Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: The Web as Will and Idea

Can Digital Media be Redeemed?



Several years ago the renowned anthroposophist Sergei Prokofieff wrote a remarkable article entitled “The Being of the Internet,” in which he argued that the digital media are carriers of such darkness that they are unredeemable. Eugene Schwartz has written a response to this essay in which he contends that the use to which the media are put is of greater import than the nature of the media themselves. Eugene’s article, “The Web as Will and Idea,” was recently published in News for Members and Friends, the newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society in America.

In the summer of 1984 I was invited to the Goetheanum by the Section for Belles-Lettres to help lead an English-language conference on the influence of Albert Steffen in the West. Throughout the conference week the leaders would gather in the evening in the office of Hagen Biesantz, the Section leader. One night, after a long and lively conversation, we made ready to leave, only to discover that we were locked inside the building. Even in those pre-9/11 days the Goetheanum had a vigilant security team who, though they saw us walking through the hallways, had no intention of releasing us. The sight and sound of those men in brown uniforms calling out commands to their police dogs in harsh Swiss-German, evoked some unpleasant associations in the mind of this Jewish boy from Brooklyn. I was relieved when Dr. Biesantz said that he knew of another way out of the building.

Down, down, down we went into passages so constricted and labyrinthine that they seemed to confirm the Goetheanum’s stature as a modern mystery center. The exit was in sight, but before we came to it Dr. Biesantz drew us to the nondescript door of a storage room. “Come in,” he said, unlocking the portal and switching on the light, “Look!”

There it rested, immutable, bland, and mostly plastic: the Goetheanum’s first (and only) computer. “We don’t know what to do with it,” Dr. Biesantz confided to our pale and shaken group (first the police dogs, and now . . . . this. And it was 1984!). He went on. “It is ‘the unmentionable,” he intoned, and placed his forefinger against his lips. We understood that we were pledged to silence.

Today, of course, the idea of a solitary computer is all but unthinkable. In the Goetheanum, as in many centers of anthroposophy worldwide, computers work in tandem, whether through internal networks or the Internet. In spite of the remarkable proliferation of computers throughout the anthroposophical movement (compared, say, to devices such as televisions or iPods) very little has been written about them. We must therefore be especially grateful to Sergei Prokofieff for “The Being of the Internet,” an article that appeared in the English-language Pacifica Journal three years ago. The article is no less germane now than it was in 2006, and with the hope of making it known to a wider audience I offer the following elucidation.

As is only to be expected, Prokofieff’s article is concise and well researched. He touches on so many important points in such a compressed way that it would be far beyond the scope of this article to speak to them all. Therefore, in this commentary want to address only three of the myriad issues he raises: 1) Who stands behind the Internet? 2) The question of the compression of spiritual content 3) Our responsibility vis-à-vis the Internet.

The Imagination of the Spider web

“It is frightening,” Prokofieff writes, “how poignantly Rudolf Steiner describes this spirit world in comparison with the world situation of today,” and he then presents a lengthy quote from Perspectives on Human Development, a May 13, 1921 lecture. Because this lecture is not readily available, I, too, will quote his excerpt in full:

         And from the earth will well up terrible creations of beings who in their character stand between the mineral kingdom and the plant kingdom as automative beings with a super-natural intellect, an immense intellect. When this development takes hold, the earth will be covered, as with a web, a web of terrible spiders, spiders of enormous wisdom, which, however, in their organization doesn’t even reach the plant status. Terrible spiders which will interlock with each other, which will imitate in their movements all that which humanity has thought of with their shadowlike intellect that was not inspired by a new imagination, through that which is to come through Spiritual Science. All man’s thoughts of this kind, which are unreal, will come alive. The earth will be covered […] with terrible mineral-plant like spiders, which will link up with empathy but evil intention. And man […] will have to unite with these terrible mineral-plant like spider creatures.

