this is the second stage of a work in process. the original version has been edited, and the biographical material has been removed. other corrections have also been made. if the reader of these pages has some interest in the orignal version they can contact me via e-mail, stating their interest and the reasons for it. if there seems justification, I will forward a url leading to the original version, which has been preserved as a stand alone web page.
Listening to the World Song
- a report on the Experience of an Idea -
by Joel A. Wendt
a few introductory remarks
Understanding comes slowly. It cannot be forced. Where I stand today (and what I see from where I stand) is quite different from where I stand or what I will see tomorrow. The same may be true for the reader of these pages. Some of what is below may be difficult to immediately appreciate. Hopefully those who read what is to follow will forgive my excesses and errors, and still find some nourishment for their souls in my song.
This essay derives the greater part of its its basic impulse from a love of anthroposophy. It is because of this love I take the time and trouble to think about the social forms through which anthroposophy is integrated with the wider social world. The understanding that results from this thinking is not encouraging.
To my heart it sometimes appears that anthroposophy will not survive the (hopefully) unconscious failings and betrayal of those who seem to lead its institutional forms. In fact, the leading institution, the Anthroposophical Society, could be more accurately renamed the Rudolf Steiner Preservation and Choral Bureaucracy. Such is the attachment to the past, of the Vorstand and other leading personalities, that a substantial barrier exists, which prevents the new and the living from entering into the present social-spiritual paralysis that is falsely called today: the life of the Society.
The worship of the past is a potentially fatal disease for any institution. For something which aspires to be a modern mystery school, it is a tragic catastrophe.
Again and again the Christmas Conference is evoked, as if this past event represented some kind of magical formula. Never does one hear a real acknowledgement of the disarray that followed, or any honest attempt to appreciate the real consquences of the events of the next ten to fifteen years. A great sadness can come to someone who struggles to form an imaginative picture, and behold inwardly as a whole, the history of the Society, with its great and grevious heart wound, that followed Steiner's death.
Those events broke the relationship between the Society and the Spiritual World, and far too many are in denial of this truth. The recreation of the Society, following after the second great war, was a social-political event, not a spiritual one. It resulted in an earthly social form, but not in a true mystery school. This does not have to remain the case, but until the truth is recognized, a healing between the world of spirit and the social form cannot arise.
The unconfessed lie is itself the core obstacle. The denial of the heart wound at the center of the Society's biography cannot continue if we are to think about the Society in a real and a healthy way.
The result is that the Anthroposophical Society more closely resembles, as a social form, a bureaucracy. Now a bureaucracy does not require a formal creation with clerks and adminstrators, because bureaucracy is a human response to certain situations. A bureaucracy arises because a common attitude is taken. The social form grows out of the intentions sleeping in this attitude.
In what calls itself the Anthroposophical Society we have an attitude of presevation and conservation, coupled with an exclusionary impulse that keeps the wild and earthly element of human existence (the life) outside. It is the triumph of this presevation and exclusionary impulse which allows the real social form of the Society to function as a Bureaucracy. The whole social form looks mostly inward, and toward the past, while being concerned mainly with the presevation of traditional structures and a complete avoidence of any risk taking whatsoever.
This is not to say that the future is not expressed within the Society, occasionally in some kind of ideal form. But expression is meaningless without action. It is action which is missing. In terms of its actions the Rudolf Steiner Preservation and Choral Bureaucracy is one of the more conservative social forms in modern Western Culture.
It may help, in dealing with what could be such a heavy hearted picture, to realize that this result was the karma of the Society from the beginning. It had to fall away from its original connection with the Higher Worlds, because this was the natural state of the membership. We are fallen, and so our Society, after its moments in Paradise (truly connected to the spiritual world through the being and deeds of Steiner), must also fall.
So, now we are fallen, and our connections to the world of the spirit is as tenuous as any other earthly social form. Anthroposophy lives in individuals now, which is something for which to be very grateful. Not only this, but we have passed through the Event of the Second Golgatha. The result is that an ethereal Pentacost is now being enacted, and individuals are appearing who speak, not just different languages in the traditional sense, but different languages in the sense of modes of consciousness and all the different disciplines and paths. We have langauges of dance, of farming, of teaching, of sociology, of all the endless variety of ways and means out of which people seek the true, the beautiful and the good.
Moreover, there is much anthroposophy which lies outside the Society. Anthroposophy, being a path of congition, is not the exclusive possession of the Society or the Movement. The path belongs to individuals, any number of whom are unable, or unwilling, to join the Rudolf Steiner Preservation and Choral Bureaucracy.
Today we stand at the End of the Century. Can we find our way toward a truely anthroposophical society? Will we find reasons to unite with all anthroposophists, or more reasons to separate and divide? The new millennium waits for us. What creative deeds will we initiate? What footsteps will we take and what traces leave upon this unwritten future?
Many who see flaws in the anthroposophical society believe that the roots of these flaws are to be found in the so-called constitutional problem, or in the absence of a successful threefolding of the society. All such thinking is confused. The root of the present day's society's problems is spiritual in nature, as is the cure. Only spiritual deeds, based upon an elevated thinking about the Society's social realities and responsibilities, will discern what is needed to be understood in order to find a healthy way into the future.
Of all the realities, whose essence must be appreciated in order to understand the meaning of anthroposophy for the world, it is the spiritual truths of social reality that are the most central. Anthroposophy only fully incarnates in the world to the extent it penetrates the social, and brings the consciousness of the Being of Wisdom and the Being of Love alive within the earthly life of the individual human soul, and within human communities.
If we want to place our work consciously in the service of the social life of the future, we have to learn to truely see the social world's dynamic nature and work within those parameters. Possible problems begin with a failure to distinguish thoughts about social realities, from knowledge about social realities. Thoughts arise with little or no effort, especially if driven by some strong emotion. Knowledge, in the sense of Steiner's Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, requires discipline and effort. There it is made clear that the quality and character of the willed thought activity must correspond to the nature of the object about which knowledge is sought. One must have a method equal to the nature and character of the social body / order / organism as it in fact is, in order to come to knowledge of it.
