Spiritual Economy

Any suggestion that Steiner’s works can be segregated into those that pertain to the Bible and those that do not is unthinkable. Christ stood as the beacon light for every aspect of his life, and, when understood in the light of anthroposophy, this can be seen in all his works. One might say therefore that the Bible and Steiner both had the same lodestar—Christ. Nevertheless, it can be said that his works directed primarily to the meaning of the Bible fall most heavily within the years 1908 to 1914. While a few Bible focused lecture cycles preceded this period, most notably The Gospel of St. John, clearly Steiner began to concentrate on holy scripture per se in 1908. It is also noteworthy that the last two of the five books in the Basic Anthroposophy section of Vol. 3, Companions Along The Way, namely, Occult Science (OS) and Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (KHW), were either completed or published in 1909, and the lecture cycles The Spiritual Hierarchies (and their reflection in the physical world) (SH) and Rosicrucian Esotericism (RE) were among critically important ones completed in 1909 or shortly before. After hostilities commenced in Germany in 1914, Steiner gave few lectures of the same nature for he said that the conditions in the spiritual world did not lend themselves to the investigation of such matters at that time. After the war his lectures were directed to other pressing issues.

The above is related to properly emphasize the importance implied by the timing of the eleven lectures on spiritual economy, The Principle of Spiritual Economy (SE), which were given from January 21 through May 31, 1909. How the existence of this cycle and its importance escaped my attention until the research phase of this project was nearly complete, and writing begun, is simply beyond my imagination. Remembering the difficulty this deferment presented to me undoubtedly influences my introducing it early in this work.

One cannot begin to understand spiritual economy without first understanding the makeup of the human being (as described in the “Overview” above and in I-9) and the course of the Ego between death and rebirth (described in I-33 and implicit in “Karma and Reincarnation”). Recall that usually after death, first the etheric body dissolves into the etheric world (except for an extract, the fruit of the past life), then the astral body dissolves, after a period of purification, into the astral world (again, except for the extracted fruit), leaving the Ego alone to journey into the spirit world to prepare for a new life in the future.

Now, in SE, Lect. 3, Steiner tells us, “It is a principle of spiritual economy that what has once been gained cannot perish, but is preserved and transplanted on the spiritual soil of posterity.”1 Progress made in the development of any component of a human being’s makeup is not lost but is preserved in other worlds. One “stores up treasures” there (Mt 6,19-20), so to speak. One way this principle applies is on an individual basis between lives, as Steiner tells us early in Lect. 1 (and also in Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse (RPA), Pt. 2, Lect. 2). As the Ego descends from cosmic “Midnight” back through the astral and etheric spheres (or worlds) toward subsequent earthly incarnation, it picks up preserved extracts of the astral and etheric bodies left in these worlds from the imprint of one’s prior earthly life.2 In this manner, what has previously been perfected is not lost but carried over in transformed state.

While the individual aspect is important, SE deals primarily with the aspect of the “preservation and transplantation of spiritual treasures” between one human or spiritual being and another human being. As Steiner said (SE, Lect. 1):

It is, after all, clear that great differences exist when one looks at the course of human development and that the extracts or abstracts of their bodies can have different values depending on the kinds of fruit they were able to extract from life. And when we remember that there are great leaders of humanity, initiates who lead other human beings into the spiritual worlds, then we have to ask our selves this question: What causes the accomplishments of the initiates to be preserved for the future?

So it is to the initiates who have been the great leaders of humanity that we look for the further application of the principle. Here we would do well to follow along somewhat with Steiner’s presentation, starting with the old initiates—back on Atlantis. There were schools known as “oracles,” where instruction was given and initiates were taught by a leader. Whether or not there were more, we know there were seven such oracles related to the planets (see RPA, Pt. 2, Lect. 2). The Sun Oracle, also known as the Christ Oracle, was the highest of these, and its leader was preeminent among all. He was known as “Manu” (see I-59), and we may take it that the Biblical Noah was identifiable in some manner with this leader. It seems pertinent to point out that the account of Noah has him taking seven people with him in the ark, namely, his wife, and his three sons and their wives (Gen 6,18 and 7,7). That their familial relationship is metaphorical and allegorical is virtually certain from an anthroposophical standpoint. Even Peter seems to recognize this by simply referring to the fact that he took “seven other persons” with him (2 Pet 2,5).3

Nativity, Appendix Page 4
Spiritual Economy, Page 2