foundational essays out of a Science of the Spirit,
in support of the coming
living metamorphosis of Christianity
by Joel A. Wendt
social philosopher...and occasional fool
author's brief forward: (p. 2)
[page numbers are approximate]
New Wine: the art of the sacrament of reason on the altar of
The Idea of Mind: a Christian meditation
practitioner considers the problem of consciousness (p. 8)
The Quiet Suffering of Nature:
cannot be separated from Nature (p. 36)
A Matter of Death (p. 59)
a small meditation on the spiritual path pioneered by
Ralph Waldo Emerson, including a report of some practical applications:
delivered on the
occasion of Emerson's 200 birthday, May 25th, 2003, at the Alcott
School of Philosophy in Concord, Massachusetts (p.63)
this and that: some thoughts on the Four Noble Truths ((p. 70)
pragmatic moral psychology (p.
The Misperception of Cosmic Space As Appears In the Ideas of Modern Astronomy: and as contained in the understandable limited thinking regarding the nature of parallax and red shift. (p. 88)
Healing the Insanity of Psychiatric Medicines and
common sense and a return to the knowledge of soul and spirit might
mean for our mental health system and care
Transcendentalism Comes of
Age* - the transcendentalist impulse, heretical Christianity and American
Anthroposophy - (p.
The Arcanum of the Loom: the spiritual meaning of the Internet (p. 191)
the next four are recently added - and can also be found in the published book at Lulu.com http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/new-wine/11927276
The Coming Metamorphosis of Christianity
Sam Harris and Humanity's Moral Future
Saving the Catholic Religion from the Roman Church through deepening our understanding of the Third Fatima Prophecy
Barack Obama and the reality of the Anii-Christ Spirit
two essays published elsewhere, included
here as a help in the introduction to a rational
impulse, and a religious scientific impulse
The Meaning of Earth Existence in the Age of the
In Joyous Celebration of the Soul Art and Music of
author's brief forward
The essays collected in this tiny book were written over a period of almost two decades, and represent several provisional attempts to lay a foundation for a more rational Christianity. These essays can be read as a preparation for a closer examination of those matters to be found in my books: the Way of the Fool: the conscious development of our human character, and the future* of Christianity - both to be born out of the natural union of Faith and Gnosis; and, American Anthroposophy: a celebration of the American Soul's unique ability to contribute to the future of Anthroposophy, and to the future of world culture.
The Way of the Fool is meant to
be an opening dialog between exoteric Christianity (the Way of Faith,
or of the Shepherds) and esoteric Christianity (the Way of Gnosis, or
of the Kings). American
Anthroposophy is meant to be a corrective of
certain errors into which certain aspects of the practice of esoteric
Christianity fell during the latter two-thirds of the 20th Century.
The study of the essays below should provide a sound basis for
later taking up either or both of the above two books.
I have, in reviewing these essays for
inclusion in this little book, made a few small corrections to their
original text, and as well began this small book with a very
brief new essay as an introduction.
As this book is introductory, you will
find that it mentions many other books and writers in the individual
essays. That is what this little book means to do, to
introduce the reader to a literature and work they may have no idea
exists. They also may not know that such literature and
work represents nothing less than New Revelation, for a great deal of
this work is fully rooted in a conscious connection to the Divine
This last needs some more explanation.
The Divine Mystery is living (...in it was life and the
life was the light of the world...). It
is ever new, and when people try to fix such revelation in the text of
a book such as the Bible, they kill this living revelation that wants
to always be able to speak to us in our present. People at
a certain time create these books, selecting what to include and what
to exclude. They then justify this human activity and claim
for it divine inspiration. For example, the Roman Catholic Church
over the centuries often deviated from the truth and became lost in
earthly temptations. At these moments the Mystery would
inspire a corrective in the various Saints and the founders of several
of the religious orders (such as the Franciscans). Those who
understand this history will realize how little of these correctives
were accepted and became fundamental reform in the hierarchical social
form that was the institutional Church. The Mystery found voices
to speak through, and while the hierarchical institutional structure
was unable to hear, enough of the laity was able to listen, such that
as time passed, at least a few individuals could deepen their religious
experience in the religious orders.
Unfortunately, even the orders would grow
old, and fix their rule into dogma. When you couple this
with the Church's punishment of those who express supposedly incorrect
doctrine, you get a social process where institutional power is always
able to trump the work of the Mystery as it continuously inspires
individuals. If we examine the institutional Church we find it
lost in legalisms and a vanity of power and authority (instead of true
humility and service). There is no room in such a structure, or
in the souls of those who adhere to it blindly, for the Mystery to
bring in the living, always modern and to the point, new revelation.
As the scientific age progressed,
religious doctrine and dogma became more and more rigidly held.
While science on the one hand opposed institutional
Christianity, this same institutional power structure more and more
tried to carve out a field of thought where it could claim superior or
moral authority. During the advent of science (the
Copernican revolution), new revelation that was unable to enter into
the institutional Church was punished as heresy, and those who
disagreed with doctrine were tortured and murdered.
As a consequence, this constant and
ongoing living stream of wisdom hid itself, in the work of the
alchemists, the original Rosicrucian's and other similar work and
individuals. A division was manifesting between Faith and Gnosis,
for while Faith (becoming more and more an arid belief in the
institutional hierarchy) had potency for many, without ongoing
revelation (out of Gnosis - that is direct contact with the living
Mystery), the ground underneath Faith more and more began to crumble.
This reached a high point in the early
20th Century, when the work of Rudolf Steiner was offered to humanity.
Here stood a giant of inspired religious revelation, able to
build a bridge between science and religion, writing books and giving
lectures. Fully Christian in its fundamental nature, this new
revelation (Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science) made no effort to
force itself on the Church or to suggest that it was in itself a
renewed Christianity (to understand a renewed Christianity, read the Way of
the Fool the
conscious development of our human character, and the future* of
Christianity - both to be born out of the natural union of Faith and
Gnosis, noted above). The work of
Rudolf Steiner, and his many companions, was in fact the return of the
Kings stream of wisdom, which had been fully recognized in the Gospels
(wise kings from the East).
Follow the Incarnation this ancient
mystery wisdom and conscious approach to knowledge of the Mystery
stepped into the background for a time, and then in the 20th Century
returned (it had returned once before at Chartres in the 10th Century,
but that is a whole other story). In the 20th Century,
humanity was now fully under the influence of natural science, and
religion was thought to be incapable of adding anything to scientific
thought. Yet, with the return of the stream of the Kings
(especially Rudolf Steiner) science and religion were reunited, by a
process that asked of science that it become religious, and asked of
religion that it become scientific. The place the two met in
individual souls was art.
During Rudolf Steiner's life, this new
revelation gave birth to a new kind of education (Waldorf Schools), a
new kind of science (Goethean Science), a new kind of agriculture
(bio-dynamic farming), a new kind of medicine (anthroposophical
medicine) and much more. All this during the 20th Century
flowed out over humanity, and the institutional Church was not asleep
to this, for it happened right in plain sight in Central Europe.
But the institutional Church, as with
much it had done over the years, turned a conscious blind eye to that
which threatened its assertion of superior moral authority and power
over its members, supposedly Christians all. This was more than a
tragedy, it was a crime. New revelation was made available to
humanity in a quite obvious way, but those in authority in the Roman
Catholic institutional hierarchy love their own power and privileges
more than they loved either their own laity, the truth or humanity.
As we enter the 21st Century, it becomes
imperative that such treasures do not pass by those who suspect that
science and religion do not have to be opponents. The essays in
this little book are meant as an introduction to the more scientific
aspects of the new revelation.
In addition to work I have previously
written, I have also written an essay on the stars just for this book,
given that perhaps one day in the not too distant future, we will
realize that our present image of cosmic space, as a kind of near
three-dimensional endlessness, will be eventually be seen as the same
kind of fundamental flaw that led more ancient peoples to conceive of
the Earth as flat. Yes, that's right folks, I am going to suggest
that the heavens are in fact a representation of Heaven that appears in the physical, and the ancients were right to consider
the Earth the center of the Universe. At the same time, I will
remain within the rational and the facts - the reader may be surprised.
Given that most people will find the
whole thing quite ludicrous, I hope the more discerning reader will
enjoy that final essay in the wry spirit in which it was written.
That essay is, as was often said in the 1960's: far out - man, cosmic.
- the art of
the sacrament of reason on the altar of devotion -
The adventure of reason into which my
life took me over 25 years ago, could not have been accomplished
without the inspiration of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), on the
anniversary of whose birthday (Feb 27th, 2008) I write the initial
version of this brief introductory essay. While my earlier life
grounded me in Faith, circumstances in my biography, beginning in my
31st year, brought it about that it became necessary to add to the
practice of Christian Faith, a scientifically based Christian Gnosis,
following the example of Steiner.
Christians have forgotten that the Birth
of Christ-Jesus was attended by two groups: Shepherds and Kings.
With Rudolf Steiner's work, the insight of the Wise (the Kings)
has returned to benefit all of humanity. Steiner was a radical
thinker, who still is hardly at all recognized by the general culture
for the extraordinary genius he presents. This lack of
recognition is no doubt connected to the fact that to the scientists he
said that if they wanted their science to really discover the truth,
they had to become religious in their attitudes (the laboratory is to
become an altar). To the religious he insisted that all that was
of mystery and magic in the practice of religion could not be sustained
unless the devotional practice became scientific and rational in its
core. Scientific and rational pure thinking, he taught, if
properly carried out could become exactly the modern path to authentic
spiritual experience - the one path that would allow science and
religion to rediscover their true inter-dependence.
The link between the two was, however, to
be built out of the impulse to Art. Art, via the imagination - or
the picture creating faculty of the soul, was the natural bridge
between Science and Religion.
This possibility, latent in thinking
itself, did not actually exist at the time of the Birth 2000 years ago.
Humanity's inner life evolves, and this evolution of consciousness has brought us
to where we are today - in a necessity of tension between Science and
Religion. Our civilization will fall into terrible decay if we do
not turn inward and discover the potential, latent in pure thinking,
for spiritual experience. Science must become religious and
Religion scientific. The balance point is to be found in Art, for
it is only out of the artistic aspect of the soul that a proper
language can be built bridging the other two great cultural forces.
Science, Art, Religion. Truth, Beauty, Goodness. Reason,
Imagination, Devotion. In the essays below will be found details.
New Thinking and New Mysteries for a
"And John's students came up to him and said, "Why is it
that we and the Pharisees fast a lot, while your students don't fast?"
"And Jesus said to them, "The wedding party can't be in mourning while the groom is with them, can they? There will come days when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they can fast. No one patches an old cloak with a scrap of brand new cloth. It takes away the cloak's completeness, and a worse split results. Nor do they put new wine in old wine skins, because if they do, the skins break and the wine pours out and the skins are ruined; instead, they put new wine in new skins and both are preserved."
Matthew 9:14-17 translation from the original Greek by Andy Gaus, as published in the Unvarnished Gospels.
The Idea of Mind
- a Christian meditation practitioner considers the problem of consciousness - (originally written in the early '90's
and slightly revised for this book in
For many people, having been raised in modern culture, mind is thought to be something that exists in the brain, and as a byproduct of basically chemical and electrical processes in cells and nerves. This essay considers this problem quite directly and finds that, for all its inventiveness, science has yet to ask and seek the answer to the most important question - "what is mind to itself". When mind considers itself directly, in its own inward environment, then the idea of mind, as a product of the biology of the brain, fails.
If laymen were not intrigued by the
mysteries of the world, there would be little interest in the constant
flow of books and magazine articles explaining modern cosmology,
anthropology, paleontology, and so forth. While such explanations are
often fascinating, far too many science writers unnecessarily confuse
the boundaries between fact and speculation. For the layman this
distinction, between what scientists truly know and what they speculate
might be true, is not understood and has engendered in the public mind
a scientific appearing, yet somewhat mythological, world view.
For example, the once unanimous
acceptance of natural selection as the guiding principle in
evolutionary biology is slowly eroding in those circles where the
problem is critically considered. Yet this idea, which is not supported
by an honest assessment of the geological facts, remains a staple of
the modern view of our evolutionary past. It is used in countless
places to explain and support other speculations, and will no doubt
continue for some time to be one of the main beliefs we have of the
world. Its truth is not proven, however. The known facts do not support
In this regard, when speaking of natural
selection, or "Darwinism", I am basically referring to the general idea
which modern humanity is taught, namely that the human being developed
through millions of years as a result of accidental processes leading
from a mineral ocean, through a biological soup, to single celled
organisms, then to invertebrates, vertebrates, mammals and man. It is
this general picture which is not sustainable in the face of the actual
facts, and the genuine pursuit of the truth.
The fossil record reveals that between
when a geological age begins and when it ends the plants and animals
have remained the same. The paleontologist calls this "stasis" - over
the whole of a geological age there is no observable evolutionary
change, particularly no evidence whatsoever of one species being
transmuted into another. Whatever change does occur, appears to happen
in the interval between ages, which for unknown reasons remaining quite
mysterious, and leaves no trace of its processes.
An unbiased thinking concerning the
geological record will see that what is presented to our understanding
and imagination is a sequence of transformations which have as their
main characteristic the living process of metamorphosis. A particular geological period dies into a
condition of formlessness, soon thereafter to be reborn filled out with
entirely new forms of life, totally new ecological systems and niches.