Frequently I have heard in conversation, or seen written, various suggestions by anthroposophists about how to deal with this or that social problem. While a good hearted impulse stands at the root of this thinking, it tends to superficiality and antipathetically driven judgments. But the social world is not apprehended this way.
There is a general pattern to this kind of thinking, which it will help to appreciate. By nature we experience matters in the social world which disturb us, which we do not like. Our good heart leads us to wanting to correct it. Over against this disturbing picture we place our idea of how the social world ought to be, whether in a specific or a general way. For example, people will look at some social problem and say/think that if only everyone was Waldorf educated, or threefolding was brought in, then the wrongness we experience would be made alright.
In spite of our good intention, our wish is completely useless. Our experience of the disturbing matters is nothing more than a variation of the problem of the mote in our brother's eye. We have factually not seen the social problem at all, but only the beam (our antipathetically driven judgment) in our own eye. Further, when we propose an ideal solution, we again have failed to understand the social world, because its real processes are considerably more complicated than the mere imposition of some fantasy ideal change. The social world does change, but when it does it follows various rules - patterns, processes, and dynamic conditions of necessity.
Do not take this matter lightly. Without real knowledge of the social, the great gifts so far developed out of anthroposophy cannot enter the world. In fact, in many instances these gifts are finding rejection today, not from so-called opposing forces, but from a lack of knowledge, among the anthroposophists promoting them, of social realities.
It is to help those who justly desire a healing for the social world, and who reasonably see anthroposophy as having a relationship to this goal, that I have written the material below.
the Path to the Idea
It is my experience that a complex Idea, such as the one I am discussing, does not appear whole and complete in its initial experience to the I. There is an initial encounter, and then later, over years, an unfolding of detail and context.
Also, in the practice of anthroposophy, how one comes to knowledge is of significance. Method influences content, and the reliability of that content. For these reasons, I am going to trace the Idea through its various iterations and development, as I worked with it over many years.
The meeting with an Idea often begins with the search for an answer to a riddle. In the case of this Idea, there were two riddles, or experiences, which drove my interest from deep within my soul.
The first was an encounter in my early years with the cruelty of other children, an experience of evil that left many questions in its wake. The second riddle, which combined ultimately with the first, concerned the disparity between the deeply intelligent, but romantic, vision of America's founders, and the cliche driven, and content empty, dialogues of modern politicians
All of my social, spiritual and political writing, finds its impelling motives in an attempt to resolve these dissonences in my early experiences of the Song of the World.
In fact, it was in the aftermath of the political termoil of the 1960's and 1970's in America (about 1977-78), while I was reading Herbert Marcuse's One Dimensional Man, that it came to me as a fully conscious understanding, that the various political views all had their roots in some idea of the nature of the human being, whether consciously expressed or not. By this time in my life, I had already had some spiritual experiences, and was therefore certain that the human being is a spiritual being.
A few explanatory words might be appropriate here. In my early thirties (about 1971), I underwent an unusual psychological change, following which certain previously unknown talents began to emerge. It was seven years after this change, that the above question arose in my soul. Thus, at this time (1977-78), the riddle began to take this form: What is the significance for political and social life that this is true, that human beings are creatures of soul and spirit?
It was with this question clearly before my own consciousness that I then met anthroposophy. [To see how it was that I clearly was meant to meet anthroposophy, read a long poem, written just before this life-event - lazy bear's sprirt song.]
Upon encountering anthroposophy I took an immediate liking to goetheanism, and the image building discipline born from the study of projective geometry. I read all the goethean science that I could get my hands on, and especially took an interest in Steiner's Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception. This became my anthroposophical bible, in part because of the material toward the end about a science of peoples, which seemed to be the direction required by my riddle.
Yet, it was another seven years before I could give some content to what was beginning to appear in answer to the searchings prompted by my riddle.
The period of time we are looking for is about 1984-85, at which time I was living near Sacramento, California, and was involved, at an anthroposophical level, with the circle around Carl Stegmann (author of The Other America: the Western World in the Light of Spiritual Science) concerned with research on the spiritual America.
In the November 9th, 1985 issue of the Stegmann sponsored newsletter America in the Threefold World, I had published a preliminary study, indicating where my work stood at that time. It was called: Listening to the World Song: a symptomological contemplation of current events. A copy is reproduced in the appendix.
In this essay, I wrote a little about the current state of my understanding of the necessary methodology, which involved a four stage willed-in-thinking process (sacrifice of thoughts, followed by fact gathering, picture forming, and artistic expression). The process was required in order to see past the illusions carried in media, and as well the confusion generated in the own soul by our antipathetic and sympathetic reactions to the phenomena of modern society. (See also my essay: pragmatic moral psychology)
One of the elements that drew forth this essay was an awareness that within the anthroposophical movement, as I had at the time so far experienced it, there seemed to be a lack of appreciation for the fact that ordinary discursive, cause and effect oriented thinking, could not take hold of social realities. There was a kind of lip service paid to threefold social order ideas, in a very abstract way, and an occasional reference to Steiner's ideas on symptomology, but basically when people spoke of modern events and their meaning, if they gave any characterization at all, it was to use the terms luciferic and ahrimanic, which seemed more of just another way of being antipathetic, rather than representing any kind of effort at transformative thinking.
This saddened me. I felt, that if Steiner's epistomological works had any social significance at all, it was in the suggestion that reality, including social reality, could not be apprehended through ordinary thinking. Since I had found, within Steiner's works, very significant help in dealing with the riddles which drove my life, it was disturbing to realize that anthroposophical circles tended to be so intellectually oriented and so socially retarded. The discovery of this problem awoke in me many questions about the anthroposophical movement, the answers to which later appear in that work on my website included in the section Outlaw Anthroposophy.
