The True Foundations for the New (Living) Thinking

and the New Mysteries

- an American view -

by Joel A. Wendt

It is important for those who want to relate to Rudolf Steiner, and to the spiritual endeavors he fostered for the present - the 21st Century, to recognize that during the 20th Century the practice of Anthroposophy, by the Society and Movement, failed to achieve the goals hoped for it by the Spiritual World.  There is nothing shameful in this fact, nor are individuals and groups to be blamed.   Steiner had said: karma will hold sway.

If we inwardly review, with our imaginative faculty, the history of Anthroposophy in the 20th Century, we come upon a grievous heart wound that arose soon after Steiner crossed over.  Upon Steiner's death the Vorstand fell into disarray, and disputes among its principles (mostly Frau Marie Steiner and Ita Wegman) hardened into such a state, that various National Societies, after choosing sides, left the Movement or were ejected.  If one wants to get some details, there is a paper at the Steiner Library in New York, called: A Report of Some Events Occurring in the Anthroposophical Society, between the years 1925 and 1935.  This report, however, while illuminating, has to be taken with a grain of salt, for it was produced by one of the sides to this controversy.

Following the Second Great War, the National Societies rejoined into the present configuration, with once again a recognized Vorstand, but this was done mostly on the horizontal plane of the social-political, and not in the vertical - the spiritual.  Thus, the karma of the individual members continued to play out during the 20th Century, such that what we have today is a kind of fallen Anthroposophy - something modeled for us by a leadership which is mostly devoted to traditions, and to preserving the writings and lectures of Rudolf Steiner.

If we recall that Rudolf Steiner expected it to take over 400 hundred years for Anthroposophy to achieve its potentials as an aspect of world culture, we can then also see that these matters are exactly where they are supposed to be (from a certain point of view).  Steiner has passed the baton to us, and it is up to us to move Anthroposophy forward in the 21st Century, out of our own forces of soul and spirit.

We could also see that this amounts to an attitude of trust, from the Spiritual World to the human beings, as the 10th Hierarchy.  They know we can do it, and we need to know this as well.   The question then becomes: Do what?

As anthroposophists we do carry a kind of weight, a bit of debris naturally arising from the understandable human failures of the 20th Century.  This debris is the intellectualization of the Michaelic Cosmic Intelligence.  As the Society and Movement fell from grace following Steiner's crossing, we began to continue what had been started while he was alive - to take his teachings into ourselves in an intellectual way, not in a living way.

He had given us two profound challenges, whose application would have enabled us to find a living connection to the spirit, and thus made it possible for us to receive and work with his teachings in the right way.  The first was The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity), provided for all of humanity out of the genius of his youth, but which acquired over the fallen 20th Century a kind of illusory reputation as being too hard.  The second he gave shortly after the fire that destroyed the original Goetheanum, when in the lectures called: Awakening to Community, he described the reverse cultus (see the 6th lecture for explicit details, but keep in mind the whole series is quite important).

In The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity), Steiner shows us the path of cognition (as referred to in the First Leading Thought), which he unfolds in such a way that through a scientifically and objective practice of introspection, we solve the problem of knowledge of the spirit.  We learn how to become knowing doers of the spirit in a manner fully consistent with the practices of Natural Science.

In the practice of the reverse cultus (something almost completely forgotten in the fallen 20th Century), we learn how as a community to rise up collectively into the spirit during conversation.  For practical details, read Marjorie Spock's Group Moral Artistry as well as Tomberg's The Philosophy of Taking Counsel with others, and his The Meaning and Significance of a free Anthroposophical Group.  Not everyone forgot the reverse cultus during the 20th Century.