Moreover, when the record is grasped by the imagination as a
single whole (which it quite rationally has to be), it is not only not
discontinuous, but speaks plainly in the language of life that the
Earth is a living organism that has undergone a long unbroken chain of
metamorphic processes. It is only an analytic thinking, that
concentrates on the parts instead of the whole, that fails to perceive
This is an objective instance where the
theoretical speculations of science have not stood the test of time,
yet our ideas of the world, once captured by this speculative
conception, are unable to disentangle themselves. Natural selection is
such a strongly held article of faith, both within and without the
scientific community, that it will continue to be a dominant idea for
many many years. In human psychology it has more kinship with myth then
it does with truth.
It is this myth making capacity of
scientifically authored speculations that concerns us. It is such a
powerful force on the ideas we hold about the world, that we can fully
expect, for example, that many readers will not believe what has been
said here about natural selection. Dozens of books and articles
supporting what is said could be cited, yet most people would rather
dismiss these statements as the prejudices of perhaps a "creationist",
then risk their own belief system and actually look into what is being
discussed in those circles where this question is genuinely being
considered. (See for example: Dogma and
Doubt, by Ronald H. Brady
Several years ago, in a popular critical
examination of evolutionary biology, Darwin On
Trial, Phillip E. Johnson, (1991, Regnery
Gateway), the whole problem was carefully examined with an eye to
aiding the layman in understanding the difficulties that "Darwinism"
represents. The standard, however, is not to test modern evolutionary
biology against some kind of competing theory, but rather to see
whether it is good science. It is this which "Darwinism" fails at. It
is simply bad science, and as a consequence results in two very serious
and dangerous results.
The first is that it holds still the
advancement of the biological sciences in that these might discover
important facts upon which a more realistic theory could be advanced.
As long as "Darwinism" is held to, biology is blind when it looks to
the past, trapped in an illusion of its own creation.
The second danger is that this untestable
theory (see Brady above) is used to support other kinds of speculations
in other realms, most significantly for our purposes, the investigation
of human consciousness. Important questions, which otherwise would
suggest alternative ways of thinking about consciousness, cannot be
asked because "Darwinism" is already presumed to answer them. At
various places, as we proceed with the text, we will encounter this
danger. When this occurs as we run into this speculative and myth
creating impulse, I will endeavor to point it out.
The Idea of
Recent advances in neurophysiology, in
computer science, and in cognitive science and related disciplines,
have produced numerous books, as well as major television series, on
the workings of the mind. For the most part, when I read these books I
find my morality, my heart-felt concerns, my idealism, my life of
prayer, of meditation and contemplation - all these most precious, most
subtle inner experiences - increasingly explained as mere
electrochemical phenomena, as products of brain activity in the most
material sense, and nothing else. Here is the speculative myth making
power of science in action. In saying this it should be noted that it
is not so much that I am against science, but rather that science has
only asked one-half of the essential question, namely what is
consciousness viewed from the outside. The other half of the question
is: What is consciousness viewed from the inside.
The views put forward by the vast
majority of workers in these fields are materialistic, deterministic,
and ultimately anti-religious, although often not consciously so. These
questions of the ultimate truth of human nature, in so far as the mind
sciences consider them, are being decided without really debating them
in a forum in which the broader implications are considered.
Neurophysiology, for example, really only asks certain limited kinds of
questions (chemical happenings in brain cells, or how cells cooperate
to apparently accomplish computation), yet appears to assume that inner
states of consciousness are produced exclusively by these cell
"It is old hat to say that the brain is responsible for
mental activity. Such a claim may annoy the likes of Jerry Falwell or
the Ayatollah, but it is more or less the common assumption of educated
people in the twentieth century. Ever since the scientific revolution,
the guiding view of most scientists has been that knowledge about the
brain, its cells and its chemistry will explain mental states. However,
believing that the brain supports behavior is the easy part: explaining
how is quite another." (Mind
Matters: How the Mind and Brain interact to Create Our Conscious Lives, Michael S. Grazzanica Ph.D. pp 1, Houghton Mifflin,
For a more modern statement of the
problem, this from an article on the World Science website, in 2008:
understand what creates consciousness-the sense of being alive and
aware-is one of the all-time most exasperating problems in science. The
key stumbling block: even if one knew every brain mechanism underlying
consciousness, there would still be no apparent way to see or measure
the actual production of consciousness.
We should perhaps note two things about
the first quotation above. First the words "common assumption" and "believing", by which Grazzanica
tacitly admits that we are not here dealing with proven facts, but
rather with the "belief system" held in common by some unknown portion
of the scientific community. Secondly, he clearly admits that moving
from facts about brain chemistry and related phenomena to an
explanation of consciousness, free will, morality etc. is a gigantic
undertaking (still a problem 20 years later - see second quote).
In that portion of the scientific
community supportive of Grazzanica's "common assumption", brain and
mind are considered a single phenomenon, and one popular science writer
even goes so far as to say that the recent advances in neuroscience
establish conclusively that there is no human spirit, and that all
states of consciousness are caused electrochemically. "There will of course be a
certain sadness as the "human spirit" joins the flat earth, papal
infallibility and creationism on the list of widely held but obviously
erroneous convictions." (Molecules
of the Mind, Jon Franklin, p 202, Atheneum,
New York, 1987).
There can be no doubt that if a human
being ingests certain chemical substances, whether for recreational
purposes or as prescribed medicine, the state of consciousness is
altered. Electrical stimulation of the brain also produces effects,
whether it is simple stimulation of certain brain centers to cause
pleasure or to bring out memories, or whether it is the more invasive
electroshock therapy, still urged today for certain intractable mental
disorders. In one part of our society we say free use of chemicals to
alter mental states is a crime and in another part forced use is
advocated in order to control deviant behaviors. (c.f. Deviance
and Medicalization: from Badness to Sickness,
Conrad and Schneider, Merrill Publishing Company, 1985).
The point of this is to realize that we
are not only dealing with serious questions of truth, of whether
scientists actually know what they claim to believe, but also with the social policy consequences of this
knowledge. The central question remains, however: what is the
relationship between mind and brain? As we proceed, I would like to
show how to extend our knowledge of human consciousness by considering
what one can come to know from what might be called: Christian
meditative practice. In such a practice, what one can know about mind
is quite different from what science knows. In such a practice, mind is
explored from the inside rather than from the outside. Even though,
unfortunately, those who have explored mind from the outside have
pretty much concluded: "...it has long been recognized that mind does not exist
somehow apart from brain..." (The Mind, Richard M. Restak M.D. pp ll, Bantam Books, 1988);
"My fundamental premise about the brain is that its
workings - what we sometimes call mind - are a consequence of it
anatomy and physiology and nothing more." (The
Dragons of Eden, Speculations of the Evolution of Human Intelligence, Carl Sagan, pp.7, Ballantine Books, 1977). [note in the
above the use of the terms premise and Speculations]
Quite other conclusions are possible, in
fact, may be said to be mandated, if one takes the trouble to examine
consciousness from the inside, as is possible for anyone with a more or
less intact mental health, and the requisite good will.
At this point I would like to proceed in
such a manner that it is provisionally allowed to use the words spirit
and soul, but in a way that acknowledges the legitimate requirements of
science for exact, empirical and logically rigorous consideration.
These two words are essential to understanding mind from a Christian
contemplative view and can be put forward in a way free of metaphysical
or mystical implications. The problem is in part confused by the fact
that today, when we use the word mind in normal language usage, we mean
only the brain and as well confine this aspect of our nature within the
boundaries of the skull. Mind (in modern usage) means brain, means
within the head.
Soul and spirit, on the other hand, are
not thought of this way, and while many people do not even think such
entities exist in the same sense as mind and brain, at least these
words have the advantage of being capable of a usage meaning something
beyond the spatially limited confines of the cranium.
The problem is one of relating personal
experience through language in a situation in which the practices of
science have tended to already fix the meaning of certain words. For
example, the poet will refer to heart with regard to the phenomenon of
human feeling. Our whole language is filled with related expressions
(heart-felt, warm-hearted etc.). On the other hand, the scientific
community tends to see emotion (feeling) as a function of glandular and
brain chemistry, and therefore as an aspect of the mind/brain/body
nexus. Yet, an electrochemical explanation seems to deny human
experience, which has produced language implying that the center of our
"feeling" life is not connected to the brain, not located specially in
the head, but rather finds is primary locus in the chest. We say, "I
have a gut feeling", or "my heart got caught in my throat".
The point of this is to notice the denial
of this imagery (derived from human experience) by the processes of
scientific thinking which have over the last few hundred years more and
more confined the source of these experiences to the head and to
As a general trend in science this is
called reductionism and involves a process which Eddington called
earlier in this century: "Knowing more and more about less and less." Our body of knowledge about cell chemistry and neural
networks in the brain grows, but often at a cost to genuine human
understanding (I say this from direct experience, as one who has worked
in a neuropsychiatric unit in a private hospital). Perhaps it is time
to pause and consider whether or not it is necessary to go the other
way for a while, to reintroduce the study of the soul, from the inside,
as it appears to direct human experience.
This can, I am certain, be done with due
regard for the demand of science for reproducibility. I recognize this
is not the usual approach by religious thinkers, yet in this case our
mutual respect for the truth seems to require it. This ethical demand
of science for reproducibility, namely that whatever is asserted here
concerning mind (soul/spirit) be discoverable by another who is willing
to follow the procedures, the experimental protocols, as it were; this
demand I believe is perfectly justified.
In "new age" circles one hears frequently
about mind, body and spirit, meaning, I suppose, that these are three
distinguishable human characteristics. In modern mind sciences we hear
of mind and brain. Are these differing perspectives talking about the
same things at all? It will be useful to note in passing that when
Freud's works were translated from German into English the words
"geistes" (spirit) and "seele" (soul) were both translated as mind
(c.£ Bruno Bettelheim's Freud and
man's soul, A.A.Knopf, 1983), even though
English did have the correct dictionary terms. This really only shows
that for the English consciousness the inner life was already thought
of as mind even though Europe had had a long tradition of referring to
inner life in terms of soul and spirit (Freud thought and wrote out of
Modern American English still uses these terms as in: soul power, soul brother, soul music, or in noting the distinction between the spirit and the letter of the law.Yet such usage's are more metaphorical, more imaginative, than the exact language usage which science demands, in fact depends upon. Even so, while brain has a very concrete physical existence, mind does not; it is much more ephemeral. It can't be touched, nor can consciousness, or inner life, or feeling, or even idea. Yet, these apparently non - sense perceptible - phenomena are all recognized intuitively. We accept loss of consciousness in sleep and in certain conditions of trauma or illness. We moderns are in love with feelings and their expression, about which have recently been written more books than one can read. The practice of science would get nowhere without ideas and in fact the principle foundation of science's logical rigor is mathematics, which has no sense perceptible existence at all, and is nowhere observable in nature, even with instruments.
That nature is organized along
mathematical lines confirms the utility of mathematical insight, but
the creation of mathematical insight comes first. The mind
produces these ideas out of its own nature, before they are ever
applied to the natural world.
Imagine that Descartes invented analytic
geometry while high on dopamine (a neurotransmitter identified as a
factor in drug use and satisfaction). How are we to relate the chemical
state of the brain and the simultaneous ideas? Is one producer and one
product? And, if the productive cause is then questionable, can we
accept the product?
Descartes has recently joined the
(illustrious?) group of historic personalities to be diagnosed has
having a psychiatric disorder (depression in his case) by a
psychiatrist who never personally met him. If true would this make
analytic geometry a dubious discovery, or a hallucination (i.e.
unreal)? Our electrical technology is impossible without the calculus
that followed (and its relative differential equations), so there is
something very different about this non - sense perceptible - phenomena
called mathematics. It is somehow part of the world yet only knowable
It is clear that accepted scientific
ideas are not being disputed because their producer has been at one
time categorized as having been either physically or mentally ill. Yet,
one can find in the literature (in the brain sciences) the idea that
so-called mystic states and other kinds of religious experiences
represent, or are caused by, unusual chemical states; i.e. are not what
those who experience them say they are: experiences of God. But, how
can this be? How can one make such a distinction that the
discovery of a mathematical truth is different from the discovery of a
religious truth, merely on the basis of the possibility that chemical
happenings in the brain can induce hallucinatory states of
Now the working scientist should have an
argument here, which is, at first blush, quite reasonable. That nature
conforms to mathematically oriented models at least establishes (I
won't say proves) that this formal relation exists. Granted calculus
can't be seen, but it does allow prediction of physical phenomena.
Nature acts in conformance with mathematical principles. Where is the
evidence it acts according to the principle God - this the working
scientist should ask. After all, this is the habit of mind of the
scientist to form such questions. Or, perhaps to put it another way,
what predicted observation would permit the logical inference of the
Even so, such a response has not really
appreciated the problem as I have been trying to state it. All the ideas of science are first and foremost mental phenomena.They
appear in mind as a product of mind, not in sensible nature. I don't
see gravity or even light. I see falling objects and colors. I infer
the law of gravity and the existence of light from these experiences
and, if I am a scientist, I make rigorous my observations through
experimentation and precise instrumentation. But natural selection and
the big bang are in each case mental creations, they proceed from the
act of thinking, not from sense perceptible nature.
