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You can always count on Rudolf Steiner to take any of your preconceived notions and set them on their ear, and Secret Brotherhoods might be the most amazing of all his books. Steiner is no easy read, and even harder to explain, so I'll do my best with lots of quotes from the great man himself.
Secret Brotherhoods is a set of lectures given by Steiner in November of 1917, and that's what's truly amazing. I can't think of anyone today, who's even come close to the logical intelligence of Rudolf Steiner, and in so many important areas of life, actually, the most important areas of our collective lives.
To sum up how Steiner is important today, is that explains the 2 thoughts that compete for our attention, or soul if you will. One is the Ahrimanic side of our being, and one is the Luciferian side of our being. Now this might seem antiquated to our modern minds, but wait, on the Arhimanic side, you have a pure materialistic view, while the Luciferian side, you have an idealistic view of life. The Ahrimanic side wants you to only see the material things in life, and to strive to towards them is the ideal, with money being the main issue.
The Luciferian side wants you to live in the mind, ignoring the material and striving only towards an unattainable utopia. So how is the relevant today? Republicans(Ahrimanic, material side) Democrats(Luciferian, communist ideals), and wait, there's a balance of both sides, a middle way, and that's the Christ consciousness. We are here not to fight about which way is right, we're here to learn to balance these two sides as Jesus showed us, and that's through love. This is a fight for the very soul of man, not just the vote for a certain party.
Hard to believe that Steiner gave these lectures nearly a hundred years ago, yet still they hold true and except that now, we're so polarized that to even mention that you're a moderate gets you labeled as 'wishy-washy' or too stupid to make up your mind. Well, the joke's on the name-callers, because being in balance is what our task is as a human being.
Here's Steiner's explanation of the Arimanic(could this be where the word manic originate from?) being(which is what is talked about in Faust): "When a human being enters earthly existence through birth he gains on the one hand the possibility of giving means of existence to his soul through his physical body. . . but on the other hand a person does not know his physical body at all well. What an extraordinary number of things go on in our body of which we know nothing . . . we arrive in this world with the garment of our organism without being able to to reach down into it with our soul to any great extent. Instead shortly before we are born, not very long before we are born, there is also an opportunity for another spiritual being, apart from our soul, to take possession of our body, namely, of the subconscious part of our body. This is a fact. Shortly before we are born another being indwells us; in the terminology we use today, we call this an ahrimanic being. It is just as much in us is our own soul.
"So we proceed through our life while having our soul and also a double who is far cleverer than we are, very intelligent, but with a mephistophelian intelligence(see politicians, bankers and lawyers for an example of this). and in addition also an ahrimanic will, a very strong will, a will that this more akin to the forces of nature than it is to our human will which is ruled by our heart and mind. . . Those electric currents are the forces that are introduced into our being by the being I have just been describing. . .They want to conquer the earth, so they need bodies. Having no bodies of their own they use much of human bodies as they can since the human soul cannot quite fill the human bodies."pages 56-57
And here's the catch, these beings can't stand death, so they depart when the body is about to expire. They control our automatic bodily systems, which can explain why we lose those controls when we die, or are even threatened with death(think of how ones loses control when they're severely frightened and you get the idea).
Anyway, that was just one page of a lecture, so if you want to jump into the very deep end of the metaphysical pool, Rudolf Steiner is your man.
As an aside, Stephanie Meyers, the author of the Twilight series, wrote a book called Host, that touches on this subject. It's worth reading.