towards each other and draw close: the microcosmic form of Ahriman grows to fill space, while the macrocosmic aspect, far from remaining confined to the world-periphery, shrinks down and actually permeates our local space.

So Ahriman's embodiment (microcosmically speaking) would extend a considerable distance beyond the palpable bounds of his body, while still retaining in that space its microcosmic character. A consequence of this is that Ahriman would seem remarkably personal and open; meeting him deeply and in a touching, individual way without any feeling of social falseness would be the norm. Similarly, the bodies of those physically near his would change to appear as they would were he to have incarnated in them. In the case of a weakly individuated associate, the result would be a physical likeness; with a strongly individuated associate, the result would be an accentuated development of those features which were consistent with the nature of Ahriman's being.

A consequence of the macrocosmic aspect of Ahriman's incarnation is that the world would take on an ahrimanic hue. One could look out and seem to see, not quite tangible, Ahriman grinning back at one. In particular places or objects, especially in ones whose character or function was not well-formed or did not exist prior to the commencement of the incarnation process, one would be able to see (the macrocosmic aspect of) Ahriman's visage quite clearly. One small example of this is the way we think of the heavens themselves. I need only mention the fact that the Babylonians had a single word which meant both “god” and “star,” a confluence which does not reflect the experience of most of our contemporaries when they look at the sky.

The subject-object polarity has been mentioned as a facet of the twoness that now rules the created world. We can view the incarnation from the perspective of that facet as we can the others. From one end of the polarity, the incarnation consists of the collection of certain (ahrimanic) changes occurring in the subjective aspect of the experiences of large groups of people. These changes would not appear with equal intensity in all individuals, nor in all groups. But the progress of the incarnation would consist of an overall trend in an ahrimanic direction. The existence of a trend affecting nearly everyone at least a little reflects the universal or inclusively human character of the incarnation. The fact that the trend is found markedly pronounced in certain groups and in certain individuals identifies those as being the leaders or particular embodiments of the trend; they are more sensitive or open to it, and at the same time more able to influence those less affected by it.

From the perspective of the other end of the polarity, the incarnation consists of the collection of alterations in the external world which result in the objective aspect of our experience being filled with objects and events of an increasingly ahrimanic character. Again, parts of the world would hardly change at all, and others would change greatly, but there must exist a clearly discernible trend, and certain leading elements which particularly embody the influence and contribute to its spread.

If we view the incarnation from the perspective of the spirit-matter aspect of twoness, what we see is more dynamic than structural. The incarnation process involves bringing about an apparent union of spirit and matter, during which process the two react to each other, and grow to a joining point.

In the case of ordinary human beings, the response of the material sphere to the approach of a spiritual ego towards incarnation is shown in the gathering of various hereditary streams over the course of several generations into a single fertilized egg cell, the genetic properties of which provide a suitable physical basis for the experiences which should take place during the incarnation. Similarly, the passage of the ego through the planetary spheres depicts the spiritual response to the merger process. Intermediate “bodies” are created out of “substances” which are neither purely spirit nor purely matter; in the course of their formation, they too condense and take on a more definite relation to space and time, stretching out in a qualitative sense towards the matter with which they will merge.

In the case of the incarnation of an exalted spiritual being, the physical body is prepared with great care through many generations, with specific foreknowledge of the use to which it will be put. The body comes from two parents, each of whom have two parents, and so on; the number of people involved increases so rapidly that the number at any one ancestral generation exceeds the sum of all the generations in the direct lineage that follow. To include just one more generation in the preparation process is to more than double the magnitude of the physical entities involved in the process. This is simply to emphasize the tremendous gathering, selecting, and intensifying of hereditary forces that accompanies a great incarnation. The genealogy of Jesus given in the gospels illustrates the concern accorded this issue in sacred literature.

Just as a physical body (microcosm) must rise to suit the nature of the spirit which descends to it, so must the physical world as a whole (macrocosm) rise to meet its spiritual correlate. In the case of an ordinary incarnation, the individual has no noticeable affect in this sphere, although the nature of a whole group of similar egos can make a difference. But in the case of a special incarnation of the sort we are discussing, the physical world as a whole must be prepared “through the generations,” so that it (as a whole, not just a special part of it) will be ready. We should be able to see the reciprocal action of the physical world in its macrocosmic aspect as it responds to the gradual approach of Ahriman. Ahriman the microcosm will appear in a single place at a definite time; Ahriman the macrocosm appears everywhere with no sharp moment in time dividing “here” from “not here.”

[23] Rudolf Steiner uses the terms “Ahriman” and “ahrimanic beings” virtually interchangeably. One might imagine that he does so because Ahriman is the head of a host of beings who may be described as “ahrimanic,” and that his phrasing resembles that of a historian who speaks of “Napoleon's invasion of Russia.,” apparently indifferent to the fact that he was accompanied by a “napoleonic host” of considerable extent. But this does not do justice to the difference in kind between Ahriman and Napoleon, nor to Rudolf Steiner's appreciation of that fact. From certain points of view, one can find no such thing 38 the anthropomorphic being “Ahriman,” but only “ahrimanic beings”; it is as though one saw a Napoleon-less invading army when looking from the south.

[24] Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, London, 1973, p. 77

[25] ibid, p. 99

[26] ibid, p. 77

[27] See, for example, Rudolf Steiner The Influences of Lucifer and Ahriman, North Vancouver, 1976 (lectures given during November, 1919).

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