In addition to the work mentioned above concerning symptomological thinking and its relationship to the perception of social realities, this period of my life resulted in the first perception of what I consider to be one of the most significant aspects of the Idea that I was to encounter. I have worked with this aspect of the Idea for many years now, but it was early in my time in Sacramento that I first came to it as a matter of knowledge.
When I could manage the time, it was my practice to sit quietly at my desk (my altar) and attempt to hold pictures in my mind of social realities. Having absorbed certain ideas from my studies of goetheanism, I worked particularly within the elements of that discipline. For example, anything of a theoretical or explanatory nature, in the sense of concepts, was to be excluded. I was more at work at forming pictures of facts and processes.
As I have previously mentioned, I was intrigued with modern political events and ideas. So it was natural for me to contemplate poltical matters, with a strong effort to remain only in facts and observable (with thinking) processes. It was during such a contemplation that I first apprehended that the central element of the social order, the political-legal life, was inwardly threefolded into three polarically related socially valid functional structures of its own: State, Media and People. Please remember that this came from the contemplation of self generated facts, raised into pictures, which then spontaneously ordered themselves into the above configuration. This particular inner event was also accompanied (as had similar experiences) with a phenomena of inner light, a sudden, yet subtle brightening. It was as if for the moment my mind had touched the Idea. Over time I have had many similar experiences, but, as will be explained later, my technique has changed somewhat.
It has also been my practice to work and rework with such an understanding. As well as to integrate it with a number of other encounters with the Idea. Following after the practice of sacrifice of thoughts, I have several times completely eliminated from my soul life this and other related ideas, after which they are built up again completely from the beginning, starting with freely and consciously choosing the impelling moral basis for the work.
There is one other aspect to these considerations that must be dealt with at this time. This is not a happy event, once one appreciates its real consequences for the anthroposophical movement and for the world.
Around the year 1977, Carl Stegmann, at a meeting of the Faust Branch of the Anthroposophical Society in Fair Oaks, California (a suburb of Sacramento), rose and spoke passionately about founding a center for anthroposophical studies there. He envisioned (was inspired to say) that the center should consist of two programs: one, a foundational study year in anthroposophy, and two, a program directed at the study of the social question in America. From Carl's studies of America, he had come to realize that America had a special relationship to social questions, and that this second program was essential to founding a true relationship between anthroposophy and the American Soul.
As this second program began its development, various individual American anthroposophists were drawn to it, suggesting that a remarkable constellation of individuals might well become co-workers in this Center. However, this was not to be, for without laying blame on any particular individuals, there existed a serious lack of consciousness regarding the spiritual realities involved.
First, and this seems to have been very common, no one seems to have thought that the differences between the soul life of Americans and Europeans was a matter of any moment. Even though Steiner had spoken again and again of the differences between East, Center and West, I have never found any evidence, that as anthroposophy was introduced into America, that anyone considered that there were any questions that needed to be thought about. It is, of course, through unconsciousness that the opposing forces are able do much of their work.
[This condition (the absence of concrete thinking about the differences between soul configurations and the necessary and related social consequences) persists in the present, and continues to be a foundation for tragic misunderstandings.]
Without going into details, of which the various parites that I have spoken with do not agree, this fact remains clear. A European personality was brought into the developing situation in order to oversee the Foundation Year program. After a year of this person's involvment, the second program concerning the significance of the social question in America disappeared, and the developing Center was turned into a Waldorf Teacher training school, to be known as Rudolf Steiner College. Waldorf was the area of expertise of the individual brought in to oversee the Foundation Year.
While I was associated with the Emerson Study Group, a small group of those working with Carl Stegmann on the American Work, I worked at trying to understand this problem. Why had the second program failed to come into being (obviously I would have had a special connection to it, had it been thriving, when I arrived in the area about 5 years later)?
As an aspect of this work, and in preparation for a coming 35th anniversary celebration of the Faust Branch, I worked over several nights during meditation at forming pictures of the history of the Faust Branch. It was during this work that a particular image arose in my consciousness.
The picture was divided in half vertically into a left and right image. The left image was like a blue line drawing and the right image like a red line drawing. In the blue line drawing there was central figure, whose form was similar to the European individual mentioned above. This figure was about three feet off the ground, and was surrounded by two or three other figures, who were portrayed in postures of adoration. They were also off of the ground, as if somehow following upward the central figure.
In the red half of the picture there was a parital foundation of a building, with a few weeds growing around it here and there. Sitting on part of this foundation was a central figure, this one similar in form to Carl Stegmann. He sat in the posture of Rodin's Thinker. Around him were several other figures, in various states of repose, either sitting and laying down.
The whole picture was static in nature, except that the left hand picture, the one in blue lines, gave the effect of some kind of upward motion.
My understanding of the meaning of this picture is as follows: When the European soul comes to America the Earth forces here push that soul off of the Earth, ungrounding it. If the American soul attempts to follow this soul, to live in its mental pictures and the understanding and imitation of its soul life, this will unground the American soul as well. For the American to imitate the European is to court disaster. Even such a personality as Carl Stegmann, who had permiated his own soul forces with deep aspects of America over almost fifty years could not bring his will into play, could not bear fruit.
Eventually I came to understand, through this and other experiences, that the anthroposophical movement in America is not connected to the American Soul, but rather, because of the lack of consciousness in the integration and working together of these two soul gestures, anthroposophical centers in America have the characteristic of being ungrounded spiritual colonies of European soul and cultural life.
This is a disasterous situation for anthroposophy and for the world which needs something from anthroposophy. It cannot be overstated.