What this means to me is that if I am
going to prefer one kind of mental phenomena over another (e.g. the
idea of accident in the creation of life versus the idea of God) then
I'd better be clear as to why I have such a preference. Yet, before I
can make such choices, I need to understand mind, to understand the act
which makes such a choice. But to understand mind don't I first need to
understand understanding, to think about thinking?
To the philosophically sophisticated
reader this may seem to be running backward in time. Modern academic
philosophy (linguistic analysis), from Quine to Ayer to Wittgenstein is
no longer thinking about thinking, at least in the way someone such as
Fichte or some other 19th century German philosopher approached the
problem. For the lay person the question might be put this way. How can
I look to current work in linguistic analysis, in neurophysiology, in
cognitive psychology, in order to build up my idea of mind, when these
systems are already products of mind? Is not the cart before the horse?
Don't I first have to have clearly before me what
thinking is to my own experience of it, before I apply it in practice?
I have mind directly before me. What might I understand if I
investigate the nature of my own experience first?
This is a crucial point. If we were to
examine each of these disciplines we would find some idea of mind,
either being assumed or derived from the particular work. In some cases
very explicit statements are being made about what thinking is, how it
is caused, how it proceeds, what its potential is and so forth. Yet, it
is thinking which is producing these ideas. How might such
investigations evolve if first it was clearly before the thinker, just
what thinking was to his own experience?
There are other reasons for making such a
question the foundational step. Earlier in this century, the
physicist/novelist C.P. Snow pointed out the existence of two cultures,
the cultures of science and of literature (or the humanities). These
cultures did not speak the same language and did not consider the same
problems. Moreover the scientists seemed to believe that only their
method produced objective truth, and that the humanities only produced
subjective truths. Alan Bloom (in his The
Closing of the American Mind) observed how
the distribution of assets in the modern university reveals the
domination of the sciences today, at least to governments and
businesses, who provide most of the funds for research. When was the
last time a President convened a panel of poets to help him define a
problem? (This is not to say that this is a bad idea by the way. I
suspect in many instances our poets and troubadours would give much
wiser advice). My own view is that Snow did not go far enough, although
his being a scientist/novelist makes this limitation understandable.
There are, I believe, three cultures (or three constituent spheres to
Culture): a culture of science or Reason, a culture of humanities or
Imagination and a culture of religion or Devotion. Reason, Imagination
and Devotion are related to the older ideas of Truth, Beauty and
Goodness, in that the former are human capacities of the soul and the
latter are the outer expressions of those capacities. Reason engenders
truth, Imagination engenders beauty, and Devotion engenders goodness.
In reality this is a complex
relationship. On a certain level, or from a particular viewpoint, these
soul capacities are also capable of being called powers. The romantic
poet S.T. Coleridge called imagination the "esemplastic power" and felt it was not just an aspect of human
consciousness, but was a force of Nature as well. Reason, for example,
could be called Truth, as that appears in the soul as a hunger first,
then a question, and finally an answer. Reason is then a dynamic
process which is intimately connect to Truth. In a way they are a
mirror of each other.
The difficulty for both Snow and Bloom is
that they have no practical depth experience at devotion; they didn't
really understand it or appreciate its role in their own soul, or in
the world. Most Christian contemplatives are cloistered and are not
encouraged to either prove their claims (in fact they make no "claims")
or to exhibit works. Certainly no science curriculum, and few
humanities curriculums teach the works of St. John of the Cross, or St.
Teresa of Avila. Our secular age is filled with writings and teachers
who believe religion is superstition, but who have never tested it on
its own terms. When Christ Jesus says "No one comes to the Father
except by me." it doesn't seem to occur to
people that knowledge of God might depend upon method just as much as
science does. Perhaps the reason the scientist doesn't find God behind
creation is because he looked in the wrong place. God being ephemeral
(spiritual), perhaps God can only be observed (known) by the ephemeral
in man. Perhaps only to mind in a pure state is the supra-sensible, the
I have written briefly here of reason,
imagination and devotion because I wanted us to remember that mind
(soul/spirit) produces much else besides technical wonders. So that
when we think about thinking we will remember all the kinds of things
which flow from mind and appreciate that skill and effort are as much
involved in the discovery of truth as in the creation of beauty or in
traveling on the stony path to goodness. Moreover, there seems to be
evidence that our greatest geniuses are often active in such a way that
combines these qualities. Are not the true scientists and artists
devoted to their calling? Einstein was mathematical, musical and
faithful. Michael Faraday, who was the founding theoretician of
electrical and magnetic phenomena, was a man of special religious
devotion. Teilhard de Chardin is a very obvious case in point, and so
is Goethe, whose scientific work was impeccable, although today much
under appreciated. Here is what Roger Penrose, a major thinker on the
problem of mind and science, had to say in his The
Emperor's New Mind, pp. 421, Oxford
University Press, 1989:
"It seems clear to me that the importance of aesthetic
criteria applies not only to the instantaneous judgments of
inspiration, but also to the much more frequent judgments we make all
the time in mathematical (or scientific work) Rigorous argument is
usually the last step! Before that, one has to make many guesses, and
for these, aesthetic convictions are enormously important..."
And here is Karl Popper, whose work on
scientific method sets the standard (for many at least), in his Realism
and the Aim of Science, pp. 8, Rowan and
"...I think that there is only one way to science - or to
philosophy, for that matter: to meet a problem, to see its beauty and
to fall in love with it;...".
Or as we might add to Mr. Popper's
thought: "...to meet a problem (reason), to see its beauty
(imagination) and to fall in love with it (devotion);..."
I'd like now to introduce the ideas of
Thomas Taylor, as expressed in the introduction to his early 18th
century book: The
Theoretic Arithmetic of the Pythagoreans. He
observes there an interesting fact and draws from it an intriguing
conclusion. He starts by deploring the increasing emphasis in education
on the practical side of mathematics instead of the theoretical side,
i.e. teaching math only with the idea of enabling people to be good
accountants or engineers. The theoretic side has special
characteristics for Taylor, which should not be lost to the process of
education. In Nature, says Taylor, we do not find the perfect circle or
the straight line. All the beautiful (or elegant in modern mathematical
parlance) characteristics of mathematics arise not from the
contemplation of Nature, which is imperfect, but rather are products of
the soul which thereby reveals its perfection.
Or to restate Taylor's observation in our
terms: mind (soul/spirit) in showing its capacity to think the idea of
the perfect, the elegant, the beautiful, as that appears in
mathematics, reveals its own nature. Mind could not produce the quality
of these ideas except as that reflects the quality of its own
condition. Yet, we know that the brain is a physical organ, and is no
less imperfect that any other aspect of material nature. How then does
this electrochemical machine come to the ideas which are clearly beyond
its own structure? While you might say that God is an illusion, and
therefore some kind of mental dream or hallucination, I don't think you
can get very far arguing the same way about the circle, or other
geometric, and algebraic formulations without making a complete mockery
of the scientific and technological achievements which depend upon
Taylor's observation, which I make my own
as well, is simply this. What the human being produces, through his
soul capacities of reason, imagination and devotion, namely truth,
beauty and goodness, necessarily reveals that the human spirit
possesses a reality clearly transcendent of a mere brain bound
With this background then I would like to
return to the question of what is thinking, and what the answer to that
question can reveal for us about the nature of mind. I don't expect to
answer this question here in the way it must ultimately be answered. No
written work ever convinces, even scientific papers. The reader must
make his own investigation and draw his own conclusions. This is
fundamentally what truly constitutes proof, even in science. My
obligation to reason is to state clearly my conclusions and
observations and to explain adequately my methodology in order that
another can test my results. My reader's obligation is to honestly
carry out the instructions, otherwise there can be no scientific
validation or invalidation. This will not be easy, and few will even
try for the truth is that years of effort have gone into the
understanding I presently have of mind. In fact it is not the point of
this essay to establish or prove the idea of mind that might be held by
a fully modern and scientifically rigorous Christian contemplative, but
rather to expose it, to make it known, and to do so in a way which
accepts as authentic and justifiable the scientific requirement for
reproducibility. That the effort at replication may well be beyond the
will power of those who agree or disagree is a situation over which I
have no control.
This is not a cop out, by the way. That
it takes years of study and development to be able to understand
"Hilbert space", in no way lessens its mathematical truth. Likewise, do
we have to be able to paint the Mona Lisa in order to appreciate its
beauty? So, as well, we can marvel at the goodness of the idea of mind
as a moral/spiritual act, even though we may lack the ability to
completely engender in practice a full understanding of such a
On the other hand, and if we are willing,
we can learn fundamental mathematical and scientific truths, without
just having faith in the scientist's teachings. We can, as well, take
up artistic activity and discover our own creative potential; and
certainly we might devote ourselves to prayer and contemplative
thinking in order that we learn to encounter the threshold between the
visible and moral (invisible) worlds.
For my own purposes I now want to put
aside (for the most part) the word mind and use instead just the terms
soul and spirit. These two words are to mean no more and no less than
what the reader experiences in his own inner life. Such a process is
called introspection or looking within. It is a most ancient
discipline; the meaning of the Greek admonition: "Know thyself ". This
does not mean, by the way, to know ones subjective individual character
traits as is often thought, but rather to discover the universals of
human nature as they appear inside our own being. On this matter
Emerson made a cogent observation in his lecture, The
American Scholar: "For the instinct is sure,
that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then
learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has
descended into the secrets of all minds..."
Earlier in this century there was briefly
a psychological "school" which sought to discover truths about the
psyche (soul) through introspection, but this work did not make much
headway, did not seem to contribute scientifically. and was abandoned.
Its flaw was to pretend there was no tradition, no previous exploration
of inner life, of psyche (soul) which might offer some experienced
insight into the problems involved. This pretense is understandable in
that invariably those disciplines which actually know something
practical about inner life are spiritual disciplines and the general
trend of scientific thought has been to view spiritual ideas about the
Earth, Cosmos and Man, as mere superstition. It is no wonder then that,
when science seeks to investigate inner life, its anti-spiritual
assumptions and preconceptions become an impediment to the discovery of
just those facts sought after.
Every human being experiences
consciousness, which includes sense experience (sight, hearing, touch,
taste and smell etc.), varying degrees of well being (health, vitality
and illness), thoughts, dreams, feelings, impulses of will, desires,
sympathies, antipathies, and so forth. Our language is full of a
variety of words for different inner experiences, or states of
consciousness, and these usages can often be very instructive. For
example, why do we call someone "bright" or speak of "flashes of
insight" or draw cartoons in which having a "bright idea" is depicted
by a light bulb going on over someone's head? We do this because we
instinctively know that certain kinds of thought activity (intuitions)
are accompanied by phenomena of inner light. This is not light as seen
by the physical eye, but light experienced by the "mind's eye", the
individual human spirit.
In our ordinary state of soul
(consciousness) this experience is not paid attention to because we are
focused outwardly on the problem, whose solution the "flash of insight"
represents. Moreover, the activity by which we produce the "in-sight",
lies below the level of consciousness. It is unconscious. Now the fact
is that within many spiritual disciplines exists the knowledge by which
this unconscious activity can be made conscious, the inner eye
strengthened and intuitions can be produced more or less at will. Even
so, not all spiritual disciplines are the same, have the same world
view, or the same purposes. It becomes necessary then to say a few
words about this, in particular the differences between Buddhist and
Christian depth meditation practices, the principle paths of Eastern
and Western forms of spiritual life.
Buddhism today enjoys a certain
ascendancy in America.
"The Buddhist movement has become a regional phenomenon.
It is pervasive. And it is quietly transforming our North American
culture. This is the golden age of Buddhism. Right here. Right now. " (Don Morreale, quoted in Masters of the Universe,
Pamela Weintraub, Omni, March 1990.)
Examine, for example, the book by William
Irwin Thompson, Imaginary
Landscape. This is a book straining to
realize ideas about man and the world by combining reason, imagination
and devotion. Thompson is a cultural historian fascinated with the
cutting edge of the new sciences such as chaos research and cognitive
science.Thompson has clearly been influenced by Buddhism (apparently
the Tibetan Llama Choygam Trungpa), and this reveals itself in the
ethereally vague, almost ungrounded character of Thompson's prose. If
you were to follow reading Thompson's book by reading Speakers
Meaning by Owen Barfield, who is a student of
the Western spiritual teacher, Rudolf Steiner, the different effect of
the style of meditation and related practices on the thinking of the
two writers is clear. There is a mystery here concerning the effect of
meditation styles on cultural life.
I do not say this because I am opposed to
Buddhism as a spiritual path, but rather as an observer of culture and
the ebbs and flows in the dynamics of a civilization's cultural
existence. Years ago I had a profound experience of Buddhism, for which
I am ever thankful, yet I believe there must arise an effort on the
part of the leaders of both Western and Eastern cultural life to work
together, in mutually supportive ways. There is, I believe, hidden in
the mysteries behind both Christianity and Buddhism, a higher unity,
which ought to sought for; all the while remaining mindful of the
different effects on the soul life of the individual which are due to
the different practices, and the natural consequences these must have
in the life of a culture. Just like political leaders, humanities
spiritual leaders owe the individual certain responsibilities.