Prokofieff goes on to say,

         These spider creatures will be of a distinctly ahrimanic character. When you read these prophetic words of the spiritual scientist today, in an era of world wide connections via computer and the Internet you may be disheartened to find how quickly this prophecy has become a reality on earth. It is as if Rudolf Steiner, with his spiritual gaze, described today’s Internet from beyond the threshold, categorically warning humanity that in a not too distant future, with the unification of the moon and earth, this whole internet-computer-web and in fact everything connected with the development of artificial intellect will suddenly come alive . . . .

Steiner’s 1921 lecture is unusual for its strongly prophetic tone. As if the nearly apocalyptic picture of the spider webs and their spinners were not enough, Steiner also spoke of “Supermen,” super-human beings who began to descend to the earth from the planetary spheres in the late nineteenth century and will continue to appear for the foreseeable future. (The content of this short lecture was felt to be sufficiently sensational that the editors of the Golden Blade, where it appeared in English in 1960, had to compare it to science fiction.)

So timely and important was this information that Steiner was not alone in presenting these inter-related Imaginations of intelligent spiders and world-saving supermen. In her ca. 1915 book, Woody, Hazel, and Little Pip, (Figure 1) the beloved children’s author Elsa Beskow pictured the telephone network as a web spun by a spider, while E. B. White’s popular American story, Charlotte’s Web (1946) depicted a clever spider who utilized her remarkable intelligence to save the life of a pig bound for slaughter. Demonic spiders, often with machine-like natures, and always gigantic in size and strength, have also figured plentifully in popular literature. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf comrades were woven into webs and nearly stung to death by their spider captives; the film The Matrix pointed to a “real” world, underlying the maya of the visible world, in which super-intelligent insect beings sucked the life forces out of human beings; the comic book Spiderman, the tale of a highly intelligent and very neurotic student at the Bronx High School of Science who is transformed into a spider and superhero, a somewhat sardonic homage to Kafka’s modern classic, The Metamorphosis.

And it is certainly no coincidence that in the 1930s, in the very years that Steiner had spoken of the possibility of humanity participating in the etheric reappearance of the Christ being, the Imagination of the supermen that Steiner had given in the previous decade appeared, in however distorted a form, in the medium of the comic book (the addictive mid-century equivalent of the video game) as figures such as Batman, Plastic Man, the Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and, of course, Superman, the prototype of them all. The figure of the Superhero has retained undiminished popularity among boys of all ages even into our century, and figures ever more strongly in video games.

Although Prokofieff speaks of the spider webs appearing “in a not too distant future,” and then implies that they are already here in the form of the world wide web, Steiner is clear in his lecture that the physical webs he describes will not manifest until the unification of Earth and Moon some five to six thousand years from now. We might say that the idea of the web, with its shadowy concordance of human information, points to such a future, but it is far from the very clear and literal picture that Steiner presents. (Steiner also notes that at this same time – the seventh millennium – “the bodily nature will be capable of development only until the 14th year of life. Women will then become barren.” Although I observe numerous adults in the United States acting like fourteen year-olds even now, I would still contend that Steiner is speaking of a global physiological change occurring several thousand years in the future.)

Certainly, the imaginations of one age may very well become the realities of the age to come. In the course of his article, however, Prokofieff tends to compress the vast time period envisaged by Steiner so that the prophesied events become appear to be predicted for the present time:

     . . . . you may be disheartened to find how quickly this prophecy has become a reality on earth.

    The net of ahrimanic spider beings developing out of the internet around the earth stands right from the beginning in a direct relationship to Ahriman appearing in a physical body . . . .”

     Here the attempt is made in purely ahrimanic form to create a worldwide web that connects as many people as possible but in a way that mankind becomes increasingly separated from the cosmos and the hierarchies and thus bound up with what was described above as an ahrimanic spider web.”