If we survey these two imaginatively, it will come to us to understand how the first leads to the New Thinking, and then how the New Thinking, practiced in a group, leads to the New Mysteries.  The New Mysteries are meant to arise in the social commons, and not any longer be fostered by hierarchical organizations.  Steiner had hoped that the School of Spiritual Science would be a place where such spiritual arts were taught and practiced, but this writer sees little evidence that such a living connection to the spirit exists in Dornach.  Rather what is observed there is the ignoring of Steiner's The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity), the forgetting of the significance of the reverse cultus, and the intellectualization of the Michaelic Cosmic Intelligence.

What does it mean to intellectualize?

To appreciate this we have to use some of the language of The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity).  In this book we discover that knowledge is the union of percept (experience) and concept (thought).  Much of what Steiner taught in the books and lectures was not, to the readers of these texts, an experience.  What was to Steiner an experience of the sublime in the Spiritual Worlds, had been incarnated into language in the texts.  However, because of this incarnation of experience into language, it was not possible for him to give us this experience directly.  But he could, if we struggled to meet him halfway (as it were), give us understanding.  What does this mean?

When we read a Steiner text, we mostly get what has to be called a perceptless concept.  Lacking the percept (the experience) we are nevertheless given, through language and Steiner's remarkable gifts in this quarter, an understanding of spiritual facts and Beings.  We cannot acquire knowledge of the spiritual world in the absence of the percept (the experience), but we can acquire an understanding of it (which is why Steiner said that the reports of a researcher of the Spiritual Worlds had the same value for others as the reports of natural scientists - that is: the creation of understanding).  If one reads carefully, for example, the introductory material to Occult Science: an outline, and Theosophy, the word understanding is everywhere.  But only in his works on objective introspection does he speak of knowledge, unless we look to Knowledge of Higher Worlds, which is a path to clairvoyant experience.  Out of this latter book we can obtain to the percept (the experience).

[Please keep in mind that Knowledge of Higher Worlds is not the path that Steiner himself traveled.  His personal path is described in A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception and The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity.  In Occult Science: an outline, he describes the difference between the two paths by saying the latter two works are more sure and more exact than the former - see the end of Chapter Five.  See also Lowndes: Enlivening the Chakra of the Heart.]

All the same, when we read a Steiner text we cannot be passive inwardly.  We have to recreate, in our imaginations, the sequence of pictures he gives in the texts.  This inner effort then (meeting him halfway) gives us true understanding.  If we do not make this inner effort and instead merely passively read, what arises in the soul is neither knowledge or understanding, but only mere belief.

When we appreciate this properly, we can then see that when Steiner wrote and lectured the Michaelic Cosmic Intelligence was present in a living way in the room where Steiner was, and then It died from out of the living spiritual, via an incarnation into language, and thence into text and stenographic notes.  It lingered for a while in the consciousness of the listeners to the lectures, but again they had to recreate it later in order to truly understand.  Here one should ask, why didn't Steiner explain this?

Since The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity) was not being taken up, there was no language (and experience) in use by his audience by which to explain this.  Moreover, the Intellectual Soul still dominated European thinking and education, such that without the Consciousness Soul awake enough, Steiner could not lift this weight (the tendency to intellectualization) away from those who read his books and came to his lectures, solely out of his own forces.  Not to say he didn't try.  In fact, he probably died prematurely (at 64) because he spent (exhausted) his life forces into this effort to carry everyone upward toward the spirit out of his own will.

Numerous times he tried to renew the anthroposophical impulse during his life, only to not be met halfway by his students, even his best students, who as we observed at the beginning fell immediately into disarray upon his crossing.  Yet, for all that is tragic about our Movement in the 20th Century, we have the opportunity to lead it to its rebirth in the 21st.  We do this by picking up what was left behind, and making it our task and gift to Rudolf Steiner, out of gratitude for all that he sacrificed for our benefit: namely, that we do what the 20th Century could not do - forge a personal connection to The Philosophy of Freedom (Spiritual Activity) and the reverse cultus.  Then, with the personal soul forces thus engendered, we ourselves overcome the intellectualization of Michaelic Cosmic Intelligence.