The orientation of Buddhist and Christian
inner disciplines toward the act of thinking is quite different. The
reader who begins to take an objective look at his inner life, at his
soul (which includes all that appears inwardly, both conscious and
unconscious), will find that there is an actor, a self, an egoity. To
this we refer when we think or say "I". Buddhist meditation takes the
view that this "I" is the cause of suffering, the cause of life's
difficulties and that it (the "I") needs to be abandoned, eventually to
disappear into an experience of self merged and lost within Self.
Christian meditation sees the "I" as the
point of creation, as the image of God, which can be redeemed from its
fallen nature, so as to produce the mysterious and paradoxical Pauline
dictum: "Not I,
but Christ in me."
The Buddhist leaves the act of thinking, the "I"'s spiritual activity, to take its own course, believing that this activity only produces illusions. Christian meditation sees the act of thinking as capable of being metamorphosed, altered through discipline, into a new organ of perception, an organ which can then perceive deeper into the mysteries of creation.
Lest one believe this is an
inconsequential matter, just consider the following as reported in the
Boston Globe newspaper in December of 1990. The story reveals that a
Carthusian priest, a monk in a Catholic contemplative order, has just
completed seven years training in the meditation practices of Vipassana
Buddhism. This priest, Rev. Denys Rackley, is quoted as saying: "What Western Christians
need...is practical knowledge...of preparing the mind for the spiritual
experience, something almost entirely unknown in the West." It is understandable why he believes this, but it is
not true. The depth meditative practices with Christian understanding
are not unknown, but one does have to look for them in the West, rather
then look to the East.
Father Denys is also quoted as saying: "...as long as you're
functioning at the level of the rational thinking mind, you're not
really into the heart of the spiritual life".
This is the Buddhist view, but one of the purposes of this essay is to
suggest that thinking can in fact lead to direct spiritual experience.
And that for the Christian, to abandon his cognitive capacities in the
manner of Eastern meditative practices is to miss developing "Not I, but Christ in me."
This short consideration hardly exhausts
what would be a proper examination of these differences, nor does it
deal with the complex and difficult relation between modern depth
Christianity and the current theological beliefs of many Christian
churches. I did feel it necessary, however, to note briefly these
themes as part of giving as rounded out a picture of mind
(soul/spirit), as that exists for the modern, scientifically rigorous,
Christian meditative practitioner.
The reader may then consider the soul to
be all that appears before him inwardly as his consciousness, including
as well sense experience. While we feel, and have been taught, that
sense experience is caused by outer nature, the actual experiencing of
these so-called stimuli occurs within the soul or conscious awareness.
For example, if one whose normal environment is urban were to be
transported suddenly to a grand vista of nature they would experience
the soul's expansive movement deeper into the senses. Normally in urban
life the soul withdraws as far as possible from its sense experiences
which are so chaotic and immoderate. We tend to hear, see, smell,
taste, feel (as in touch) with less sensitivity while we lead an urban
existence. The opposite is also true. If an urban dweller, who has
spent a month or so in raw nature were to suddenly return to downtown
Manhattan, they would experience a sudden contraction of the soul, a
rapid withdrawal from the senses, and a constriction of the diaphragm
(so as to breathe less deeply the toxic air).
Soul includes as well that which exists
in the unconscious, and which manifests over time, such as mood,
character, temperament and other like phenomena. Within the field of
soul, within the totality of psychic life, the "I" or spirit appears as
the experiencer, the actor, and the creative or initiating cause.
Now please remember that this way of
describing soul life comes from the process of active objective
introspection. It does not try to infer from outer perception as do the
sciences, but seeks to objectify the direct experiences of the observer
of his own self. Just as science then points to technological products
to validate its views, so can these practices point to reproducible
effects in the inner life brought about by the disciplined activity of
the "I" through self development exercises, such as concentration,
meditation, contemplation and prayer. I would like to put forward a
model here, just as science does, but in this case I want it to be
clear it is only a device by which to convey an idea, a mental
representation of a real process, which can be known, but which can't
be described by the concepts we are used to.
Imagine if you will that you are holding
a "stick" between the palms of your hands. If you move your left hand
in such a way as to push the "stick", your right hand will move as
well. Move the right hand and the "stick" will push the left. This then
is the idea I want to suggest for the brain-mind relationship, or the
body/soul/spirit relationship. Brain chemistry can cause changes in
consciousness, but as well the "I", the spirit, can cause changes in
brain chemistry. In Mind
Matters, Grazzanica, having already likened
brain to a mechanism, then says paradoxically: "A thought can change brain
chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought". My question for Grazzanica is: what does he think
causes the thought which changes the brain chemistry?
If I ingest substances, food or chemical,
I alter my state of soul, of consciousness. There is no ignoring the
fact that brain chemistry effects states of mind (soul). However, the
opposite is also true. My active spirit can also effect states of soul,
and in some circumstances brain and body chemistry as well (c.f. the
capacities of Jack Schwartz who is able to control consciously a number
of so-called involuntary bodily processes including blood flow.).
Moreover, any conscious physical movement is initiated by my spirit
which first imagines it. Ordinarily we are not aware of how our "I"'s
will brings about this physical movement. The "stick", as it were, is
hidden deep in the unconscious.
With regard to the act of thinking,
however, the whole activity lies within the reach of my self conscious
spirit. Thinking takes place in the conscious parts of the soul and
with training one can become aware of and be active in the whole
Ordinarily we experience thinking as an
inner dialog, a flow of words. This talking to ourselves (don't we say,
"I can't hear myself think") is the end product of unconscious
processes. In this instance it is the spirit which initiates the silent
wording and the soul which hears. This act of thinking (which is
unconscious ) produces thoughts or trains of thought (the flow of
words) of which we are conscious. The training disciplines of a
specific spiritual practice can, stage by stage, uncover and make open
to experience, and will activity, what remains otherwise hidden in the
I will now describe some of the
consequences of such a discipline in terms of capacities and
experiences. This is not meant to be exhaustive, only indicative. Later
we will discuss certain books which have much more to offer in this
line, books which I have used (tested) myself. The stream of "words"
can be brought to a halt. The act of thinking can then be focused on a
single concept. The discovery here is that concept and word are two
different experiences. This is another crucial matter, but its main
difficulty for the reader's understanding is that it cannot be put into
words. It is completely a function of experience.
Now ordinarily we think of concept and
idea as the same as the word which we experience in our inner dialog.
The true experience of the concept is beyond language. It can
ultimately be experienced in a way analogous to that in which a sense
object is experienced. The difference is that I am in an unusual state
of consciousness, which can be described as "sense free". Only to my
mind's eye, my spiritual eye, does the concept appear. Moreover, as an
experience it is more vivid, more intense, than sense experience. It
touches, as it were, my whole soul, filling the soul with "sensation",
with image, sound, tactility, engagement (I am pulled toward it, it
seems to rush toward me). In addition the experience can only be
sustained if my "I" is active in a certain way. In the face of sense
experience I can be passive. In the face of the supra-sensible
experience of the pure concept, I must remain active inwardly.
Roger Penrose in his The
Emperor's New Mind relates how as a
mathematician (recall what had been said previously about mathematics
by Taylor) he is beginning to think mathematical truths have their own
independent existence. "...I cannot help feeling that, with mathematics the case
for believing in some kind of ethereal, eternal existence, at least for
the more profound mathematical concepts, is a good deal stronger..." (pp. 97). Mathematical thinking is a very concentrated
activity, is good practice for meditation and contemplation and can
easily evolve into the contemplation of the pure concept.
When we think, then, in the ordinary way
(stream of words), our unconscious thought-creative activity is within
the realm of the pure concept, but our conscious awareness is only of
the words which fall out, as it were, like autumn leaves blown free of
the living tree of our mind.
As with mathematics, so with music. Consider the poetic intuition out of the imagination of the writer Kim Stanley Robinson in his novel: The Memory of Whiteness:
"A music leads the mind through the starry night and the
brain must expand to contain the flight like a tree growing branches at
the speed of light."
Thinking cannot only focus on the single concept, it may also suspend itself just before the act which produces the awareness of the concept. Thinking can take up a question, but not proceed all the way to an answer. We can live in the question, in a condition of heightened anticipation. A great deal can be learned from appreciating the qualitative difference of the "I"'s activities of "focus" and "question".
Up to now little has been said here of
the Christian nature of such practices. Consider then that the
Christian contemplative's practice is to think in a concentrated and
focused way ever and ever again on the Being of God. If Penrose has
begun to suspect that mathematics is derived from an experience of
something that is "there
already", are we to be surprised when the
contemplative finds God as an experience in his consciousness (soul)
and as a consequence (in part, we will have to avoid complicating
things with the problem of Grace) of the activity of his thinking
(spirit)? Prayer is another form of question, and by combining
question and focus, or prayer and contemplation, the contemplative
proceeds in an exact, disciplined and rigorous fashion.
The summa of my own investigations (which
is not by any means to be considered more than the work of a beginner)
is the discipline of sacrifice of thoughts. I have found it especially
important to learn to give up any tendency to fixed ideas. Always it is
necessary to approach the situation ignorant, to sacrifice all previous
are the poor in spirit. " is the Beatitude.
Only in a condition of humility, of not knowing, can I come to the more
subtle, more intimate inner experiences. One of my favorite teachers
calls sacrifice of thoughts: "...learning to think on your knees...".
This leads us to the consideration of the
core problem, that of morality and conscience.
Many people today think of education and
character development as having to do with pouring something into an
otherwise empty soul. To my experience this is mistaken. Rather it is
always a question of development, of unfolding. A human being becomes.
True morality then involves the development of a capacity, and is not
merely a matter of instruction. You can get people to conform, but real
morality comes from the inside out and is not a response to
expectations of right behavior. (This appears to be a new condition for
mankind. Previously, in human development, morality, to a great extent,
was set for the individual by the outside social structure, through
codes of behavior, traditions, and other socially enforced expectations.
Depth introspection of the act of
thinking will discover that the outcome of thinking is significantly
affected by the moral intention of the thinker. Just as the act of
thinking needs to be made conscious, so the moral intention connected
to the object (or the why) of the thinking needs to be fully conscious.
If, for example, I am a business man looking for a solution to a
certain problem, the answers I get will vary according to the moral
intention. Ultimately the practitioner of such thinking will come to an
appreciation of the activity of conscience within his own soul life.
This is a special experience. The "voice"
of conscience needs to be carefully distinguished from the more
subjectively incorporated authority figures. The conscience, for
example, never endlessly nags us, does not make us feel inferior.
Conscience is the experience of the higher element of our nature, which
is normally in the unconscious. In the awakening and the development of
conscience we begin to develop within us this higher element (What St.
Paul calls: "Not I, but Christ.in me."). The conscience does cause
pain, "pricks of conscience", because it forces us to recognize the
true moral consequences of our actions. The truth hurts and our voice
of conscience reminds us of the truth. The conscience, however, loves
us, which is why it makes us conscious of the truth, but does not seek
to destroy our self image or impair our self esteem.
Now just as one can evoke certain kinds
of inner experiences through various types of thinking disciplines, so
can one evoke the voice of conscience and thereby come to certain moral
knowledge. This understanding of the life of the soul and the activity
of the spirit, this part of the idea of mind, involves the most subtle
inner discrimination; and, since it places morality within the realm of
individual knowledge, it represents a threat to authoritarian
organizations, religious or otherwise. No one, who eventually learns
this fine discrimination, will ever assert to another that they possess
a more perfect moral knowledge. Each individual must make his own
This does not mean that morality is
subjective, or that it is relative and changeable. The problem is more
subtle and more complicated. The
is an organ of knowledge - of
understanding the true moral qualities underlying human action. Two
individuals with the same choices, the same life questions to balance,
if they strive for the same depth of understanding, they will arrive at
the same knowledge of what is right. However, the reality is that, in
life, two individuals seldom have to face the same choice. Our lives
are very individual, regardless of superficial similarities. What needs
to be weighed and balanced is unlikely to be the same. So when the
individual problem is presented to the organ of conscience, we often
get an individual result.
This can be very confusing. In part the
confusion is due to our usually thinking of morality as a set of
immutable principles, and the teaching of most religious authorities of
quite definite rules and codes. For example, to many murder and
abortion are absolutely prohibited. In these instances, to suggest, as
the above seems to suggest, that the individual has some kind of free
choice, is to appear to go against these most obvious and traditional
moral restrictions. Such thinking, however, misses the point.
First we should remember that most of us,
in many situations, do not follow the indications of our conscience, to
the extent we become aware of them. Conscience gives us knowledge; we
choose to act, or not, upon that knowledge. That we often choose to
ignore conscience in no way takes away the power of conscience to know
what is moral. Secondly, what is often forgotten, is that one of the
most common ways we ignore conscience is in judging other people. If we
put to conscience whether we should judge another's morality, what
answer do you think conscience will give? "He who is without sin, let
him cast the first stone.".
