In the Zoroastrian mythos, Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu) is the spiritual power who opposes Ahura Mazdao (or Ormazd), the Creator, whose name means “Lord of Wisdom.” In his early novel Cosmic Puppets (1957),Philip K. Dick uses the Ahura Mazdao/Ahriman binary in the story of the battle between spiritual and cosmic evil and good played out in small town Virginia; it was kind of a precursor to Dick’s later fascination with Gnostic dualism and in no small part influenced his thoughts on what we would now call mass surveillance and transhumanism.
The concept of Ahriman also appears in the writing of the great Russian radical Christian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev and became a fundamental idea in the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner. For both Berdyaev and Steiner, Ahriman represents the technological, the materialistic, and the technocratic, that which seeks always to turn human beings into collectivist and efficient machines: emotionless, unfeeling, and inartistic—like the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In the introduction to The Meaning of the Creative Act (1914), Berdyaev confesses himself a dualist (with some serious qualifications):
“I confess an almost manichean dualism. So be it. “The world” is evil, it is without God and not created by Him. We must go out of the world, overcome it completely: the world must be consumed, it is of the nature of Ariman, Freedom from the world is the pathos of this book. There is an objective source of evil, against which we must wage an heroic war. The necessity of the given world and the given world itself are of Ariman.” 
And then the qualifications:
“Over against this stands freedom in the spirit, life in divine love, life in the Pleroma. And I also confess an almost pantheistic monism. The world is divine in its very nature. Man is, by his nature, divine. The world-process is self-revelation of Divinity, it is taking place within Divinity. God is immanent in the world and in man. The world and man are immanent in God. Everything which happens with man happens with God. There is no dualism of divine and extra-divine nature, of God's absolute transcendence of the world and of man.”
He is completely aware of the antinomy and embraces it.
In The Meaning of History (1923), Berdyaev returns to the Zoroastrian understanding of Ahriman is his consideration of history and, what is always a preoccupation of his, eschatology:
“The conflict between Ormuz and Ariman is resolved by a catastrophe which brings about the end of history and the beginning of something else. Without this sense of an end, the process cannot be conceived as historical movement. Without this eschatological perspective progression cannot be considered as history, for it lacks inner purpose, significance, and fulfillment.” 
The Eschaton, I think it’s spiritually healthy to say, is always already happening. It’s only that sometimes it is easier to perceive.
My guess is that Berdyaev first became intrigued by the religious and sociological implications of the concept of Ahriman during the period of his interest in Rudolf Steiner. Berdyaev’s friend, the poet and novelist Andrei Bely (real name Boris Bukarev) was an early Russian enthusiast of Steiner’s and encouraged his friend to read some of the Austrian philosopher’s work, and even entreated him to attend lectures of Steiner’s in Helsingfors, Finland in 1913. Berdyaev was never completely sold on Steiner, but neither did he completely dismiss him. He returns to Steiner often in his work, sometimes in approval and sometimes in critique. But he takes him seriously.
Steiner’s treatment of Ahriman is much more developed and complex than Berdyaev’s. Clearly inspired by Hegelian dialectic, Steiner reads Ahriman as part of a polarity with Christ as the mediator:
“To gain a right conception of the historical evolution of mankind over approximately 6000 years, one must grasp that at the one pole stands an incarnation of Lucifer, in the center the incarnation of Christ, and at the other pole the incarnation of Ahriman. Lucifer is the power that stirs up all fanatical, all falsely mystical forces in human beings, all that physiologically tends to bring the blood into disorder and so lift man above and outside himself. Ahriman is the power that makes people dry, prosaic, philistine—that ossifies them and brings them in the superstition of materialism. And the true nature and being of man is essentially the effort to hold the balance between the powers of Lucifer and Ahriman; the Christ impulse helps present humanity to establish this equilibrium.” 
One way to think of this is to turn to basic human psychology. Say a person is drawn to an extreme self-expression characterized by a very narcissistic interpretation of “freedom”—which is how Steiner understands the workings of Lucifer. Well, just desiring this freedom might not be enough to actualize it without medical or technological interventions, so the person in question undergoes such intervention, often resulting in a lifelong dependency on various drugs or other chemical therapies or even mechanical manipulation of the body. This is what Steiner would call an ahrimanic gesture: the capitualtion to the technological (or technocratic). So we can see how the luciferic tendency can deliver the individual into the clutches of the ahrimanic. The desire for freedom, then, leads one into a life of slavery.