The situation can be seen this way. As I see my destiny/task, it was to bring my genius of spirit, as regards social matters, into connection with Anthroposophy via the Center for the Study of the Social Question in America. For this work to enter into the main stream of cultural life in the world, it first had to ripen in an institutional setting with all the aid that a constellation of co-workers can bring. It was not me, as an individual, that was to bring into Incarnation the Idea, but a working group, a social group, which was to bring about the practical down to earth realization of the anthroposophical Social Impulse (as initiatially apprehended by Steiner, but which needed to be brought into realization on the Earth through the forces of the American Soul, with its natural social genius).
But this was not to be. The so-called opposing, or limiting, forces, working through unconscious confusion regarding the correct relationship between European and American soul characteristics, and through impulses rooted in ambition, destroyed this Center before it could be born, driving my work into isolation, away from the community in which it needed to thrive. These same forces also scattered a remarkable constellation of individuals into a similar spiritual diaspora.
The next seven years of my encounter with the Idea involved very painful social experiences, as I wandered around trying to find a place within which to root my work (see my List of Jobs, also in the appendix). Progress was made on some levels of investigation, and my association with the Center for American Studies at Concord (Mass.)(begun in 1988) helped me focus to some degree. However, since I was mainly concerned with life issues (earning a living, raising a new family), the work in striving to connect at deeper levels with the Idea could only make certain degrees of progress.
Even so, there is no need to regret this, because the rich life experience acquired resulted in adding many dimensions to the nature of the riddle, and the questions I put to my inner life, and the World of Ideas. Remember, at consideration is the problem of understanding human social and political existence. Therefore, to live as I have lived, among the working poor, facing all those questions of life (bankruptcy, divorce, having to live on welfare, frequent periods of unemployment - and all the attendent anxiety and loss of meaning connected to these experiences) is very much a necessity.
[I did not produce a great deal of publishable work during this period, but I was involved in considerable research in my fields of interest (social and political life, and the Mystery of America). A couple years ago I went through my files and discarded hand written notes from this period (1985 - 1992) on hundreds of pages of 8 x 11 sheets, which made a pile as tall as my knee.]
Nevertheless I was able to produce a paper near the end of this period (in 1991) in which the further developments could be expressed. This paper was called Threshold Problems in Thinking the Threefold Social Order. At seventeen pages it was a small essay, and I submitted it to the Threefold Review, which was just beginning to be published. I received a letter from them acknowledging receipt of this essay, but no further correspondence. My attitude toward this was such that I did not have any desire to push myself or my work on anyone. One cannot sell the truely spiritual. For example, I will write this essay and make some others aware of it, but I will not be knocking on doors and demanding people pay attention. The work, as far as I am concerned, speaks for itself, and has all the necessary qualities that would allow someone to take an interest in it.
In this essay I put forward, in more detail, my work concerning the threefolding of the middle element of the threefold social organism, and noted, in passing, that the human organism is in fact nine-fold (see W. Schad's Man and Mammals). I also unveiled for the first time what might be a core version of the Idea, such as can be put in words (although not all the implications for social life, once one understands the Idea). This was an examination of the meaning hidden in Christ's saying regarding "Render therefore unto Caesar etc." Even Steiner's social motto is a reflection of this saying of the Christ.
I also developed, for the first time, the idea of metamorphosis as that would apply to ongoing processes in the social organism. This is a very important aspect of the Idea, namely that our time is experiencing social chaos as a necessary prelude to certain other possibilities. However, given the disarray within the thinking of the anthroposophical movement on social matters, it is quite possible these possiblities will not be realizable. Some group with full consciousness has to act upon this understanding, or the time will pass when new and healthy social form giving impulses can be introduced into these conditions of social chaos. It is the possibility that this tragedy might be averted that has caused me to write these words.
There is one other point worth given special emphasis. This was the need for Sun forces to enter into social life. That is, for renewing forces to enter into the meaning-structure of human existence as that is carried by media in its broadest sense. Everywhere the world is described or referenced, from gossip at a conference, to statements in organizational newsletters - this world is characterized with variable forces of soul. If this characterization is produced from , for example, antipathetically driven soul forces, then those characterizations are false. They produce a darkening, not an enlightening.
This essay then marked the end of the work of the third seven year period since my awakening in my early thirties.
For the last seven years, I have been refining my understanding of this Idea and putting it to work in various contexts. In the absence of a group of co-workers, or an institutional support system, my work has been sporadic at best. Little that is fundamentally new has been discovered, although all the previous work has been rethought (confirmed) and brought to a deeper level (see: Waking the Sleeping Giant: the mission of anthroposophy in America ) I have also been able in this period to begin work on a version of this material suitable for non-anthroposophists, so that they can have an appreciation of this Idea as well. This will be found in my book in process: Strange Fire: the Death, and the Resurrection, of Modern Civilization.
Nevertheless, there are certain refinements of special significance along with some subtle changes in my understanding, and I will present them shortly as aspects of a total picture of the Idea.
One would be making a serious mistake to conceive that what is written below is all that I know, understand or to which I have access inwardly. For example, my essay: The Social-Spiritual Organism of a Waldorf School Community represents a thought content I have had for many years, which did not receive a written form until in casual conversation I mentioned something about its basic themes, at which time I was asked to write a more formal expression of my understanding.
What is below then is a general surface outline of my work of twenty-eight years with this Idea, a work which is not only an elaborate thought content, but a highly developed way of thinking (seeing) social and political existence. This overview should be read in conjuction with the more elaborate presentations in the individual essays. It is not meant to stand alone
My method basically now consists (when life circumstances allow it) of sitting at my desk and writing descriptive passages of social and political realities. Inwardly the experience is analogous to looking at a clear stream. The surface of the stream results from my inner activity in sacrifice of thoughts, fact gathering, picture formation and artistic expression (more or less done simultaneously). At the same time as my thinking sees this clear surface, I can percieve that there arises, on the other side of that surface, activity that does not belong to my own will, but which appears there spontaneously of its own accord. The clear surface is then a product of the two activities acting in concert. With my writing I record what appears there.