In the process of coming to this
understanding of the role of conscience, or moral intention, and the
consequences of these acts upon the activity of thinking, we also come
to a practical understanding of many of the lessons of the Gospels. The
teachings of Christ Jesus, in that they have a practical psychological
effect, in that they concern matters of "mind", conform exactly to all
that has been said above. In spite of what religious dogma might say,
this knowledge, which is derived from the direct experience of a
Christian meditant,and which is also representative of a community of
such meditation practitioners, in no way conflicts with true
Certain implications flow from this idea of mind. We might ask the question: where is the "there"
there" is? When the mathematician Penrose
proposes that mathematical ideas are "already there", where is this
"there"? Inside the physical space of my skull? This is our habit of
thought, but does that "habit" have to be true?
It will help to consider a parallel
problem/question. Which comes first in evolution/creation, mind or
matter? We assume matter, or at least such is the fundamental
assumption current in science today. The basic belief is that at some
point in evolution the complexity of the nervous system reaches a point
where consciousness arises and ultimately what we know as mind
(soul/spirit to the Christian meditative experience). We have no proof
of this. It really hasn't even been seriously investigated, if it can
be investigated at all. That mind arises spontaneously, out of some
accidental physical condition, is an axiom (unproven assumption) of
many mainstream scientists.
Such a supposed event, lying as it does
in the distant past, cannot even be the subject of an experiment, or
any other direct observation. This alleged event must be inferred, but
from what? The fossil record only gives us bones, hardened substances.
The soft tissues are always dissolved. And as to the thoughts?
We do have a picture of stages of
development, one that we have been indoctrinated in from our earliest
years in school: single cell plant, to multi-cell, to invertebrate, to
vertebrate, to mammal, to man. We have an idea of mind (soul/spirit) as
solely reason, and therefore connect mind and tool making. This picture
itself is an inference. Are we justified in building inference upon
inference. The fact that the majority of scientists believe this to be
the case is of no moment whatsoever. We don't vote facts into
existence, and at the very least the history of science itself reveals,
not an unbroken advance, but rather a series of "beliefs", a series of
substitutions of ideas often quite at odds with each other (c.f. T.
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).
Is there any reason for inferring the
opposite? Is there something which suggests mind preceded matter? As a
matter of fact there is. The discipline of philology, the study of
language as developed by the mind (soul/spirit) of Owen Barfield
reveals that what we call thinking was experienced by certain
ancient peoples as outside them. The whole way they used language,
their references to muses and to genii, shows that they experienced
thoughts as coming into them from the outside. (c.£ Owen
Barfield's Speaker's Meaning, also his Poetic
Diction, History in
English Words, and Saving the
Appearances: a Study in Idolatry). Barfield's
investigations, which represent deeply profound and scientific studies
of the history of meaning and the meaning of history, suggest
unequivocally that modern assumptions regarding the nature of
consciousness, both historical and prehistorical, must certainly be
rethought; and if that is done, the inferred idea of matter proceeding
mind in evolution will be replaced with its opposite, that mind is
prior. Moreover, this philological research shows that mind
(soul/spirit) has over the course of history (that is the period of
man's evolution for which we have records) only just finished a long
period of contraction; thinking, having first been outside the human
entelechy, is now inside.
This is not the place in which to give a
full recapitulation of the relevant trains of thought (arguments) which
Barfield makes, nor to go into the supporting evidence that can be
found in the field of art history (c.f. Art and
Human Consciousness, Gottfried Richter,
Anthroposophic Press, 1985). Rather I wanted to point out the question
and as well to point to work which finds a satisfactory answer. Where
is the "there" where one finds ideas already? It is in the great field
of Mind (Soul/Spirit) which encompasses all of Nature (sense
perceptible as well as supra-sensible), to which our individuality, our
"I", has access through its own disciplined inner activity. Just as it
is quite unreasonable to expect the imperfect to conceive the perfect
(the material brain to imagine the immaterial and elegant truths of
projective geometry), so it is non-reason to assume that mind
(soul/spirit) is not born out of its own likeness. Matter cannot have
given birth to consciousness, to thinking, or to certain moral
knowledge (conscience). Our inwardness (soul/spirit) can only be the
progeny of the Universe's Inwardness.
How do I know this? Because I have
explored my own inwardness, and found there much more than I had been
lead to assume was "there" by the scientifically oriented education of
my youth. It has become a matter of experience, an empiricism of
inwardness. In fact, such is the nature of this experience that the
idea of mind as solely a product of brain electro-chemistry cannot be
sustained. Moreover, there is a community of practitioners which
replicates (repeats) this experience, the whole activity being
conducted with the rigor and discipline justifiably required in this
I would like to remind the reader, as we
draw this exploration to a close, that the intention has never been to
prove an opposite idea of the mind/brain nexus to that one currently
held in science, but rather to give as clear as possible a picture of
the idea of mind which can be held by a Christian meditation
practitioner. Further, to do this in a way which at least offers the
reader the opportunity of testing for him or herself the truth of this
Ultimately, I believe it will be most
healthy for our culture and our civilization, if what is understood as
the powers of reason, be supplemented by the faculties of imagination
and devotion, as well. What is offered then, in this theme, is not a
disagreement with present day mind sciences, but rather an attempt to
extend them, to evolve them by adding to their considerations what can
be discovered about the nature of mind from a disciplined investigation
which proceeds from the inside, from what appears to our direct
experience of mind.
We need to remember that these questions
are fundamental to the future course of our civilization. It is
crucial, both for the health of our social order, and the meaning we
attribute to our existence, that we have a true idea of human nature.
Our culture is deeply psychologically split, in a quite unhealthy way,
by the confused idea we have of human nature which raises Reason above
the capacities of Imagination and Devotion, and which makes so-called
scientific knowledge the only truth worth considering. This is a
prejudice which grants an illegitimate power to what is really far too
often only another belief system.
In the hospital where I worked for over
seven years, powerful drugs are routinely administered to individuals,
without sufficient consideration for these individuals spiritual nature
or needs. That their "depression" might instead by caused by a life
crisis with moral and self definitional (spiritual meaning) dynamics,
is not really considered. At the same time, just down the hall, in the
chemical dependency units, where the alcoholics anonymous model is
practiced, meetings frequently end with the Lord's Prayer, and
spiritual self transformation is considered an absolute necessity in
order to deal with the relevant problems.
What a picture this gives us of the deep
inconsistencies that exist in our culture!
We can do no better than to begin to end
our considerations of this theme with these remarks by a spirit
(individual) in whom reason, imagination and devotion were maintained
in the soul in a remarkable balance. From Emerson's essay Nature: "Nature
the incarnation of a thought, and turns to a thought again, as ice
becomes water and gas. The world is mind precipitated, and the volatile
essence is forever escaping again into the state of free thought. "
Here, with remarkable intuitive powers,
Emerson sees to the heart of what we have been attempting to suggest.
Contrary to the assumptions of the scientific age, namely, that there
is no correlation between human thought and the world, the world itself
is a product of Thought, and the human being, in that he or she thinks,
has directly before him, in the experience of his own mind, the like,
but rudimentary, capacity. We were Thought into being, and we also can
In the preceding, I attempted to show how
one could begin that exploration which will validate, in a
scientifically acceptable way, the proposition that human consciousness
and the act of thinking are not the product of material happenings in a
physical brain, but the products of acts of soul and spirit. Whether
critics of such an idea will be willing to struggle with the difficult
work of replication, I cannot say. At the same time I will insist that,
without such an effort, any argument to the contrary need not be
listened to or heeded.
For those who will wish to take this
challenge seriously, I recommend the following two books: The
Philosophy of Freedom, Rudolf Steiner,
Anthroposophical Press; and Meditations
the Tarot: a journey into Christian Hemeticism,
author anonymous, Amity House.
The Quiet Suffering of Nature
"And while they were eating,
Jesus took bread, and blessing it, he broke and gave it to them and
said, "Take; this is my body." And taking a cup and giving thanks, he
gave it to them, and they all drank of it; and he said to them "This is
my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many..." Mark 14: 22-23
Where is humanity without the Earth? Without air, water or food we die. What then is the true name of that extraordinary Earth-Being whose nature it is to sacrifice Itself for us, and in whose own living substance we are nurtured from birth until death?
For many people today, within the
environmental movement and without, the treatment of the Earth, by much
of humanity, is understood to be a terrible tragedy. The destruction of
the rain forest, the over fishing of the oceans, the casual production
of toxic wastes, the continuation of atomic testing - the list is
almost endless of the crimes committed against the natural world and
not coincidentally, also against humanity. A central thesis of those
concerned is that these excessive activities are unnecessary; those who
carry them out have alternatives. Yet, if we honestly look at what is
being done, and especially at the conceptual context in which these
deeds are carried out, in most cases we will have to admit, that from
the point of view of the apparent destroyers, their acts are necessary.
The truth is that the conflict is over what these acts mean, not over
the acts themselves.
Most of the time those, who seem to be
abusing the natural environment, are acting in pursuit of their self
interest. They are business people, whose obligation to their corporate
stockholders is to maximize profits. If they don't act, they lose their
jobs, their livelihood and all that that implies. For example, loggers
and tree lovers collide over national forest policy. One wants to use
in order to continue an existence already set on a certain course, the
other wants to preserve out of an appreciation of what will be lost when it all
is gone. In an odd kind of way both are conservationists. One wants to
conserve and existing way of life, the other, a
rapidly disappearing kind of life. Both are
expectable moral and human responses to a situation where no agreement
is possible, because the contexts of meaning, in which the situation is
viewed, are opposed. Each, given the quite different assumptions under
which life is pursued, acts forthrightly. At the human level both sides
This is not to say that there are not
individuals and/or companies who act immorally or criminally, who take
what they want in defiance of convention or good sense. But these
aberrations are the exception. For the most part, the conflict over
environmental policies owes its existence to opposing life paths and
world conceptions, and not to any intrinsic or objective truth about
what is right and what is wrong. Both sides, being human, can be
However, there is something missing.
While one can understand the human elements, how each view is
appropriate to its adherents, there is something that is not
understood. Nature is not understood, because neither side grants to
the natural world the same effort at understanding they could grant to
It is the thesis of this essay that the
environmental movement, for all its passion and good intentions, is
simply not radical enough in its understanding of the natural world.
Concepts, like ecology and preservation and save this and save that,
are impotent before the truth of Nature. What Nature truly is, is quite
beyond such an incomplete idea as "save the rain forest".
Nature is more than a physical living
environment which we find necessary for our survival as just another
species. In solemn and sacred truth, Nature has consciousness and
being. As a consequence, the environmental movement will only begin to
do that which is needed, in the face of the terrible tragedy befalling
the natural world, when those who would lead it realize that the Nature
they wish to save is filled with just as much will and intention as a
human being, and is just as much deserving of being treated with
personal dignity and respect. Environmentalists need to find a new way
of approaching Nature; namely to come to Nature as someone, rather then
something. The only relationship which will be effective for achieving
the quite worthy goals of the environmental movement, is the
relationship of I and thou. For there is an immense unasked question: what
Nature want? And no human being has the
right to impose their personal point of view over that of Nature
We must again learn to approach Nature as
someone with whom one can communicate, and who is better able to advise
us about what to do than we can imagine. We need to begin to recognize
how trapped we are in the confines of the lifeless and materialistic
mental images (conceptions) provided by the one-sided scientific
education of Western culture. Even the Indians, the aboriginals, the
original peoples still living within the bosom of Nature, have lost,
for the most part, that intimate connection and conversation by which
the Spirit of the Natural world is perceived, appreciated, understood
and listened to. What is left, namely tradition, although quite
wonderful in its wise conception of the Earth as our Mother, as a
conscious being, this tradition is itself inadequate for the tasks
which need to be done.
Moreover, this consciousness, this being
of Nature is not singular, is not simple. The being of Nature is
multiple and complicated, diverse and specialized. What has been
conveyed to us out of the deep past is not superstition. Stories and
tales of the elemental beings, of undines and gnomes and fairies and
sprites, all this seemingly legendary material owes its existence to
the fact that in the past human beings did in fact experience more
directly the world of the spirit, the world which lies presently
separated from humankind by a kind of veil. And recognition of these
Nature beings is just a beginning, for the world of the spirit extends
quite beyond that realm of mere earthly Nature, but to cosmic Nature as
Even so, this bold assertion of the
consciousness and being of Nature in itself is insufficient. The reader
of this essay is entitled to more. It becomes necessary, then, to
explore not only the sterile quality of the conceptions of the natural
world provided us by the processes of Western science, but also to
suggest the means by which these ideas can be overcome and a true
communion with the Spirit of Nature reestablished.
The reader should be cautioned that in
this single essay there will no proof of what is asserted. Such a task
would be impossible. What can be done, however, is to show briefly how
it is that science came to such a narrow view of the natural world,
what personalities resisted this process, and how then that resistance
matured so that today one can find once again a way toward an intimate
conversation with Nature. There is already existing much work about
Nature by those who have begun this difficult and much needed task.
Even though this essay will endeavor to
show that the conceptions of modern science have failed to find their
way to the truth of the natural world, this is not to be seen as a
criticism of that science. In the main, scientists follow quite
rigorously and with great diligence a path of seeking which shows every
chance of leading them to the truth. Science stands upon an excellent
moral foundation when it says: anyone who asserts the truth of a thing,
must be able to show others that means necessary for them to find this
truth for themselves. Experiments must be reproducible. Theories must
It is also necessary to be brief, so to the extent the reader may wish for more the author at once apologizes. Many books will be referred to, however, which if read and appreciated will more than satisfy the questing human spirit.