At this juncture I would strongly beg to differ with Prokofieff’s conclusions. My concern would be that, if we latch on to the world-wide web as being the actual manifestation of the webs that Steiner described, we may be prone to precipitate the very phenomenon of which Steiner speaks. The adjectives that Prokofieff uses to describe the phenomenon: “It is frightening how poignantly Rudolf Steiner describes . . . .”, “. . . . you may be disheartened to find how quickly this prophecy has become a reality . . . .”, The frightening picture of an insect caught in the net . . . .” (all italics mine) suggest that we can only recoil in fear and dismay at the power of Ahriman. To the best of my understanding, such pusillanimity is precisely what Ahriman hopes to sow in us, opening us up even more to his impulses.

The question that Prokofieff’s powerful and prescient article poses is, just how can we deal with the ahrimanic phenomena that act ever-more invasively upon us in this new millennium? The balance of my response will attempt to explore this question.


Created With Intent

Prokofieff alludes to Steiner’s concern that “there are certain occult circles who are well aware of this approaching danger and who are intent on advancing it by deliberately keeping this secret.” He then points to several signs that these occult brotherhoods are working behind the scenes of the Internet’s expanding power. The most prominent of these signs is the fact that these occult circles “ . . . . have also found a suitable name for the internet, the most appropriate instrument to achieve this future, and spread it like a secret code: www – world wide web.” Prokofieff then cites Steiner’s indication that, in the Kabala, all Hebrew letters have a numeric equivalent: “On this occasion Rudolf Steiner points out that the numeric equivalent of the letter W (Hebrew waw) is 6, the number 6. It follows that the occult meaning of ‘www’ is ‘666’ the number of the beast [of the Apocalypse] . . . .” As further examples of the secret maneuvering of these English-speaking brotherhoods, Prokofieff mentions the German hotel chain “Sorat,” satellite dishes that display in big red letters the name “SatAn,” and the “internet browser ‘Mozilla’ which portrays the head of a red dragon.”

Some clarification may be helpful at this point. Gematria is a venerable methodology  with Kabalistic antecedents that studies the numerical values of the Hebrew letters. Steiner drew on this tradition when he noted that the Hebrew letter Waw, whose European equivalent is “W,” also signifies the number 6. In Modern Hebrew, that letter is known as Vav, and is closer to an English “V” than to a “W.”

More important, however, is that Prokofieff’s understanding that the three letters Waw-Waw-Waw would signify “666” is not correct. As Steiner indicates in Lecture 11 of The Apocalypse of St. John, the source that Prokofieff cites, the only way the ancient Israelites – or contemporary Hebrew speakers – could express 666 would be as 60 plus 6 plus 200 plus 400, which is an entirely different sequence of letters: Samech, Vau, Resh, and Tau. Indeed, when Steiner describes the letter Vau, not only does he not treat it as a “W,” but he uses it as an “O” (some Hebrew letters have multiple sounds), so that the letter/numbers form the word Sorat, the Beast signified by 666. Steiner’s masterful application of gematria leads to a very different conclusion than the one described by Prokofieff.

The three Vau’s or Waw’s in succession can only signify 6 plus 6 plus 6, or the number 18. “Arabic numerals” are the only numerical system that could express the 666 as we know it. Not that there is anything insignificant about the number 18, either. In the gematria 18 is the numerical expression of the word Chai, meaning Life, i.e. those etheric forces which, in their deteriorated state, manifest as electricity. In either case, those three w’s are telling us something about what lies behind the Internet. I do not doubt Prokofieff’s conclusion that the Internet has arisen out of “evil intent,” but in the case of the significance of “www,” I believe that he is jumping to a conclusion not justified by Steiner’s numerical exegesis.

It should also be noted that, rather than the “head of a red dragon” that Prokofieff describes, Mozilla’s Firefox browser logo displays the body of a red fox encircling the world. From the time of Aesop, the fox has served as a symbol of cunning intellect and prevarication; somewhat less formidable that the Dragon, for sure, but certainly scary enough! Although I have not seen the SatAn satellite dishes mentioned by Prokofieff, there is the well-known “white hat” hackers’ web site whose acronym SATAN stands for Security Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks. Its logo (Figure 2) is a mass of wires that “randomly” form a figure that is at once the face of Satan, horns and all, but that also suggests the form of a spider – a model of demonic graphic economy.

