Some comments on the Giersch Lecture

by Joel A. Wendt

I confess to not agreeing with certain aspects of the lecture, which I find requires some remarks in order that my having placed it on my website does not leave the impression that I find it completely satisfactory.  I do find that it should be shared, given that it offers considerable insight into the story of the Anthroposophical Society in the 20th Century, but aspects of it trouble me, and in a few pages I hope to explain my perspective.

My principle concern is with the Idea of the Call from the Spiritual World, which is named in this document a: Stiftung.  A whole can of worms arises in relationship to this when (or if) we grant to Rudolf Steiner any kind of absolute correctness as regards the truth.  Now I am not casting doubt on what is reported in the Giersch lecture, and attributed to Steiner, but I want to clearly suggest that the disciplines of the Living Thinking, with which I am intimately familiar, require that any Idea gained from reading be initially held at a distance from the I and contemplated, in order to follow correctly the practice described in the last sentence of the original preface to Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom: One must be able to confront an idea and experience it; otherwise one will fall into its bondage.

Let me next give some quotes, from the text, through which the idea emerges , as described in the Giersch lecture:

a ‘Stiftung’ is not a human creation, but an initiative from the spiritual world which is hoping that human beings will decide to adopt a certain way of working

how much depends quite directly upon the way human beings respond to a call that has gone out from higher worlds

The expectations have not been fulfilled. Every so often, the spiritual world casts out a line. This time nothing was caught on it

If this attempt to connect to a ‘Stiftung’, and thus to begin a new spiritual leadership on Earth, were again to fail, then no-one in our circle will find the strength again during this earthly life to connect once more in this way to a 'Stiftung’ from the spiritual world

All this is connected to the idea in the lecture that the Christmas Conference was such a Stiftung (in fact the third such call that was related to the anthroposophical work - the first arose even when this work was still connected to the Theosophical Society), concerning which the leadership of the Society is said to have had about 9 months to respond to by increasing their inner activity in the right way:

“This impulse has failed. Come back to Dornach in October. Then everything will be arranged differently – including the situation in Stuttgart”. A member who wishes to remain anonymous received from Rudolf Steiner, in response to a question about the Christmas Conference and its effects within the Society, the answer: the spiritual world allows nine months to see whether an echo comes from the members. If no echo comes, the impulses of the Christmas Conference have come to an end.

If we have read carefully Steiner's A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, we will be aware that there he describes an Idea as a: complex of concepts.  In presenting the above quotes from the lecture I want to point out some details of this complex of concepts, which then lives in the reader as an impression of a certain Idea which is/has been laid into the meaning that hovers over the text of the lecture.

If we just read passively, we will not notice these ideas as they arise within us from the overall meaning of the text.  At the same time, we might well uncritically accept them, or at least our interpretation of the meaning of the text.  Giersch, in creating the text, even though it is filled with quotes of Steiner and others, has woven in the central meaning, through his own words, and through how he arranges his sentences and paragraphs.  He has a point of view about what it all means and he marshals his "evidence", in the forms of quotes, in order to make clear what he believes it all means.

This meaning could be represented as follows: the Christmas Conference failed and Steiner said this was so.   The reason it failed was that individuals, especially members of the Executive, did not answer the call of the Stiftung by failing to engender certain inner disciplines which would have resulted in a purification of their astral bodies.  This failure continues to this day, with the consequence that a quite undesirable illusion has arisen among the membership and the leaders of the Anthroposophical Society.

My view is that this is a narrow interpretation of events, one in which no responsibility for this situation can be laid at the feet of either Steiner or the so-called: spiritual world.  Only the Executive and the members are to be blamed.

I find that this aspect of the idea (that human beings are solely responsible for the so-called failure) itself fails the tests of truth in the form of reason, and next I will offer why I put forward this idea.

As a preliminary, the reader of this needs to know that my view of "reason" is not merely that something is logical, but rather that there is as a quality of reason itself a kind of moral aesthetic, which is more akin to the harmonies we experience in various kinds of music.   In a sense, in the contemplations via living thinking of an Idea, the aspects of truth, goodness and beauty unite in the qualitative nature of the experience of the Idea in its relationship to the totality of the thought-world (the ethereal world as experienced in its living and becoming thought-content).

Now I have no basis for knowing exactly what Steiner meant when he used the word Stiftung.  All I have is the way Giersch represented this idea in the totality of his lecture.  This representation seems to leave the causal failure of the Christmas Conference solely in the failing of members of the executive and the Society.  Here is the flaw in this as appears to my own thinking, in my contemplation of the moral aesthetic of the Idea.