We all will perhaps remember from school,
at least somewhat, what has been called the "Copernican revolution",
the early struggles of science against the doctrines of the Catholic
Church. This often resulted in various practitioners of the new
discipline called natural philosophy (eventually to be called science)
being excommunicated, and in some instances burned at the stake as
heretics. We may think we are past this now, but anyone with an ear for
these things is aware that even today those who espouse views
sufficiently outside main-stream science (the Church of our time) are
rebuked by their peers, shunned in the communities of their
specialization, and at risk for having their funding, i.e. their
livelihood, taken away. Some of these "arguments" are more public, e.g.
"cold fusion", creationism vs. Darwinism and so forth. Less perceivable
to the general public is what can happen to someone who looks today for
the spirit in nature, or otherwise seems to think that some
"superstitions" may have been based upon the truth.
In the beginnings of science the
problematic philosophic problems were more out in the open. But since
the materialistic ideas won the day, theirs are the views in the
histories of science in which the ordinary person is educated. As in
politics and war, so in science; the winners write the histories.
Several of the "romantics" and the "transcendentalists" had grave
problems with the course science was taking. The poet Goethe was a
vigorous opponent of Newtonian optics. The poet Coleridge had a much
different approach to early biology. Emerson wrote in his essay Nature:
"Nature is a
thought incarnate, and turns to a thought again as ice becomes water
and gas. The world is mind precipitated, and the volatile essence is
forever escaping again into the state of free thought." Kepler, who gave us the fundamental laws of planetary
dynamics was also an astrologer, and warned repeatedly about the danger
of "throwing out the baby with the bath water", i.e. abandoning
whole-sale all the hard won wisdom of the previous ages in the rush to
make everything "scientific". One could go on...Ruskin, Howard,
Faraday, the list is long of those who opposed a completely mechanistic
view of Nature.
For an excellent examination of the whole
flow introduced into scientific thinking with the idea of Nature as a
mechanism, and related problems, the reader of this essay should become
acquainted with Evolution
and the New Gnosis: Anti-establishment Essays on
Knowledge, Science, Religion and Causal Logic,
Don Cruse, with Robert Zimmer. See also Cruse's website.
The essential thing to realize here, is
that, as this "war" over what was the true picture of Nature was in its
beginning stages, there were few "pure" scientists. That Goethe is
remembered mainly as a poet is true only because the winners wrote the
histories. He was in fact an extraordinary scientist, as anyone will
realize who studies his Theory of Color. That Kepler and Faraday had a
lot more to say than what is taught in school today is a simple fact.
Faraday gave us the fundamental laws of electricity and magnetism, but
he did so in the context of observations which lead him to consider
that a distinction between "ponderables" and "imponderables" in Nature,
i.e. between matter and spirit, was essential. Both were present, both
Clearly one view won the day. The "why"
of this is not simple, and cannot be found in the idea that one was
true and one was false. We can perhaps get a slight feel for the
underlying dynamics by realizing that at the time when all this was
happening, the whole of Europe was emerging from a world view dominated
by the ideas of the Roman Church. Thus, for many, to strive for a
spirit-free view of nature was to also strive for freedom from a no
longer desired authority which had for centuries been telling people
what was true and what was not. To find spirit in Nature would have
been to grant power back to an institution many were violently
struggling to leave behind.
More crucially, scientists were led in
directions that were determined by the yet unknown nature of what they
discovered. Ultimately, with the discovery of electricity, scientists,
understandably following carefully the trail as it appeared before
them, were led rapidly into what one author has called "a country that
is not ours". As part of this process a concept concerning "force"
arose, which was very different from the way past ages looked at the
problem of causation. This new concept of force was abstract, and
completely divorced from any idea of being
or consciousness. No longer were the happenings in the natural world the
product of the activity of beings, the product of intended
activity. Thus more and more the possibility, that Nature may have a
spiritual foundation, disappeared.
For a wonderful examination of the times in which this "battle" was being waged, read Neal Stephenson's three books collected titled: the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver; the Confusion; and, the System of the World). For a remarkable historical imagination of these issues, read in the System of the World, the chapter Library of Leicester House.
For a deeper and more modern examination
of these problems, read Owen Barfield's fascinating book: Worlds
Apart. Barfield creates an
imagined three day conversation in this book, involving what he
describes as: a solicitor with philological interests; a professor of
historical theology and ethics; a young man employed at a rocket
station; a professor of physical science; a retired schoolmaster; a
linguistic philosopher, and a psychiatrist. What the dialog
reveals is that even these modern men, educated in our universities,
where the scientific paradigm is dominate, can't actually talk to each
other. The fundamental concepts of each individual
discipline can't be brought together.
People today think that the argument
between the creationists and the neo-Darwinian biologists over the
theory of evolution, is the real battleground between an interpretation
of reality over whether there is spirit, or only matter.
The folks involved in this argument don't even actually
know the history of ideas that is relevant to their discussion and most
of what they say is useless and completely superficial.
If one wants to get into the heart of the
question of matter versus spirit, the collective genius of Stephenson
and Barfield is the best path. Only those who work with the
history of ideas can speak to these questions, for the current state of
our understanding of these questions has deep roots that need to be
included if we are ever to resolve these matters and remain rational
and devoted to the truth.
As everyone is aware, it is pretty much
assumed today that older conceptions of Nature are purely
superstitious; that a Nature with being and consciousness is an
impossibility. With the arrival of DNA research and genetic
engineering, the difficult problems in biology are believed to be
mostly solved, and few new conceptions are needed. Physicists routinely
act as if the mind of modern man has little problem forming true
concepts of events billions of years in the past. Zoologists accept
Darwinian evolution as a settled matter, and resent deeply the
struggles of the "creationists" to suggest otherwise.
Neuro-physiologists are convinced that the secrets of the mind are
shortly to be theirs. While the clockwork is complicated, Nature is
clearly a mechanism, made up of very small parts acting in
understandable ways leading from a remote "big bang" through a long
period of evolution to the arrival of life, and ultimately
consciousness (mind). Unfortunately, they've probably got it mostly
It would be possible to make an argument
about this "wrongness" solely from the history of science itself. In
Thomas Kuhn's The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it is
established that science, rather then being a carefully built up
structure, erected on a sure foundation, is instead a succession of
points of view, the newest one substituting for the preceding, rather
then being built out of it. Science is somewhat like a rat in a maze,
convinced at every point it has solved the puzzle only to discover
another dead end which has to be abandoned. Based merely on behavior
one would have to assume that what is believed to be true now about
these great questions (what is life and consciousness, where did they
come from, how did the universe begin) will, in its own time, be found
false and replaced by other views.
Or to take another tack, one could argue
that most of what is said, about these big questions (does Nature have
consciousness or mind, and which comes first in evolution, mind or
matter), by modern day science, is itself pseudo-science, i.e. a modern
form of superstition, because the theories are not testable. See in
this regard, Karl Popper's Realism
and the Aim of Science; Darwin on
Trial, Phillip E. Johnson, (Regnery Gateway,
1991); and, also, Natural
Selection, and the Criteria by which a Theory is Judged, by Ronald H. Brady, Systematic Zoology, 28:600-621,
1979 (now called Dogma and
Doubt, it can be found on-line at:
last is the best by far, for it is deeply informed on the history of
the relevant ideas, and is carefully and subtly thought out.
While the above discussion has been unnecessarily brief, it should have hints enough so that the reader wanting more can find his own way. It remains then to find some process by which these questions can be answered in ways which satisfies our human desire for testable and reliable truths. What can be said about this, as briefly as possible, will be related next.
We can perhaps begin by asking what kind
of an approach to the spirit would be necessary, what pathway to
finding out the truth about Nature and Spirit, will meet the quite
reasonable demands of science for reproducibility and testability. In a
sense we need a science of the spirit, or perhaps to put it another
way, a spiritual science.
Those who know the foundations of science
are aware that science stands basically upon two touchstones, one being
a philosophical point of view, which at one time was called logical
positivism, and the other being mathematics, which provides a rigor and
discipline to the practice of science which is very beneficial. So we
can anticipate as well that our spiritual science needs a testable philosophic basis (the King of
the Sciences), and a reproducible mathematical structure (the Queen of
the Sciences), or perhaps better said, skeleton.
Another aspect of modern science which supports its reliability is the technology which proceeds from it. This suggests then that our spiritual science will have to show some results, will need to have produced observable effects, somehow people will have to have been able to take from this spiritual science and acted upon and changed the world.
Well, that is quite a lot, and I believe
enough. We should now, perhaps, cut this spiritual science a little slack, and not expect some other
things. We ought to allow it to be different in certain ways, after all
that is exactly what it has to be given the basic assumptions.
Certainly we can't expect it to be widely known or popular; for
mainstream science has to have been constantly resistant to such ideas.
Therefore, we ought to allow it to be young. How could it be otherwise,
or wouldn't we already know of it?
Certainly we have to allow for some
controversy, after all the ideas it produces will be different from the
mainstream. As well, we should not expect to understand it immediately,
nor expect that we will come to the necessary understanding without
some, in fact perhaps, a great deal of effort. After all we have been
educated into the mainstream. We think those ideas automatically, and
most of our words take their meaning from this quite dominate way of
thinking about the natural world. Let us take a sample problem, and see
if it can help us better appreciate what a spiritual science will need,
how it will be different and the kinds of struggles necessary to
understanding what it might be able to communicate to us about the
natural world. With this problem, by the way, I am not attempting to do
something definitive, but rather to use it to give us a more concrete
sense of what such a science needs to be, and how it might be different.
Consider for the moment the idea of
space. When we think this idea on a very large scale we usually think
of the great universe of stars; and, having been influenced by
television and films we will have an image of movement between stars,
as if we were a star-ship traveling at light speed across the cosmic
spaces. While the "spacial" world is three dimensional, and seemingly
endless, for the modern physicist, there are certain problems. Was
there "empty space" before the "big bang", before matter erupted from
its supposed birth point and exploded into the evolving universe? Or to
put it another way, was space itself "created"?
For all of humanities history, up until
the last four or five hundred years, very different ideas of cosmic
space existed. To the naked eye the starry heaven is a remarkable
vista; a place we cannot go, a place of mystery whose rhythms and
movements seemed to announce great and small events in the lives of
peoples and kingdoms. Our ancestors did not have the idea of endless
three dimensional openness; for them the heavens were the abode of the
Gods. But the early natural philosophers thought otherwise, and with
the new tools, first the telescope, and then later the spectrometer,
the computer, and so on almost endlessly, the old vision was shattered.
The theory of parallax gave us distance, red shift gave us velocity,
the universe was expanding and enormous. And we? We were small and
insignificant. The Earth as the Center of the Universe? Hogwash!
Who would dare doubt this? To suggest
otherwise, to some, would be evidence of an unstable mind. To believe
that this endless emptiness might have consciousness and being...get a life, better yet,
go see a psychiatrist.
One hesitates to bring bad news...but...
First off, most of astronomical-physics, or what is sometimes called
cosmology, is not testable by the ordinary means we have and use, say
in geology or zoology. We can't go to the nearest star and see if it is
in fact made up the way spectrometry suggests. We can't go there in
such a way that confirms whether the distance we develop from parallax
is accurate, nor can we go off to the side, so to speak, and measure in
some other way the velocity to confirm what we think the red shift
Our methods are limited. What certainty
of belief there is comes in large part from the fact that each step has
been rigorously examined by many scientists, and carefully repeated
over and over again, and whenever possible each part was worked upon in
such a way that it could, if possible, be used as a double check
against any other part. If it isn't true, it isn't because our best
efforts haven't been spent working it out. If it isn't true it's
because we missed something, or haven't yet discovered something or
maybe assumed something was a certainty that will later turn out not to
The point to note is this: our idea of
space, even to the extent developed by modern cosmology, does contain
speculation (although as sound as humanly possible) and elements that
can't be confirmed directly, but which have to be inferred. Anybody got
a better one?
At this point we should perhaps examine a
particular aspect of this discussion a little more closely. By and
large for the ordinary person, that cosmic space is a three dimensional
endlessness is an idea, or better yet an imagination created through
education and further developed through the experience of films and
television. We don't have a direct personal experience of this seeming
fact. Our whole culture believes it. We are raised to think it.
In this, it (the idea) bears an odd
relationship to an older idea, that of the flat earth. For the naive
consciousness of the time in which people believed in a flat earth it
was an obvious fact. The earth was observably flat. Yet the time came
when people became convinced the earth was round, and thus a different
belief was taught and became part of the general cultural imagination
of what was real. Only after this did humanity receive the gift of
seeing from space the beautiful blue-white globe of the world.
Now what we are trying to notice here is
not the particular fact of the three dimensionality of cosmic space,
but rather that we know it as an idea, as part of the general cultural
imagination of the world's reality. We do not know it as an experience,
but rather as one part of a very complex system of ideas in which we
are indoctrinated through education. This complex of ideas, of which
large parts are believed to be absolutely true, constitutes for modern
educated humanity a new myth. Just like the ancients, whose myths we
now call superstitions, we have our world view, our socially
indoctrinated concepts of what the world is, how it is organized, what
fundamental principles caused it to be, and how those principles cause
it to behave in the present. The most comprehensive name for this myth
is scientific materialism, and even though many scientists understand
the limitations of their work and ideas, for the ordinary person, these
ideas are reality.