Unquestionably there is “intent” behind all of these names, logos and acronyms. However, if, as Steiner clearly indicated, the aim of these occult brotherhoods is to hide the approach of Ahriman, why are they doing just the opposite? Indeed, it could be said that the hotel chain, the satellite communications system, the browser, and the World Wide Web are literally advertising Ahriman’s incarnation. And for all of those who still don’t get it, the brotherhoods, through their minions in the “entertainment industry,” provide a never-ending spectacle of movies and video games replete with superheroes, giant insects (Figures 3 and 4), alien invasions, demonic automatons, and depressingly dystopic visions of the earth’s future (e.g. Bladerunner, Gattica, and Children of Men, which even portrays a world in which all women are barren). Short of shouting it from the rooftops, the occult brotherhoods that Prokofieff describes could hardly be broadcasting their aims for the future any more blatantly. For groups that consider themselves “occultists,” these brotherhoods aren’t very good at keeping a secret.

Perhaps the brotherhoods are using these obvious occult symbols as a “front,” or smokescreen, that will hinder our ability to perceive what they are really doing. Or perhaps the brotherhoods are getting people accustomed to the notion of horrendous beings coexisting with humanity, even inculcating children with the feeling that such nefarious creatures are benign and perfectly ordinary. For at least a century now, the educational world has done everything in its power to make dinosaurs, the Dragon’s earthly manifestation, into objects of fascination and passionate interest for children. And at least from the time of the popular song “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” most dragons appearing in children’s literature have been presented as gentle, helpful, and misunderstood creatures that chafe at the prejudicial attitudes of the adult world (Tolkien’s Smaug is a noteworthy exception to this rule). The media could easily marshal its persuasive powers to convince children (of all ages) that giant spiders and clever automatons are, likewise, our friends and come “bringing peace.”

 These two approaches – on the one hand, using powerful occult symbols and codes to obfuscate unpleasant realities, and, on the other hand, using them to habituate people to those very realities — may seem contradictory, but no more so than the common practice of American corporations giving generous gifts both to Republican candidates and to their Democratic opponents, “just in case.” The English-speaking brotherhoods have always proved adept at playing both sides of the game, and Prokofieff’s contention that the Internet and its concomitant systems have been “created with intent” is well taken.


Compression and “The Duad”

 Prokofieff raises two more important issues, that, for the sake of economy, I want to address as two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, he points to the staggering power of compression that digitalization has brought about. He gives the example of the compilation of Rudolf Steiner’s works: the 350 volumes available in printed form, can all be transferred to “two or three DVDs” (the recent appearance of “double-sided” DVDs makes even greater compression possible). Prokofieff recollects the stirring image of Michael leading cosmic intelligence through “a massive process of compression or contraction” so that it could become earthly intelligence. The shadow side of this archangelic deed was that in its “compressed” form, intelligence could be seized by Ahriman:

         Ahriman, making use of the forces of sub-nature, wants to penetrate the Michaelic intelligence with the artificial intelligence created by him, which includes the digitalization of thought. For him this is one of the ways in which he can gain power over earthly intelligence. This started with the fixation of human thoughts through the printing technique and continues now with its digitalization.

Prokofieff later points to the fact that the way in which computers process and store information is “built on the duad [arrangements of 0 and 1, using the binary system] which can endlessly and quantitatively be multiplied through repetition and differing compositions. Steiner has spoken of the “delusion of the duad.” As a counterpoise to the duad, Prokofieff cites Steiner’s words about the veiled “truth of the number three.” Ahriman works through the duad, but Michael’s impulses manifest as threefolding.