Let me give some concrete examples of how one might conduct this descriptive writing/thinking process. Make a list of as many different activities a human being can engage in during the course of a day. Make such a list, imaging living at an early time; in fact, make several such lists, reflecting on various epochs of the past. Take the items on this list and see if they are members of any general class of activity. Imagine the lives of others, living in the present. In particular, imagine their inner life. Reading novels can be a source of inspiration for such an activity. Write out these various versions of what happens inwardly and outwardly during the course of a day. Write out versions of the day for different people in different historical times. Behold inwardly the sequence over time of these various versions of daily life, one following the other, much like the leaf sequence in plant life typical of goethean work. Be careful of speculating on causal relationships regarding single events.
The point is to emerse the imagination in being able to picture the ordinary life events (including the inner elements) as sequences in movement over time. The more one does this, the more transparent the dynamics of present day social life become, because the social present is the confluence of the interacting flow of long term currents mingling with each other on multiple levels.
It was my experience, during the first seven year period after my awakening, that the world, as it was, was a kind of speech. As my efforts to understand social life matured, it became clear, following after Goethe, that it was not necessary to add anything to the facts of the social-political world, but just to more and more deeply experience them. The world itself would speak most plainly all that we might wish to know of its social and political truths. This is why the essay at the end of the second seven year period, and this one now at the end of the fourth period, are called: Listening to the World Song.
There is also a definite experience that can arise in my soul, calling to me to sit and write. I always have pencil and paper with me, and will even pull off to the side of the road to note something which has spontaneously appeared within my consciousness. Of this content, what I then relate to others first passes my own fully awake judgment as to its truthfulness. Nothing is accepted unless it can be rethought. With major ideas, this rethinking has been done many times over many years.
Because I possess an American Soul, it is also clear to me that I am naturally oriented toward the earthly social world and its concerns, and not toward the spiritual world. My research is then about this social world, while my method seems to be a hybrid, standing somewhere inbetween goetheanism and spiritual scientific perception. This seems quite necessary, as the work is concerned with understanding the dynamics and realities of the social-political world in such a way that they can be communicated in the ordinary heart-felt language of the common human soul and spirit.
- such as words, and my flaws, can render it -
The social body has, in part, the qualities of a living organism. It is made up of countless human beings, and its nature must possess at least some characteristics which flow from this fact.
As an organism the social body exhibits levels of order, as well as of form and of process. The common and shared elements of our human nature are found mirrored in the social body. That the human being is a threefold organism, necessitates the threefold nature of the social organism.
Historically the social body has exhibited various kinds of order, from the rigidly heirarchical and dictatorial to the hopelessly chaotic democratic and anarchical. The basic law which expresses the relationship between the individual human being and the whole (the community) is found in Christ's admonition "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things which are Gods" Matthew 22:21 (see a more detailed elaboration of this in part one of my essay Waking the Sleeping Giant...)
When one can see (with objective picture thinking) working in the social organism this fundamental principle, then one sees the basic polaric dynamic from which all social order is born Even Steiner's social motto is an insightful, but modest, reflection of this essential principle. "The healthy social life is found when in the mirror of each human soul the whole community finds its reflection and when in the community the virtue of each one is living."
What Steiner presented in an ideal form as the threefold social order, is an Idea seeking incarnation. This incarnation process can only occur over time, and in the end will take fully conscious human action to complete. Today we stand at a certain stage of this incarnation process and we must understand what is the exact nature of this particular stage.
Two major processes have been completed to a certain point. One involves the full incarnation of cultural life, and the development of Science, Art and Religion (in the most general sense) as an inner threefolding of this aspect of the social organism. The second involves the beginning incarnation and inner threefolding of the political-legal life, into an organism of State, Media and People. But all is not well with this incarnation process. The three aspects of the cultural life have become diseased (split into incompatable paradigms) under the pressure of the entry of humanity into deep materialism. And the political-legal life has only just achieved this degree of definition of its elements in the social body. Media, in fact, is so newly arrived that it is barely capable of enacting its true function. (For details see part two of Waking...)
The economic life is just beginning its incarnation, and because it is initially predominately a will, and a physical, process, it has acted very powerfully on the social body. It is necessary then to see that the incarnation of this Idea, the threefold social organism, is incomplete. We have to form a picture of it as a process over a long period of time, and as partially complete. It is a yet immature ordering of the social body.
We also have to see that it is a process that can't be pushed. We can't force the incarnation of the Idea. We can participate, as co-creative forces, but we can't overwelm the process of incarnation with our own desires. Moreover, in order to participate, we have first to learn to see.
There is more to see.
Threefoldness is not the only formative process active in the social body. If you will recall, at the start of this part I spoke as follows: "The social body has, in part, the qualities of an organism..."
In the discussion of the significance of Christ's admonition about "Caesar", as contained in Waking..., it is pointed out that the social order (the State) is a consequence of our ideas and our forces of will. Thus the social body also reflects ideas, not just organic or living process. These ideas live in the individual human being, and sometimes in communities. Thus arises that aspect of social life which we might call tradition as it is lived by individuals and communities and becomes an element of small social structures. (Just consider how much is already traditional in anthroposophically oriented communities.) All over the world are various traditions, which in our time are encountering and reacting to the idea of materialism, and the extremely active youthful forces of the newly born world economy.
From this encounter and interaction, tradition has been disolving for some centuries, especially in Western cultures. This disolution and the resulting social chaos is described in part two (in general) and in part three (in particular) in Waking.... In order to appreciate this one has to inwardly behold these changes in tradition over time. As tradition is a form giving aspect in the social body (determining family and community arrangements, as well as much wider cultural phenomena), looking at this arrival of social chaos as an organic element suggests the possibility of metamorphosis - one kind of form is in the process of being replaced with another type of form.