To say that the modern scientist is
similar to the old priests of the ancients is not to overstate the
case. For the ordinary person the protocols and methodologies of
science are a protected mystery. Only after long preparation and
education is one admitted to the sanctuaries of modern science as a
co-worker. And there are secrets, things kept hidden from the general
public. For example, Darwinian evolution (i.e. natural selection) is in
serious trouble, but the "priests" don't want the creationists to know
it. The physicists studying quantum theory are beginning to use the
word "intention" in describing the quantum behavior of certain kinds of
small "particles". No one should be surprised if scientific materialism
is slowly coming apart, because as long as the scientist is rigorous in
his pursuit of the truth he is bound to discover the role of spirit in
Nature. It's there and thus it must be eventually found.
Hopefully we will now have sufficient
preparation to look at what exists today of another point of view,
another "imagination" of the world that again finds mystery in the
processes of the natural world. Again, this caution. At best all this
essay can do is expose this approach to the natural world to the
reader. Its fundamental works can be cited, its relationship to the
general trends of science noted, and its basic ideas and principles
briefly referred to. Beyond that one cannot go. It remains for the
reader to investigate this ongoing work with an unprejudiced eye and an
open mind, for its is a certainty that nothing new will be discovered
if one already knows the questions and the answers.
I am going to approach the following more
in the form of a narrative story then as an expository essay. This
personality lived and did this, this other personality did that. The
pictures conveyed will necessarily only be partial. Our problem is not
unlike that of the five blind wise men who chanced to meet an elephant.
One, who touched the tail, thought of it as like a twig. The one, who
touched the ear, believed it was a large leaf. To the one, who touched
the leg, it was a tree, to the one, who touched the side, it was a rock
and to the, one who touched the trunk, it was a...well I can't remember
all the story, but I think you get the point. If you draw instant
conclusions from this article you will not get the understanding you
otherwise might if you instead investigate carefully and directly for
I would also like to add a special
contextual fact, one of which many in the environmental movement will
have some awareness. Many today look to aboriginal peoples for an
example of a healthy relationship to the natural world. Among such
peoples are a number of prophecies, and I would like to direct the
attention of the reader to a particular one: that of the Hopi Indians
of America's Southwest. Part of the Hopi Prophecy is an expectation
that there will arrive someday among them someone or some group which
they call the Pahana, or the True White Brother. This individual or
group is to bring purification, to inaugurate the Day of Purification,
and to provide the "life plan for the future".
Mankind's loss of conscious knowledge of
the being of nature, as that has occurred over the course of our
history, is also the descent of a kind of darkness. It should surpris
e no one, who bothers to think carefully about it, that the return of such an understanding, a kind of broad social enlightenment, must necessarily be accompanied by an extended, and cultural-wide rite of passage - quite aptly named by the Hopi: the Day of Purification.". Without going into the very complicated details, I would like to suggest that the following will eventually be understood to be part of the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy.
In 1861, while the American Civil War was
just beginning, in Kraljevec, a village on the border between Hungary
and Croatia, a man by the name of Rudolf Steiner was born. By the time
he had died in 1925, he had laid securely the foundations for just that
spiritual science we have imagined must need to exist, if we are to
find our way again to the being of Nature. Among the several
biographies of Dr. Steiner can be found this one, written by A.P.
Shepard: Scientist of the Invisible, Rudolf Steiner, a biography. To those who know and clearly understand his work, this
is a most apt title.
We can get an early measure of Steiner's
genius by noting that at the age of 23, he was invited to edit and
write the introduction to Goethe's scientific writings. For those of us
raised in the cultural West, it is difficult to realize what a
remarkable honor this was, because Goethe has not the same significance
for us that he has for Central European culture. During the course of
this work, Steiner realized that Goethe's views of nature depended upon
a philosophical position quite different from that of main stream
science, and one which Goethe himself had never articulated. Steiner
therefore undertook to remedy this situation and produced in 1886 a
remarkable philosophic text: A Theory
of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception.
In 1894, in a more formal way, and also
fully cognizant of the philosophical ideas and temper of the time,
Steiner produced a deeper philosophic text, which was an expression of
his own personal work and not just the elaboration of something implied
in Goethe's scientific books and papers. Called The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, it also
carried the intriguing subtitle, "some results of introspective
observation following the methods of natural science".
What is expressed in these two books it
would be quite impossible to even summarize. In one sense they approach
the same fundamental question: how do we know what is true? The basic
difference, between modern philosophy and Steiner's, may be broadly
painted this way: For the mainstream, the activity of human
consciousness, of the mind, is subjective in nature and, in combination
with our senses, is not a reliable way to the truth of the world. For
Steiner, as for Goethe, the opposite is true. The human being is so
designed that our senses, when properly trained, can give us all of
Natures secrets as long as the mind is disciplined as well. For the
human being is of nature, and what appears inwardly to a properly trained
human thinking is the essence of Nature Herself. Here are Steiner's own
words from Theory of Knowledge:
"It is really the genuine, and indeed the truest, form of
Nature, which comes to manifestation in the human mind, whereas for a
mere sense-being only Nature's external aspect would exist. Knowledge
plays here a role of world significance. It is the conclusion of a work
of creation. What takes place in human consciousness is the
interpretation of Nature to itself. Thought is the last member in a
series of processes whereby Nature is formed."
The central question, these books pose
and proceed to answer in a quite empirical way, is: what do we make of
human thought? The approach, while expository, if read carefully,
reveals that the reader is challenged at each step to observe in his
own mind those universal processes leading to the production of
thoughts, so that by an empiricism of thinking, and observation about
thinking, the human being finds that in the activity of thinking one
stands upon the threshold to a yet unknown world. An internal process,
which once stood in darkness, and which went on without any thought
given to its nature or meaning, now begins to unfold new possibilities.
When this is pursued fully one comes to realize that the inside of the human
being is a thing much greater and more
significant than the outside of things as these appear to the senses.
Let us try to work with an analogy.
Imagine opening up the hood of an automobile. There before one is a
mass of complicated wires, hoses, machines and other strange and
unknown devices. That is for most of us. For the master mechanic, the
view is something else altogether. We both see the same thing, but the
ideas we bring to what we see are quite different. The master
mechanic's understanding and experience allows him to identify and see
relationships where to most of us there would just be chaos. The
reality and significance of those man made objects is not in what
appears to the senses at all. Only to the mind does the essential arise.
It was Goethe's insight to realize that
something similar was true of our relationship to Nature. With this
very significant difference. Man made objects are created according to
our intentions; we give them purpose. This can itself be taught. But
what is the purpose of a flower; who is to teach us that?
Over many years of work Goethe came to
realize that one could trust the senses if one did not add ideas to
what was observed. Rather one observed all the manifestations of the
object of study (for example the world of plants), until one could
recreate in ones own imagination the observed processes. For example,
over the course of its birth from seed to its flowering end, a bush
will produce a variety of types of leaves. The early ones quite often
different from the last. What Goethe did was to recreate in his
imagination this process of movement, from the earliest form of the
leaf to the latest. (This is very much an oversimplification of his
work, by the way.) Over time, Goethe began to experience something
which seemed to stand behind the transformations from one form of leaf
to the next, but which did not arise from his own activity. In a way
his mind became a sense organ into another realm. Through the
discipline of his thought life, and the devotion to what came to him
through the senses, Goethe began to experience inwardly what he called
the Ur-Plant, the spiritual Archetype from which all plants are formed.
In a like manner Goethe examined the
animal kingdom in addition to the kingdom of the plants. He found his
way of working there to be successful as well. He called his activity: "learning to read in the Book
of Nature". What Nature presents to the
senses, if appreciated in a disciplined way, "spoke".
so, the history of science passed this work by, and other ways of
thinking became the established methodology.
It remained then for Rudolf Steiner to
rescue this overlooked work and restore it to its deserved place in the
history of human thought. As a consequence of Steiner's activity there
has come to be born: Goethean Science. Its practitioners are few, and
the number of its published works also small. But in their own way
these works offer the beginning of a whole new way of understanding,
and teaching, about Nature. And when Goethean Science is put into
relationship with Steiner's more mature work, Spiritual Science, the
means to commune with Nature emerges as well.
Let us at this point simply become aware
of a few of the published works of Goethean Science. Many readers of
the various versions of the Whole Earth Catalog will be aware of the
book: Sensitive Chaos, (The Creation of Flowing
Forms in Water & Air), by Theodor
Schwenk, Anthroposophic Press. Here, with beautiful text, pictures and
drawings, some of the basic laws by which form arises in Nature are
uncovered, simply through the careful exploration of how water and air
move. I will say no more here, for those who genuinely want to
investigate Goethean Science will trouble themselves to become
acquainted with its basic works.
About the realm of the animals can be
found this: Man and Mammals, Toward a Biology of Form, by Wolfgang Schad, Waldorf Press. Here is expressed one
of the most profound ideas, first put forward by Steiner, yet
consistent with Goethe's studies, about the relationship between
function and form which appears everywhere as a threefoldness, a
remarkable law of organization of both the organic and the ideal
according to laws of polarity.
With the idea of polarity we brush up
against one of the things we noted above as a precondition for a new,
yet spiritual, science, namely an appropriate mathematics. The Goethean
Science movement and its more spiritually complex relative, the
Anthroposophical Movement, have produced many works exploring a
remarkable form of mathematics called Projective Geometry. Here are
just a few of the available texts: Physical
and Ethereal Spaces, George Adams, Rudolf
Steiner Press. Projective
Geometry, Creative Polarities in Space and Time,
Whicher, Rudolf Steiner Press. The Plant Between Sun and Earth,
George Adams and Olive Whicher, Rudolf Steiner Press. The Field
of Form, Lawrence Edwards, Floris Books.
With these and other related texts, as
well as with the two philosophic texts of Steiner noted above, our new
science stands upon all the necessary foundation it needs, as we
indicated earlier - that is an appropriate mathematics and philosophy
For those who legitimately may need to
understand how main-stream science took the path it did, and what can
be done about it, there is: Man or
Matter, Ernst Lehrs, Anthroposophic Press.
The description, in the Anthroposophic Press Catalog about this book,
reads as follows: "Now
classic, this is the fundamental text for those seeking a spiritual
understanding of nature on the basis of Goethe's method of training
observation and thought. Working out of a detailed history of science,
Lehrs reveals to the reader not only how science has been inescapably
lead to the illusions it holds today, but more importantly, how the
reader may correct in himself these misconceptions brought into his
world view through modern education."
It remains for us then to link up
Goethean Science, and Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy, or Spiritual
Science. This, however, is not so simple, for in really considering the
spiritual we run also into the religious, which for many is either a
grave difficulty or a profound and untouchable belief. If we proceed
carefully, we can nevertheless walk through this potential mine-field
without too much harm. Hopefully these guidelines will help.
It is not the intention of this essay to
argue for or against any religious belief, including, broadly speaking,
agnosticism or atheism. The point is to remain true to the principles
of modern science which require reproducible experiments and testable
hypotheses. However, when we approach the spiritual we have to be
realistic about what is involved in "reproducing" and "testing". In the
realm of the spirit such matters are more difficult because in large
part they require of the individual a far greater effort and
self-mastery than ordinary experimental science.
Consider this analogy. If I were to
attempt to reproduce current work in particle physics, in a scientific
way, I would need access to the appropriate devices (regardless of how
complex and costly). Further I would need an appropriate education and
familiarity with the current work and theories. These are all a given.
So it is with research in the realm of the spirit. One needs to develop
the techniques of the inner capacities and to have mastery of the
ongoing work. Thus, to attempt to dispute or criticize spiritual
science without such effort is to defy the scientific spirit of the
age, and to make a mockery of reasonable human discourse.
With this needed understanding in mind
let us begin to enter more deeply into the realms of a modern spiritual
A personality not mentioned so far, and,
in the view of many, certainly Steiner's peer in the science of the
invisible (spiritual research), is one Valentin Tomberg. In his
remarkable lectures published under the title: The Four
Sacrifices of Christ and the Appearance of Christ in the Etheric, (Candeur Manuscripts), given in Rotterdam in the turn
of the year 1938 to 1939, we can find the following:
"You see, the transition from all that is most prosaic
produced by the nineteenth century to what the future holds is offered
by the spiritual manifestation of Goetheanism - Goetheanism is, in
fact, a bridge on which the transition can be made from the
quantitative thinking of the nineteenth century to a qualitative,
characterizing thinking. Now, where this transition leads is to
Spiritual Science. Here it is not only a matter of being able to think
qualitatively, but of placing the moral element in the thinking into
the foreground. And by way of comparison, one could say that
Goetheanism is related to Anthroposophy, to Spiritual Science, in the
same way as the organic world is related to the soul world. The organic
calls for qualitative thinking; the soul world, for the formation of
For some readers, right at this point
there will be a difficulty. Having used the word "moral" at once we
encounter all kinds of preconceptions about what that means. If there
is anything which seems to lie outside of the realm of the scientific,
of the objective, it would be the question of what is moral. (Although,
interestingly enough, there are some who think there can be an
However, in the understanding of Steiner
and Tomberg and their many students, the core need of modern humanity
is freedom. And not just political liberty, but more importantly
freedom in thought, freedom of spirit. Steiner's The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity is sometimes
called The Philosophy of Freedom, the
problem being how to translate from the German, Die Philosophie der
Freiheit. One translator invented a new English word to stand in for
Freiheit: namely Freehood, which is obviously very clumsy and
unattractive. My poet-self leans toward a freer translation, namely The Philosophy of Free
The key to this problem lies in a general
confusion of our time regarding human inner life and the role of
conscience. An objective introspection of human consciousness comes to
realize that there is an equally objective experience which is the
"voice of conscience". Just as the darkness, which inhibits us from
truly understanding the production of our own thoughts, can be lifted,
so can the darkness which makes dim the "voice of conscience" be
eliminated. "Conscience" is an aspect of our spirit, and it is this
higher element of our nature which knows what in any given situation it
means to be moral. This places morality outside the realm of doctrine,
dogma or rules or anything other then our own higher judgment.
