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Steiner’s Christianity

What most people take to be Christianity is a misunderstanding, a bad translation and semiotic displacement through the centuries that has resulted in it being relegated to an inconsequential corner of Western culture instead of it being the core of it. But as the great literary critic and Christian philosopher Owen Barfield argues, Romanticism was one way Christian thought remained alive in Modernity and, as he argues, it came of age and was integrated with the European Enlightenment (empiricist/ rationalist) tradition via Rudolf Steiner.

This is from Welburn’s intro to “Christianity as Mystical Fact” by Rudolf Steiner:

“Above all Steiner was concerned that the attempt to deepen the impoverished spiritual life of the West was turning all too easily into a rivalry between West and East. Sometimes it appears that he takes sides in this struggle too, but his claim for the uniqueness of Christianity, it should be remembered, is a claim for the unique contribution of all religions in the evolution of the human spirit. Without any one of them our spiritual life would be incalculably the poorer. Christianity, however, is specifically adapted to deal with the sense of history, of individual responsibility, of individual consciousness, which had evolved in the West.It was history with its relativism, not just the individual’s questioning attitude, that had brought the crisis to ahead by the end of the nineteenth century. There no longer seemed to be a place for belief in a timeless truth we could all accept, and the questioning of everything led either to scientific reductionism or to a Nietzschean nihilism.But Steiner saw that the sort of inward migration toEastern culture, one that had not experienced these problems,which was attractive to many, could never resolve the situation—though it might provide a temporary respite for some.”

“By ignoring Christianity, the esotericists were bypassing the spiritual stream intimately connected with the problems facing modern civilization, which must either solve them or perish with them. Conversely, if Christianity were really sure of the truth it asserted it could lose nothing from the comparison with other religions.If its central symbols of a dying god and regeneration were held in common with other beliefs, that did not mean it must inevitably lose its identity in a mish-mash of faiths. On the contrary, such an encounter would bring it to understand itself more thoroughly. Steiner saw that what was needed was an evolutionary approach. Christianity did grow out of previously existing beliefs but developed them in a special way, a way that was linked with the emergence of the individual, and of historical,time-oriented understanding.”

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