As a human being, in my interactions with other human beings, I have found through many years of experience (I am 69 at the time of this writing) that it is unwise to expect people to do something, even though in my imagination I can believe they might do the particular deed.  Nor can I expect to coerce or otherwise cause them to do a certain action, especially if I hold as my own moral ideal that they should be free to make their own choices.  I may express my view of the matter, but I make a fatal error in thought if I expect them to change their behavior or otherwise conform that behavior in any way to something I suggest.

I have to keep a kind of thoughtful and emotional distance between my own I's view of things, and the free and independent views of the Thou.  Otherwise I am in danger of abusing their freedom, something in myself I seek to protect at all costs (I don't want my freedom abused).

Now with respect to this situation of the Society and Christmas Conference, and Steiner and the call of the "spiritual world" (whatever that is, for there is no evidence that the communities of higher beings ever act as a unity - although there is a lot of evidence many act as a harmony of different voices), I have to wonder what they were contemplating in their efforts to create the Anthroposophical Society, and forming it in such a way which required certain specific behaviors by the executive and the membership in order for it to carry out its tasks

My own experience of Christ, for example, is that He has no expectations of me at all, and loves me however flawed I may be.  It is rather an aspect of the somewhat cooperative relationship of my higher I (my conscience) and the three-fold double complex, that produces expectations and the sense of potential failure.  How does this arise?

It is the nature of mind to make comparative judgments, which occur in large part because the fundamental nature of our feeling life is rooted in antipathy and sympathy.  I have likes and dislikes (even about myself), according to my own fallen character as a human being, and I view the world through the lens of these feelings and make comparative judgments as to whether a specific behavior or thing has value or does not.  I primarily order the world according to these likes and dislikes, up until the time I become their master through my own efforts at inner discipline.

Given this universal situation (true for all human beings) how did it come about that Giersch thought that, and perhaps Steiner and the "spiritual world" tried to create, an earthly Society that had to be filled from within by human beings who achieved a certain state of inner perfection (the purification of the astral body), in order for this earthly Society to fulfill its tasks?

This, in a situation where the opposing powers were in fact nearing a moment of considerable triumph in Central Europe.

Let us step back a bit and consider these questions from another point of view.

In my life I have learned many lessons, one small one is that certain people (two women I have known are good examples) can't help but be judgmental in the right circumstances.  In the case of these two women, who found my behavior lacking in certain specifics, they shared a particular quality - namely both had been raised in the Catholic Church, although both in their maturity were no longer members.  In contemplating this situation I came to the conclusion that while the girl could take herself out of the Catholic Church, you could not fully take the Catholic Church out of the girl (thus the instinct for moral judgmentalism).

It is my view that the same is true with regard to those souls who are born into, and or spend a lot of time involved with, Central Europe.  The qualities of soul that go with being born a Central European include a kind of strong affection for the Ideal.  The mind of such individuals naturally creates ideal images of what should be, and then seeks through various means, to incarnate those ideals into social reality.  But because of our feeling instinct for sympathy and antipathy, that which does not comport with the egotistically manufactured Ideal is found wanting (in my writing I call this comparative thinking).

Now the Rosicrucian impulse is quite definitely Central European in origin.  Which means that to the extent that Giersch, Steiner and perhaps even the mysterious Christian Rosenkreutz are related to this impulse, they tend to form ideal images of what should be and then seek to have the social conform to these ideals.  We can take (or try to take) the human being out of Central Europe, but can we really take Central Europe out of the human being.  Steiner's Knowledge of Higher Worlds, for example, is full of idealistic admonitions regarding moral behavior, which is an approach that is quite distinct from that of The Philosophy of Freedom which considers the forming of a moral idea something entirely within the freedom of the individual I.

It is this aspect of soul life that in my view then inhabits the way Giersch represents the Idea of Stiftung.  Steiner finds, for example (and this is true throughout his life and writing), that he again and again must admonish his students with the Ideal in order to urge them to accomplish certain tasks that possibly can have a good end.  He applies this to himself as well, and no doubt is strongly influenced by those aspects and communities of the spiritual world (which is not a unity remember, but a harmony) that align themselves in this concrete similar direction: the want to incarnate the ideal into the earthly social.

As I explained carefully, from multiple directions in my book American Anthroposophy, this won't work for Americans, nor in the Cultural East as well.   The given nature of soul life does not operate either in the West or the East, the same way it operates in the Center.