 Throughout his article, Prokofieff draws pointed contrasts between the printed word and the digitalized word, the printing press and the computer. Although Steiner certainly pointed to the ahrimanic qualities of the printed word – and urged Waldorf educators to give children plenty of time before they were taught to read – he accepted the magazine and the printed book as means of making known his written works, and later reluctantly accepted the same medium for publication of his lectures. Prokofieff argues, by implication, that such aspects of the digital world as the “compression” and “duad” nature alluded to above would have led Steiner to oppose publishing the contents of his work in digital form. (It should be noted here that the Swiss telephone system that links the Goetheanum to the outside world is no less digitalized than the Internet. I presume that, in spite of this, those phone lines are used to transmit conversations about Anthroposophy.)

 The chronology that Prokofieff appears to portray is one in which the printing press was supplanted by the computer, with nothing in between. It would be helpful for us to adumbrate all of the factors that led to the invention of the computer and to examine the many intermediate steps that led to our widespread utilization of the duad. We do not have the space for a study of such scope, but I would like to point to one incremental step in the unfolding of modern technology: the electrical telegraph.

 From the time of its development in the early 1800s to the transmission of the first messages by Samuel Morse in 1837, the electrical telegraph brought about a powerful transformation of the economic, financial, and, not least, military life of the nineteenth century. So great was its allure that such influential figures as Edison, Tesla, Marconi, and Karl Friedrich Gauss all played a role in its development. The cables that transmitted messages over land were the first man-made, visible “web” to be woven wherever there were settlements or railroads, while the underwater cables that linked Europe and North America, India and Great Britain, and finally even reached Australia, were technological marvels. And it was the telegraph that figured in the achievement of the very first “wireless” transmissions of messages.

 The maintenance and operation of the telegraph terminals were the province of mechanically-inclined and inventive boys – the techies of their time – who renounced fresh air, sunlight, and gross-motor movement so that they could sit for long days in cramped settings repetitively moving only one index finger. (Even today’s text-message zealots get to move two thumbs.) To qualify for this coveted position, a boy had to master Morse Code, which reduced all letters, all words, all sentences, indeed all human converse, to the an elemental electrical duad: short or long, off or on.

 At this time a bright and sensitive youngster was taken out of school so that he could be homeschooled. His father operated the telegraph system at a railway station near Vienna, and the boy found himself fatefully drawn to the telegraph terminal and the mystery of its wires stretching into infinity. It was a device that raised many questions in the boy’s soul, pointing to myriad riddles of time, of space, and of the secret world of codes. And, as it happened, no one saw the need to warn Rudolf Steiner away from his fascination with that world wide web of electrically transmitted code that Ahriman was already weaving 140 years ago.

 By moving directly from the printing press to the Internet, Prokofieff risks ignoring the incremental ways in which the present World Wide Web has developed, and the surprisingly nuanced way in which Steiner himself responded to that development (see “Protective or Proactive?” below). Drawing upon the momentum of the telegraph, the telephone and the radio served as means of conveying information from individual to individual, while the cinema and television utilized electrically “imprisoned” light and sound to powerfully affect groups.

 It is interesting to consider that all of the aforementioned “media,” have unfolded since Rudolf Steiner first began his teaching and developed Anthroposophy. In some ways, their development even parallels – in comic relief — the work of Spiritual Science in the world: Charlie Chaplin realized that running movie segments in reverse would make people laugh at the very same time that Steiner was suggesting the Rückshau as a contemplative exercise, and the premiere of the first Mickey Mouse movie in 1928 in Hollywood coincided with the opening of the first American Steiner school in New York. And yet, since the days of Steiner’s publication of Luzifer-Gnosis, the promulgation of his teaching has occurred almost exclusively though the printed book.

 Film, radio, and television, despite their widespread use worldwide, have almost never been used to disseminate Steiner’s ideas. In fact, the attitude of anthroposophists towards those media vacillated between ignorance, dismissiveness, and antagonism. Throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, just as the media were attaining their greatest degree of power and influence, the anthroposophical world turned away, focusing instead on acrimonious internal struggles, many of which, ironically enough, concerned the books into which Steiner’s work had been compressed. In general there was little energy, and less interest, dedicated to the question of how the media might serve a higher cause.