Speaking in 1919, Steiner explains how this tendency not only impacts individual human persons, but can also impact societies:
“Ahriman has the greatest possible interest in instructing men in mathematics, but not in instructing them that mathematical-mechanistic concepts of the universe are merely illusions. He is intensely interested in teaching us the concepts of chemistry, physics, biology and so on, as they are presented today in all their remarkable effects, and in making us believe that these are absolute truths, not that they are only points of view, like photographs taken from one side. If you photograph a tree from one side, it can be a correct photograph, yet it does not give a picture of the whole tree. If you photograph a tree from one side, it can be a true likeness, yet it does not give a picture of the whole tree as can be gained from photographing it from four sides. Ahriman has the greatest interest in concealing from mankind that in modern intellectual, rationalistic science, in superstitious empiricism, one is dealing with a great illusion, a deception—that men should not recognize this is of the greatest possible interest to Ahriman. It would be a triumphant experience for him if the scientific superstition which infiltrates all areas of life today and which human beings even try to use as a template for the social sciences should prevail into the third millennium. He would have the greatest success if he could then arrive in western civilization in human form and find the scientific superstition as prevailing dogma.” 
Here we are.
And, in a stirring piece of prophecy, Steiner describes the method of Ahriman:
“The second means that he employs is to stir up all the emotions that fragment people into small groups—groups that attack one another. You need only look at all the conflicting parties that exist today, and if you are unprejudiced you will recognize that the explanation is not to be found in human nature alone. If people honestly try to explain this so-called universal warfare through human disharmonies, they will realize that it cannot in fact be attributed to physical humanity. It is precisely here that ‘super-sensible’ powers, ahrimanic powers, have been at work.” 
In short, the desire for luciferian freedom has led to advent of ahrimanic transhumanism.
I have been teaching and writing about transhumanism, the great leap forward in human evolution by integration of biology with technology, for about twenty years. When I first started thinking about the topic and discussing its ramifications with my students, most of them seemed to think I was making a big deal out of nothing. This could never happen, they said. It’s just science fiction or a wet dream for computer nerds. Well, it’s happening. It began with promises of liberation and ends with a kind of slavery, whether to pharmacological, governmental, or corporate hegemony (and most effectively when the three are united). Transhumanism is only one tool of technocracy.
I write at length in my book Transfiguration about Ahriman in contrast to Sophia. In fact, to find an alternative to this dreadful state of affairs proposed by the threat of transhumanism is part of what drew me to Sophiology, which is, to my mind, the only antidote to the ghastly scenarios promised by technocracy, whether ushered in by a “Great Reset,” the lure of universal basic income, or any other promise of Utopia, a promise of freedom—from constraint, financial hardship, from illness, from worry—that invariably results in slavery.
What I’m saying, then, is that what we are in the middle of is a spiritual battle, a battle between the ahrimanic black magic of the technocrats and what we can call the white magic of Sophia. The late Ioan Couliano figured this out a long time ago:
“Nowadays the magician busies himself with public relations, propaganda, market research, sociological surveys, publicity, information, counterinformation and misinformation, censorship, espionage, and even cryptography—a science which in the sixteenth century was a branch of magic.... Historians have been wrong in concluding that magic disappeared with the advent of ‘quantitative science.’ The latter simply substituted itself for a part of magic while extending its dreams and its goals by means of technology.” 
I doubt most technocrats believe in the existence of Ahriman (or God for that matter, not to mention Sophia) and they certainly don’t pray to him. But there is no doubt that they worship him.
Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine.
1. Nikolai Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act, trans. Donald A. Lowrie (New York, 1962), 15.
2. Nikolai Berdyaev, The Meaning of History, trans. George Reavey (New York, 1962), 40.
3. Rudolf Steiner, The Incarnation of Ahriman: The Embodiment of Evil on Earth: Seven Lectures, trans. Matthew Barton (Forest Row, UK: Rudolf Steiner Press, 2006), 17–18.
4. Ibid., 22.
5. Ibid., 23.
6. Ioan P. Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, trans. Margaret Cook (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 109.