We could then legitimately asked why the anthroposophical impulse was born then in Central Europe in the first place, given that, from the point of view of those inaugurating it, people are flawed and will not necessarily achieve the ideal regardless of our hopes otherwise.   The answer to that question I have addressed in my essay: Saving Anthroposophy: from the anthroposophical Movement and Society.  That said, however, I should here say this:

In Valentin Tomberg's remarkable Studies of the Foundation Stone, he reports that spiritual movements incarnate in a direction that proceeds from East to West.  Spirits of Form (according to him) move in this gesture following the gesture of the rising sun.  We can then form the thought that this "incarnation process" takes place in such a way that it is less incarnate in the cultural East, more incarnate in the cultural Center, and then fully incarnate (fully earthly) in the cultural West (which is how he describes it using other terms).

Let me now address more specifically the matter of the so-called spiritual world itself, especially with regard to the Movement which Steiner characterizes as an aspect and impulse rooted in the spiritual world.  Again I need first to make a digression and introduce some additional material in order to provide a context for the next thoughts, keeping in mind that we are looking to how then Anthroposophy becomes fully incarnate in the cultural West, particularly America.

In the 1990's on American Television, there arose a television series called: Babylon Five, the creation of an American writer J. Michael Straczynski.   This was a kind of Tolkien Lord of the Rings in space, being a science-fiction television show in which a five-year story arc attempted to consider the problems of the battle between good and evil more typical of literary fantasy.  

Near the end of Season three, a kind of climax of certain aspects of the story was reached when a crucial space battle was pending between the human beings, and their peers and allies in other space-faring races, and two elder races (millions of years older than the humans), called the Shadows and the Vorlons.  Up to this point in time, the Shadows and the Vorlons had worked in the hidden background of matters galactic, pushing and influencing various younger races (the humans and their allies) in different ways according to the views of these two elder races.

For the Shadows, their principle question was: what do you want?  For the Vorlons, their principle question was: who are you?  The Shadows were depicted as invisible beings (that could in the right circumstances be made visible), which when visible looked like living mechanical spiders, with multiple limbs and eyes.   The Vorlons were depicted as beings who hid themselves in "encounter suits" so as not to be seen, because if seen it would be discovered that each of the younger races saw them as angel-like beings, but differentiated to accord with the different religious views common to that particular race ( for example, humans saw them as winged angels, with human like faces).

Preliminary to this particular battle coming into being, the humans and their allies noted that the Shadows and the Vorlons avoided direct conflict with each other, and seemed to use the humans and their allies as surrogates, creating alliances and manipulating conflict, while withholding a great deal of information.  On the cusp of the battle, the human leader was able to force a representative of both groups (the Shadows and the Vorlons) into a meeting on the bridge of one of the starships present in this solar system.  All forces in this very climatic moment had large arrays of spaceships, with both the Shadows and the Vorlons possessing far far superior capacities and numbers, including ships that were called: planet killers, while the humans and their allies understood that if the Shadows and the Vorlons directly fought, the humans and their allies would probably be crushed between them and completely annihilated.

The human hero-leader gives an impassioned speech in which he says basically that it was time for the Shadows and the Vorlons to leave the humans and their allies alone, and stop using them as surrogates for the resolving their (the Shadows and the Vorlons) own differences.  In effect the humans and the other younger races wanted the Shadows and the Vorlons to step away, and go "beyond the rim" of known space, and make peace with each other, leaving the younger races to resolve their own differences without being used as surrogates for the differences between the elder races.

The leaders of the Shadows and the Vorlons were not unwilling, but they did not want to go beyond the rim alone, as there was present, at this time of the meeting on the human spaceship bridge, the First One, an individual toward whom both the Shadows and the Vorlons showed great affection and honor.  They asked if the First One would go with them, and he said that he would.

As a consequence the greatest potential battle did not happen, and the Shadows and the Vorlons, in the company of the First One, left the humans and their allies to the working out of their own difficulties with each other.  Once this was settled and the television series entered its fourth season, it took up political questions on the Earth and the need for a rebellion there against abuses of power.   The fifth season concerned the effect on various cultures of the existence of psychic powers and how that was to be dealt with among the various groups.

Now in putting this forward I mean to suggest that here is an artist working in the modern media of America, who had an highly accurate instinctive imaginary vision of the real condition of humanity in the present, and his version of the resolution of the problem of good and evil at this level can be very instructive for our appreciation of the relationship between the human I and the higher angelic realms and the lower so-called demonic realms.