 On those rare occasions when the media took some notice of a Waldorf school, a eurythmy performance, or the Goetheanum, reporters and directors responded to anthroposophical endeavors with, well, ignorance, dismissiveness, or outright antagonism. Anthroposophists were invariably surprised at such negative responses elicited by their positive work, but why should the media look at us any differently from the way that we look at them?

 I would contend that the Internet is something of an ahrimanic Gesamtstechnischewerk, a culminating technical creation. It has all of the media inventions of the twentieth century – the telephone, radio, film, television etc. – streaming through it. Throughout that century, anthroposophists missed their chance time and again to redeem or at least harness those inventions and the cultures they spawned. Now all of those media are in one place. It would be possible for anyone reading this article to stop reading, go onto the Internet, and with a minimal amount of equipment and time actually start a web-based radio or television channel within less than an hour. Think of all the positive aspects of Anthroposophy that could be broadcast throughout the world by a few people who took the initiative to use the Internet for a worthy purpose. It is as if we were being given one more chance, and it may be imperative that anthroposophists make every effort to redeem the web of shadowy thoughts and images that Ahriman is weaving.

 I agree that the Internet that Prokofieff describes in such a cautionary way is all that he makes it out to be, but I think that he states his case too strongly at times:

           . . . . the ahrimanic forces possess extraordinary powers with which they will devise even bigger technical ‘wonders’ in the future than is the case so far. Don’t fall prey to the illusion that it is possible to ‘redeem’ the Internet or CD/DVD in the way Rudolf Steiner indicated for printing. In the realm of sub-nature the obstacles are far greater.

Citing Steiner’s admonition that, in order to redeem the printed word we must cultivate reverent feeling for Michaelic wisdom, Prokofieff continues:

          In contrast the Internet or DVD puts everything on the level of purely abstract information that in addition comes in “bites” (this brings up the picture of Osiris cut into pieces by Typhon) and thus is spread amongst mankind in a way towards which no “reverent feeling” is possible.

The example of the Rosicrucians in 17th century Europe may be instructive here. In their time, from the perspective of their age, the printing press was primarily an instrument for polemics and war-mongering, and conservative clerics still looked upon it as a creation of the Devil. Yet the Rosicrucians had the courage to transform the printing press into an instrument of the spirit by utilizing it to disseminate esoteric literature. Within another two centuries, that printing press, now tamed by Rosicrucianism, could be used to body forth The Philosophy of Freedom.

Years after his boyhood experiences, Steiner was to say that there was nothing wrong with the telegraph in itself, but there was a lot left to be desired concerning the uses to which it was put. Steiner’s complaint was that people spent little time or energy using the telegraph to express anything of a spiritual nature. If Steiner was not inclined to advise people to stay away from the telegraph, a system that was clearly a precursor of the Internet, then why should we assume that he would be so opposed to the Internet itself as a channel for communications about the spirit?


Protective – or Proactive?

 To begin with, let us recognize that anthroposophists are already nestled in the Internet dragon’s skin, albeit semi-unconsciously and in a very advanced state of denial. As an example: I received my copy of Prokofieff’s article, with its stern warning about the Internet, as an email attachment sent to me . . . via the Internet. The “words” in that article are, of course, not words at all; on the computer they are an arrangement of 0s and 1s, and, on the ink-jet printed page, a carefully choreographed condensation of microscopic drops of ink. The powerful art works that accompany the article are said to be the dramatic and colorful creations of Van James and Michael Howard. When examined with a magnifying glass, however, they prove to be just a lot of pixels and sprayed ink. (At the end of the article, Michael Howard makes it possible to obtain a higher quality reproduction of his piece. He provides his email address so that you can order it . . . via the Internet.)