The question here is whether we will be awake enough to participate in this change or whether the new form giving impulses will arrive from the realm of the unconscious, thus representing an even greater descent into materiality on a social level. Will individuals choose the nature of their community life, or will blind economic forces form community such that more and more the individual and the community live in service to the technological and other anti-human elements?
All of this is fairly obvious for many anthroposophists, althought we usually know it in a very abstract way, rather than as an aspect of living social dynamics.
We complete this picture when we learn to inwardly imagine, with discipline and exactness, the relationship between the dissolution of tradition and the ongoing processes in the evolution of consciousness. As is pointed out in my previously noted essays, the dissolution of tradition is a necessary element in the birth of moral freedom (a central aspect of the goal of the consciousness soul age). So it is of no surprise that the dynamics occuring in social life produce effects related to the possiblities of soul transformation needed in this epoch. It may help to understand two related active processes that are supportive of this dynamic.
History is formed out of individual deeds, a kind of radiating social process, proceeding outward from the acts of individuals. It is also formed from the demands of incarnating individuals, whose pre-birth influence acts like a suctional process. From this suctional process events are agreed to, events which become an alchemical crucible for individual crisis and development. The ego needs the dynamics of crisis in order to bring it into movement on the scale necessary for those transformations leading to the evolution of consciousness appropriate to the age.
While we, as anthroposophists, can understand that practices leading to initiation can bring about this evolution without the forced nature of events, yet we cannot forget that, for most individuals, life crisis is necessary in order for development to take place. Choices must arise. They must be real. Deep pain of soul is involved.
At the time of this writing the events in Kosovo, as well as the shootings in Colorado, are active elements of ongoing historical moment. Such events have two levels of meaning. One is more personal. How are we going to react? What do we feel? Each individual has different needs and demands at this level.
At the level of social dynamics, another mood of understanding is called for. It can't be personal, but must become objective and free of sympathy and antipathy. This requires inner effort. We can act from each level of understanding, but we need to see that if we wish to participate in the ongoing social dynamics, different activities are being called forth by the necessities active there.
Let us consider these events from this other level of meaning, understanding that it should be the case that, whatever the event of the moment, the implications of meaning within the social dynamics ought to be similar. Why do I say this?
Macro social dynamics, as we have been describing them, are large ongoing general processes in the social body. The evolution of consciousness is an effect producing element of one such process. Events are then supportive of this process, or not. The dying of one social form (civilization) and its re-creation is another. The further ongoing developments in the incarnation of social threefolding are a third. The relationships between events, such as Kosovo and Colorado, and these general processess ought to be similar. Events have their own character and also serve these processes. The social body is dynamic and living, which means polaric and wholistic. It is not an arena of cause and effect abstract relationships.
For example, the common question asked about these events is "Why?". But this question is asked from an assumption that cause and effect thinking is capable of rendering an answer.
Consider that I perform a selfish act in a personal relationship. This is an act of evil, however minor. The evil derives from my self conscious choice to act with knowledge that my act, selfish in motive, will have an emotionally harmful effect on the other, the thou. But suppose the person receiving this act chooses to experience the harm, but not to indulge in hate or other base emotions. Instead they choose to relate to my harming them as a way to practice forgiveness and for turning the other cheek. This is not easy, and requires some new skills being developed in the mastery of the feeling life, and some exercise as well in the control of thoughts.
The fact is that an evil act is a necessary element of the possiblity of transformation. What confuses us is gross evil, such as the holocaust. We find it hard, so hard that it seems in fact to be just another evil act, to conceive that the pre-birth life will involve an agreement to participate as a recipient of such acts of gross evil. Moreover, we can also imagine that the perpetrator of evil could use this as an excuse for further excesses.
We do not want to conceive of God as allowing such evil to arise. I would suggest that the answer to this apparent dilemma has to do with our having asked the wrong question.
What God has created is clearly a situation which allows for human freedom. It is human freedom from which evil flows. The evil is not created by the pre-birth agreement, but by the free act during incarnation. Before that it essentially doesn't exist. What God has created is the process of recompense, what we call the law of karma. It is recompense that is agreed to in the pre-birth life.
In addition, God has provided teaching for how to be a receipient of evil (turn the other cheek, etc.). In between the law of recompense and the teaching of acceptance (love), the dance within the alchemical crucible of life, which is a necessary element of the evolution of consciousness, arises.
Now all over the world each individual lives within a context of meaning, a mostly culturally given thought content for which the word paradigm sometimes is accurate. Common themes unite individuals into communities, and various events (such as Kosovo and Colorado) arise effecting and influencing both individuals and groups. New evil comes into existence, crossing the threshold from within the individual soul and flowing out into the social world.
Human beings counter these events with acts of creativity and grace. Kosovo draws acts of goodness out of human hearts. It also brings about the movement of peoples, separating them from the previous context of their lives, and thereby acting as a further aspect of the creation of social chaos, making it possible for these individuals to step outside the given context of meaning and find their way to possible developments of the consciousness soul.
Colorado forces the community to re-examine its culture of meaning. The errosion of spirituallity under the excesses of economic forces and materialism is called into question. The killings are terrible, but the consequences are also supportive of acts of creation.
We cannot let our thinking have such a narrow focus that the total context in which these events happen, and all their consequences are not seen. We must avoid abstracting from these events only their presumed evil nature, which then falsely justifies our antipathies. We need to know the whole, or we will not know truely how to act toward the necessary presence of evil in the social world.
There is a special point to understand here (which was discussed from one point of view in the beginning of this essay), having to do with the relationship between our own consciousness and the true nature of the social world. The mind has certain special charateristics, by which it frequently sets up false polarities. One common such polarity is to form a distinction between how we believe the world to be, and how we believe the world should be. Both of these acts remain interior, that is they are products of mind, and not related to the truth of the earthly social world. (c.f. this and that)
Our image of how the social world is, is formed from many experiences as well as out of the culture and traditions into which we are born. But the fact is that this image is not true. Rather the image is particular to our individuality - each of us has a particular image in accord with our own character and karmic needs. Before this image we are usually not free, because it has not been created out of conscious objective acts of thinking. We have inherited it, not formed it.