About eighteen months ago, I was in prayer while in retreat in New Hampshire.  I was actually very angry.  I was not happy to have my soul be a war zone between the activity of the complex of doubles (the demonic) and the presence of the angelic via the intuitions of my conscience.  I was tired of the presence in my soul life of the Shadows and the Vorlons, whose existence and relationship was very very old, but which managed as the Creation developed to place me in between them.  Now lest you think this is false, just consider.

Rudolf Steiner gave a lecture cycle that was published under the title: The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness.  In it (among a great deal else), he describes how around 1879 a battle between the forces of Archangel Michael and certain other forces of opposition, resulted in the latter forces being forced out of the spiritual world and sent to earth.  The earth then became the field of activity of certain Dark hierarchies that previously worked elsewhere, who then also became even more capable of participation in human affairs, and in particular were to have a strong influence on the dead.

Now in the 20th Century we have had these phenomena appear in the social-political world: two world wars, the creation of the atomic bomb, the materialization of biology such that we don't understand it at all, the creation of a technological civilization which has no idea of the real nature of electricity, and now the falling apart of civilization such that great pain and suffering is emerging everywhere in the guise of financial collapse, loss of jobs and homes and more and more egregious abuses of power by corporate and government officials.   The so-called War of All against All seems almost present, and there appears to be no end in sight for human against human conflict.

A system has evolved in which human beings are the surrogates for points of view of higher communities of beings (Vorlons) and lower demonic entities of opposition (Shadows).  All this in a time where knowledge of this matter is kept from us.  These problems as seen from the Idealism of Central European soul life are accepted - matters are as they should be according to this view.  Steiner, for example, apparently believes it is right for the Vorlons to rule on the Earth, via human beings, who should (if they were properly wise according to Steiner) strive for perfection in response to the Stiftung or Call.

The American Soul doesn't approach matters in this idealistic way.  The ideal is of little use, for this soul wants to help, not admonish.  Anthroposophy, in the light of this approach then, is far different than the approach made in Central Europe.  Giersch and Steiner, and excarnate "masters" such as Christian Rosenkreutz, are of little use as regards the practical problems of human beings helping each other, accepting each other and loving each other - to the extent that they foster the idea that the only solution is to copy on the earth social forms in accord with the vision of higher beings (the Vorlons), by creating a School run by initiates.

It seems to me that the structure of things spiritual and their relationship to the earthly is being more and more forced upon us as a given, and while we are made to be responsible for deciding in the war that goes on in our souls between or light and dark, we haven't yet been much allowed (at least in a conscious way)  to design the structure itself.  My angry prayer in New Hampshire was that the highest gods maybe should not be so hands off (Christ and the Holy Mother), and do something to lessen the raising of the temperature of things, that seems to be happening as a consequence of the unrestrained influence of the excesses of the angelic and the demonic in terms of their ability to influence human choices and actions.

Are we the only ones screwing things up?   

So what that the Executive in 1925 screwed things up.  So what that the Executive today is still screwing things up.  Its not my business to judge, although it is my business to point out the truth (I can say: Look current executive, you are screwing things up big time).  But the truth is not the good, nor are either of those alone able to contain or become beauty.  So what that the higher worlds (both angelic and demonic) might be screwing things up too.  But in that case, they shouldn't be surprised if down here on the ground and in a physical body, I might have a complaint or two.  Sometimes in my prayers, when the doubles and the conscience are particularly frisky, I challenge them to take on a body and come into my room and face me directly instead of screwing around in my mind.

So, during my prayers lately I include thanks and gratitude and a little attitude as well.  Lets all be responsible for what goes on here, and I for one don't want to give any being in the cosmos a free ride on that level.

Walk in Beauty say the Navajo.

Amen, say I, but just don't expect me as a human being to take all the blame for things on myself or my neighbors and friends.  You invisibles need to come out from behind the curtain more, and dialog with us about the future.  No hiding behind initiates and enlightened ones anymore.  Show up.  Follow Christ and take on being in the body.  Angels or Demons, Vorlons or Shadows - show up on the bridge of life and lets talk about it face to face, in front of everyone else.  Otherwise, ... maybe we don't need to pay too much attention to you anymore at all, since you are seemingly leaving us all alone (except when you violate the temple of our own soul), waiting for us to become perfect before you deign to speak to us.

That's my song ... however sour some might think is the melody ... see my little story: the Zen Potter, for details ...