 There certainly are other ways to get hold of Prokofieff’s articles and a great deal of anthroposophical material, but more people seem to be less inclined to go to any source other than the Internet. This past summer, Prokofieff appeared, “live and in person,” at Encircling Light, Expectant Silence, an inspiring conference in northern Canada. The stunning brochure that announced the gathering gave no fewer than 12 email addresses and/or Internet URLS to use in signing up for and receiving information about the conference. Indeed, it would have been next to impossible to register, make flight arrangements, settle on a hotel room, and make plans for meals, without using the Internet.

 And one more example: When I cite a Steiner quote in a lecture to younger generation teachers, I can be sure that, within moments, one or two audience members will be on the Internet (using a notebook computer or an iPhone), finding one of the many Steiner books that are already online and checking the accuracy of my citation. (This doesn’t bother me at all; before my lecture, I also visited the Internet and checked my references in advance.)

 Such Internet dependency may sound dire, but what would it have taken to convene a fully-fledged anthroposophical conference in White Horse, Yukon Territories, without the Internet? (Probably something akin to transporting Sergei Prokofieff to northern Canada by dog sled rather than by plane.) And how could we make Steiner’s writings so readily accessible to the many “Michaelites” who need them without publishing those works on the Internet? Given the very limited number of people able to explain and interpret Steiner, and given the very small number of Steiner books in print, there may be no other way to reach those potential readers who are spread all over the world. The Internet may serve Anthroposophy as the printing press once served Rosicrucianism – a means by which a relatively small number of individuals working out of the depths of esotericism can reach a much wider public. In the 17th century, that “public” numbered in the thousands; given the needs of our time and the power of opposing forces, today’s “public” must certainly number in the millions.

 Should anthroposophists be protective of Steiner’s works or proactive and assertively public with them? Should we hide, or should we seek? These are questions that have long vexed our ranks, and the answer is probably not “either/or,” but closer to “both/and.” On the whole, over the past century, anthroposophists have done a better job “protecting” (remember those police dogs!) than “proacting,” yet, even so, Prokofieff tells us:

Already today one can find the most awful and defamatory attacks on Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, Waldorf schools, and other institutions connected with Anthroposophy on the Internet.

As one whose book, The Waldorf Teacher’s Survival Guide, has been the subject of such attacks, I can attest to the accuracy of Prokofieff’s statement. And, as one who has overseen a Waldorf-related web site for over a decade, and who has seen the Internet articles and videos about Waldorf education that he posted draw tens of thousands of viewers annually, I can attest to the fact that one can find the most positive, revelatory, and deeply grateful statements about Anthroposophy on the Internet as well.

 “The best defense,” as they say in the courtroom, “Is a good offense.” Steiner’s opponents are unlikely to cease their attacks whether or not we choose to go on the Internet, and it is likely that their defamatory statements will only grow more virulent online and offline. We don’t have to go searching for those who oppose Anthroposophy, but we will have to be far more proactive to find those who seek it. In addition to the study groups, lectures, conferences, and performances that have represented us so well, we will have to use the means that the world provides and cast our net widely – even if that net is the Internet.

As Rudolf Steiner noted in The Nature of Technology in 1914:

        It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves from Ahriman, even cut ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy is to make the forces of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life.

 The importance of Sergei Prokofieff’s article lies in the eloquent and impassioned case that he makes for being completely conscious about the Internet’s provenance and sagaciously cautious about its utilization. I concur with his principles and admire his consistency. Prokofieff, I would contend, is invoking the shield of Michael, protecting the core of Anthroposophy from the destructive forces ranged against it. I would also like to assert that there is merit in a very different approach to the Internet, one that understands its dark challenge as a force that Anthroposophy is empowered to meet. To face this challenge, however, it is not enough to invoke the shield. We must have the initiative and courage to wield Michael’s sword, as well.  

 For more articles, podcasts, and videos by Eugene Schwartz, visit




Figure 1: “She rang Mr. Acorn on the spider phone.” by Elsa Beskow



Figure 2: White Hat Web Site



Figure 3: Video Game Spiders


Figure 4: Spider Mobile Weapon from the movie Maverick