For example, each of us will form rather individualistic ideas concerning the meaning of the events in Kosovo and Colorado. We will be guided in this meaning-formation largely by our antipaties and sympathies. We will then set against this self created image, a second idea, our individual idea of how the world should be - what would be the good. This same dual image creation process is active in our immediate social relationships, such as in our families and at work. We constantly set along side each other two images whose content is completely derived from our own souls - one image is what we think is the social reality, its causes and characteristics, and the other image is our ideal, the what the social reality should become.
On the basis of these two images we make social choices. But neither image is the truth of the social world. We only begin to have the truth of the social world when our picture includes the fact that each person is acting out of justifiable individual polaric and subjective images, and that social interaction is the collision of these conflicting images. (c.f. the story: Bicycles - a Christmas story)
Now factually we need these two images in order to proceed, in order to make the choices life demands. However, when we generalize to the world as a whole some aspect of the dissonence we perceive between these two images, we falsify our understanding. As I noted before, we need a personal view and an objective impersonal view. We need both.
The former helps us live our lives. The latter should awaken us to a most remarkable fact - the real truth, beauty and goodness - the remarkable artistic perfection - of the eartly social world. ("All the world is a stage...")
The only true darkness in the social world is that which proceeds from the beam in our own eye.
The Creation is never unclean in any given moment, whether we are looking at the natural world or the social world. The presence of evil in the social world is an absolute necessity. It is both anvil and hammer to our development, and we should stand in awe of it. The creation of the alchemical crucible of social existence, with its law of recompense and its invitation to love, is, in itself, a most remarkable act of Divine Love.
Understanding this, however, should not keep us from the choices our personal views impell. At some point we may want to become free of them, but in the interval we very much need them.
Our understanding of the Idea has now reached a certain stage. We, hopefully, can see now that the social organism is a field of streaming activity in which large (macro) social dynamic processes are active. Moreover, each individual experiencing these processes exists within a particular independent field or context of meaning, that may or may not support that individual (and community) in understanding the nature of the events and the possiblities of response. The farmer in Kosovo does not understand the events in the same way a historian in Germany, or an America housewife understands them.
A question we can now ask ourselves is: What purpose can such a view serve, as regards the future of anthroposophy and the anthroposophical movement?
As suggested in the beginning of this essay, anthroposophy is only realized in the world to the extent that it penetrates the social world. Anthroposophy is not something practiced in isolation. The path to higher cognition serves as a vehicle for human beings, working in cooperation with the Gods, to realize deeds on the earth, in the social realm. Through the higher cognition we reach upward, but this act cannot just serve our development, or it remains sterile and egotistic.
This being the case, how can the above social understanding help us achieve our freely chosen goals, whether they involve Waldorf, biodynamics, threefolding or whatever?
Let us begin with the basic understanding - our knowledge of the existence of the field of individual context of meaning.
If we have understood the inner realities that flow from an experiential knowledge of Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom, we have realized that as regards our own consciousness, spiritual freedom is of the highest value. We want no one, but ourselves, to determine this most intimate aspect of our inner being. The thought-content of our inner world, as regards both the social world and world of mystery, is to be an act of free judgment, coerced by no incarnate or discarnate individual or community. We are in movement from a culturally given context of meaning, to a context developed wholly out of our own inner forces.
Having taken this understanding into ourselves, it follows we will naturally want the same for all other human beings - complete spiritual freedom. This being the case, it becomes impossible to demand of another that they have the same ideas, morals, spiritual views, whatever, that we do. Rather we want for them that they find their way to that inner delight which we ourselves experience when in the possession of this gift of inner freedom. We realize, from our own difficult path to spiritual freedom, that such can only be won out of acts of individual will, and that the world outside our own consciousness is to have no influence but what we ourselves permit.
In a sense then, each individual's context of meaning is a sacred core which we neither wish to, nor should, violate. Yet, most of our social dynamics involve constant attempts at just such a violation. We seek to persuade, argue, insist, teach, change, demand, that others have the same values and ideas that we have. We judge them according to our own ideas of what is right and wrong. We expect our children to follow our lead in the same fashion. We demand of our fellow anthroposophists some common sense of what it means to be an anthroposophist. In countless ways, from waking until sleeping, we judge the social world according to our own view of what is true and correct.
To truely support another's search for spiritual freedom is not an easy task, as not only our personal habits of thought, and feeling, but those of our communities as well, seek acts of conformance. It is not easy to love another as deeply as this kind of respect for their sacred core of self determined context of meaning requires.
This is all made particularly more difficult when one is in possession of knowledge which we know to be true and practical, and which would benefit the other person if only they would listen to us and follow our advice. Waldorf, biodynamics, threefolding - we possess such a wonderous collection of wise truths of which we anthroposophists have become the stewards. Surely the world can hardly wait for us to save them from their errors.
How then do we offer the fruit of our work to the world, while at the same time respecting the realities necessitated by the need of each individual for completely autonomous acts seeking after spiritual freedom? Moreover, how do we likewise respect those communities of tradition (communities of context of meaning) in which individuals find themselves imbedded?
There is a possibility, which is gentle in nature and not authoritarian in any aspect. It sets our discovered truths before the world in a way that the receipient can easily stand back from. It speaks not the language of the intellect, or the will, but the language of the heart. Moreover, it is adaptable to any given particular culture of meaning.
Properly understood it represents a maturation of the anthroposophical-Michaelic impulse. Steiner gave anthroposophy out to a culture heavily embeded in materialism and the ideas of the 19th century. Moreover, this culture was still intimately tied to the dying traditions of a social life in flux. Out of necessity he had to speak in certain ways that built a bridge from the existing form of consciousness in the direction of the new form of consciousness. But we need to recognize that he could only start something. If we conceive that what he gave was in any way a finished product, we will then kill all that was living in it, and freeze it in a moment of time already long past. The sad fact is that much of what we do already has this character, and it is no wonder that so many find it indigestible.
What is this possibility - the possibility to touch gently the individual and community meaning-formation processes necessary and active in social existence?
It is the resurrection of oral culture, of the art and craft of telling stories.
There are so many possibilities that it is quite difficult to suggest even the most basic ways this could or would actually manifest in social reality. The story noted previously is one: Bicycles: A Christmas Story.
Another way is offered in my novels on these webpages: American Phoenix; and, Earth Ranger 2323. Further examples can be found as an aspect of: Strange Fire: the Death, and the Resurrection, of Modern Civilization. This last book was organized around the Octave, being formed of eight meta-stories (the notes) and seven essays (the intervals). The meta-stories so far completed are: Signs of Spring; the Age of Confusion; and, the Abyss of Aloneness.
In the above I have done no more then hint at possibilities. As previously noted, such a work is to be social, which means to arise from group work, from communities. If you still doubt and cannot yet see what this will mean for the long term in the age of the consciousness soul, just consider that what such stories call forth is the craft of distinguishing the essential from the non-essential (otherwise the story has too much information and detail), and the art of moral insight (recall that Christ taught in Parables).
Stories lie outside the ability of ruling elites, with their domination of media, to control. If, from out of a People a Name arises that shines light into what is otherwise darkness, a great truth can then cut, with the sword of Michael, the Ahrimanic Deception. The Darkness cannot tolerate the Light, and in the face of this power of Naming, the Darkness will retreat and find its proper place in the Balance.
Perhaps it will help to think of it this way. In ordinary social situations the words of a gossip can confuse and breed hate in a community. That this is possible comes from the fact that between a thing and its meaning, we stand with our capacity for speech (while behind speech stands our capacity for thought, for the formation of new cognitions). Who a person is understood to be , or what an event means, in its social-community sense, is determined, sometimes in part, but often in whole, by how we render it with the word.
This same principle applies in a macro-social sense to large paradigms effecting large groups. We call this total culture of meaning: civilization. But civilization - tradition - is passing away, and now it is possible to creatively work with this at all levels through the genius of speech and of story telling. Moreover, such stories will naturally only be repeated if they are valued. The social-body will itself interact with the stream of new oral culture. Certain particular forms of expression will become favorites, and a kind of social self correcting selection process can arise. The meaning of existence
will be taken from elites and given over to ordinary communites of human beings, who will adapt stories to their particular needs.
[Also, we should not forget that certain critics of modern culture have already called out that we are moving into a post-literate civilization. What this means in reality is open, but it is important to recognize that the tradition disolving processes have reached deeply into modern culture and are attempting to train the young (through passively received visual media) away from the word. This fact too calls upon us to enrich the newly being born civilization with all the richness of fresh oral culture we can manage.]
More essentially, story telling is especially appropriate in this age when the social body's macro-media functions are captured by forces out of the economy. Story telling is micro-media, and, as it becomes more to the fore, it will influence macro-media because of the natural moral authority of the story teller. As story tellers we participate consciously in the heart of the heart of the social organism, radiating outward one of the most essential of deeds of love - the creation of meaning through the power of the word.
Consider the problem of materialism. At present, even with goethean science and other related methods, the materialist edifice is hardly being moved at all. Part of the problem is that it is assumed that the discussion has to occur within the scientific and academic establishment. But in terms of civilization - of the social world, the dynamics are otherwise. Already Carl Sagan noted what he felt was a danger in his book: The Demon-Haunted World. But his view is partially an expression of fear. The New Age movement, in its widest sense, is a large scale retreat from materialism. In a very real sense materialism is collapsing because it does not in fact address the concerns of the soul, and people instinctively understand this.
Now the anthroposophical movement could take a very elitist point of view, and insist that only its approaches represent the true spiritual foundations coming out of the future. This may even be true, but on a social level such an attitude is a egregious evil. Nobody else has to think what we choose to think. However, if we find our way into the real dynamics underlying a new oral culture, then we can place before people, in a way that leaves them completely free, all the deep truths of which we have been so blessed to learn, and for which we have now become stewards.
We also place ourselves in a relationship to the social world that is non-antagonistic. In the realm of science (and even religion and art), anthroposophical understanding can become known as a competing and conflicting paradigm, a posture that ought to be avoided. If the essence of this understanding is translated into the picture language of stories, then it serves as guide, inspiration and support to the imagination, leaving the judgment appropriately free to take its own course.
So, what do we choose?
As to you, I do not know. What I choose is to refine my understanding to its essences and cast it into stories.
[For those who might find Steiner's words more comforting, during the writing of this summary of my understanding of the world's song, I received this quote of Rudolf Steiner's from a internet list-serve discussion group. Before that I had not heard of it. It is said to be from the book: "Education As A Force For Societal Change."
"In the future, social life will depend upon cooperative support between people, something that happens when we exchange our ideas, perceptions, and feelings. This means that we must base our general education not just upon ideas taken from science or industry but upon concepts that can serve as a foundation for imaginative thoughts. As improbable as this may seem now, in the future we shall be unable to interact in a properly social way if we do not teach people imaginative concepts.
In the future, we shall have to learn to understand the world in images."
And for Tomberg fans, we have this quote from his: Anthroposophical Studies of the Old Testament:
"At the present time, the mission is different (the mission being the method correct for the average student of mystery wisdom in a particular epoch). It consists in a thought knowledge endowed with vision achieved through the development of the forces of the conscience in order then to live powerfully in the creative word."]
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