Steiner's The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity calls this part of human
potential: ethical individualism. Morality then becomes as much an act
of freedom as any other.
There can be difficulties here. Freedom,
Steiner pointed out, is something different from license. Of course we
can do anything, but whether we should or not is a whole other
question. In the past the problem has been who is to make the judgment
of what we should or should not do. In Goetheanism and in Spiritual
Science, it is the individual himself who makes that judgment. Given
the gift of "conscience" we have a capacity for certain moral
knowledge. The difficulty is whether we pay attention or not, not
whether we can know what is moral or not. Conscience can be ignored and
often is. But that is a whole other issue.
Hopefully this discussion will have
helped some regarding the confusion that can arise when one suggests
that with Goetheanism we leave behind quantitative thinking for
qualitative thinking, and that with Spiritual Science we go onward to
moral thinking. In each case it is a question of what is to be the
object of our search for knowledge. With quantitative thinking we gain
a mastery of the material-mechanical aspects of existence, thus our
civilizations technological successes. With qualitative thinking we
gain a mastery of the living aspects of existence and with moral
thinking we gain a master of the invisible aspects, the aspects of soul
and spirit. In each case we can have an "objective" knowledge, because
we chose a method appropriate to the purpose we pursued, and because we
acted in a disciplined way, so that our investigations remained
"empirical", reproducible and testable.
It is then with Spiritual Science that we
enter on that path that can lead to a real knowledge of the being and
consciousness of Nature, to a communion with that which lies behind the
veil of the sense world. From one point of view, anthroposophy or
spiritual science, as founded by Steiner, has two main themes. The
first theme is how to attain knowledge of what aboriginal peoples might
call the world of the invisibles. The second theme is the results of
that research. In the literature of both Goetheanism and spiritual
science one finds both these themes well elaborated. Yet, when
criticism of these disciplines is presented, it is usually made by
ignoring the how and arguing instead with the what, the results. This
is rather easy, because the results very often contradict what is
already thought by the main streams of both science and religion.
A good way to appreciate this problem is
to imagine that what is being experienced today, by the arrival of
these disciplines, Goetheanism and spiritual science, is the way of
thought of the future making its first beginning appearances in our
present. Think what it would have been like to have been a contemporary
of Galileo. What he taught directly contradicted the views of the time.
Think what it is like to change our habits, say ways of writing and
speaking, for example. For most of Galileo's contemporaries to change
their habits of thought is impossible. And not just because they are
habits, but also because of the social pressure. The habits of our way
of thinking and the social dynamic which supports them are extremely
powerful forces. No one, therefore, should expect these new
disciplines, Goetheanism and spiritual science, to overcome the modern
version of this mental and social inertia very easily.
These problems are made all the more
complex by the fact that even within those groups which struggle with
spiritual science (such as the Anthroposophical Society) in an attempt
to learn it, there is not a uniform approach. The groups which support
and practice these new disciplines are made up of human beings and
there are many difficulties, disagreements and confusions. I point this
all out, so that those, who might choose to investigate more closely
these disciplines, will approach Goetheanism and spiritual science with
a certain carefulness.
If what has been written so far,
especially as regards the possibility of learning to commune with the
spiritual realities behind the natural world, has meant anything for
the reader, then I will close with these words of guidance.
Be methodical and patient. Face the challenge of the philosophical problem contained in the books mentioned concerning it. Do not fear encountering the mathematical aspect, projective geometry. It is usually presented in ways far easier then we can imagine - not by abstract algebraic formulation, but through drawing and visualization. At the same time become acquainted with the practitioners, the people carrying out the various fruits of this work. Remember what was said regarding the need for a new science, a spiritual science, to have produced results, just as materialistic main-stream science has? Have you heard of Waldorf Schools, biodynamic agriculture, Camphill Communities, Eurythmy, anthroposophical medicine, curative education, the Christian Community, astrosophy, psychosophy, rhythmic massage, Werbeck singing, anthroposophical nursing?
Beware skipping past Goetheanism. That
way leads to an illness. Thinking must go through a transformation,
from the quantitative, to the qualitative and then to the moral. It is
a process of inner metamorphosis. Each stage is essential. The goal is
spiritual science, which stands upon the philosophic work and the
mathematical work. Out of this disciplining of the thought life, then
can be grown a disciplining of the sense life, the life of perception.
Expect obstacles. The moral thinking
depends upon that moral training which only arises from the life we
live, the immediate moral challenges of our own personal existence.
There is nothing abstract here. It is all too painfully real.
Do not become confused by and in love
solely with the results of spiritual research. It is much more
important to master the how. With the how we are then free to choose
just what we will think about. If we become too involved in the what,
the results, it is possible to become captured by the rich conceptual
world there unveiled, and then to lose sight of the necessity of making
all concepts our own work product. Those, who encounter the
Anthroposophical Society in their search, will meet many who have
fallen into this error. Remember, the only ground on which we can stand
as a free spiritual being in the world of the material and the
immaterial is those qualities of being that arise from The Philosophy of Free
The purpose of this essay has been to
introduce a question into the environmental movement (What
Nature want?). The secondary purpose has
been to point out an ongoing work which is laying the foundation
(Goetheanism and spiritual science) for answering just that question -
a foundation which does not require the abandoning of the principles of
science. To those who may wish to travel this path, I add this: You
will not travel it alone. Many there are who seek to reunite the Circle
and the Cross. See The Mystery of the True White Brother, on my website.
Then, as a free spirit among other
spirits we will come to that communion with Nature, which we seek and
desire, a silent Eucharist of the Invisible.
This essay was written over 10 years ago,
and I have become since that time more clear as to certain subtle
distinctions, that I did not know at the time I wrote the above.
Today, I can still stand behind the above, but would (if I were
to rewrite it today) emphasize even more clearly the role and
importance of Steiner's The
Philosophy of Freedom. It is in the
mystery of the new cognition (see the essay In Joyous Celebration of the
Soul Art and Music of Discipleship in the
appendix to this book), that Anthroposophy finds its truly scientific
Recently there has been much public
discussion about the problem of a possible right to die, sometimes
called assisted suicide or euthanasia. This small essay is not directed
to those issues, at least directly. Others have examined these
questions much better than this writer, who does not consider that he
has anything to add.
However,...there is always a "however".
In all these discussions, I have read
almost nothing about death itself. The fundamental questions always
were about rights, or mental health, or the role of physicians or
lawyers or legislators, and, of course, about suffering. Yet, no one
seems to be willing to consider just what death is.
What is being avoided? What is being
embraced? If people are to be assisted, toward what end?
The failure to examine death is understandable. We have no real knowledge of death, although many beliefs. Even so, to my mind at least, there are facts which can be assembled, and, as is the nature of facts, there are implications. I offer here no argument, no attempt to come to definite conclusions - just facts and their natural consequences.
The essential core, of the first set of
facts I would point to, was suggested to me in an unusual work
(anonymously written), called Meditations
the Tarot: a Journey into Christian Hermeticism.
These facts are nothing more than basic simple physics.
When a person dies, respiration stops and
blood flow ends. Under these circumstances metabolism ceases, and the
body loses heat (which is just reabsorbed into the general ambient
thermal mixture of the surrounding environment). If we take the body of
the deceased out into nature, as certain native peoples do, and leave
these natural processes to continue, the body will eventually dissolve,
except for the bones which may be eaten.
Through the activity of microbes and
insects (excluding in this instance those animals that are carrion
eaters) that aspect of physical existence which we call the body is
de-constituted and its smallest parts redistributed throughout the
various cycles of nature.
Nothing has ceased to exist -
to be. Due to the operation of the laws of conservation of matter and
energy, all that has disappeared is form; that is the particular
arrangement and interrelationship of matter and energy, which we
recognize as the human body.
The whole difficulty comes when we
consider that aspect of the human being we call consciousness,
particularly consciousness of self.
The matter changes form and continues.
The energy changes form and continues. It seems most likely, given
these uncontroverted facts, that self consciousness also merely changes
form and continues.
Setting this aside for the moment, let us
take up another thread. The essence of these next observations were
suggested to me in the works of the largely unknown genius, Rudolf
Steiner. Again it is a matter of simple known facts.
The human organism contains a number of
different kinds of organs and arrangements of matter and energy. In
such a living organism, the most common sub-division is the cell, of
which there are certain various types. One type, the nerve cell,
exhibits unusual properties.
These unusual properties arise when we
examine nerve cells in association, that is in those organs which we
call nerve bundles, which stream throughout the body and which
concentrate in one large center (the brain) and two smaller centers
(the spine and the solar plexus).
Contrary to other cell types, which are
organized in various ways throughout the body, nerve cells do not
repair themselves when damaged. A severed spinal cord will not heal
itself, while a severed muscle sheath or a blood vessel will.
There is a second difference. Our
consciousness is only associated with the "nervous system". If the
correct nerve bundles to a limb are cut, sensation (i.e. consciousness)
to the limb ceases.
What is even stranger is the fact that some nerve bundles are necessary for movement, that is conscious directed action, but can be destroyed (as in polio) while sensation remains.
What is implied by these facts?
They suggest that whatever life
is, in a general sense, it is not of the same order or kind as consciousness. That is, when the cell/organ complex is capable of self
repair, which is certainly a process filled with life,
same complex excludes consciousness. While on the other hand, when
the life processes of the organism are reduced (i.e. the capacity
for repair is no longer present) then, and only then, does
There are two other generally reported
phenomena, which, while anomalous and anecdotal, conform to this
The first is the so-called "phantom limb"
pain. The matter and energy arrangement, which had been the absent
limb, is completely dissolved, but consciousness, to some degree,
The second is the many and remarkably
consistent "near death" experiences, which accompany temporary cardiac
and respiratory failure.
There are, of course, physical
explanations put forward regarding these two oddities. If you read them
carefully, they are all essentially arguments directed at an assumed
conclusion, and are not an examination of the natural implications of
We have so far noticed that consistency
requires a law of conservation of consciousness to accompany those of
matter and energy. In addition, we have observed that first life
must withdraw to a significant degree before consciousness appears. If
we extend this last fact in its natural direction, the implication is
that if life recedes even further, even more consciousness will
arise. Death, then, rather then being the extinguishing of
consciousness, would actually mean its complete expansion, no longer
being inhibited by the effort at maintaining life.
last is, of course, what all deep spiritual (enlightenment and
initiation) systems teach.
To the above two general considerations I
would like to add one more, for which I will have to take
responsibility; at least in the sense of being the only one I know of
who has observed certain well known facts and yet assessed these
The facts are as follows:
Before the moment of birth, the mother
and the child suffer and labor. After birth the physical pain, the
trauma, has not disappeared, yet when the baby, now cleaned up, is
given to the mother and first put to the breast, powerful emotions
(states of consciousness) cover over the pain with feelings of joy and
There are exceptions of course, but, by
and large, these are uncontroverted facts concerning the door into life.
In the case of death there is, as well,
labor and suffering. Death is often work of an extraordinary kind. The
only reason we do not know, that on the other side of the threshold of
death there is also joy and contentment, is because this presently lies
outside our ability to observe.
Now one thing Nature certainly reveals is
its tendencies to symmetry, balance and harmonious order (beauty).
Given these clear facts, it seems to me that the much more dubious (in
the sense of the absence of reason) view is to assert that
consciousness does not survive the death of the body.
This being the case, it is not so
surprising that all the great religions and myths conceive of an after
life. Rather what is surprising is that many advocates of reason do not.
The careful reader may wonder what side
this material may fall on in the current controversies around the
suffering of the disabled and dying as that relates to assisted suicide
I can only answer in a personal way,
quite mindful of the many women who take days to deliver, days of pain
and labor, and who resort to drugs to mask this suffering; and, as
well, the work of suffering which precedes death, and the quite natural
desire to be relieved of it when it has gone on for what seems like
such a long period of time.
I only hope, when confronted with the
suffering accompanying my own demise, to comport myself in a manner so
as to be worthy of the joy and comfort I expect to find beyond the gate
of death. I already know I don't do well with pain, and I have no
desire to be a martyr, but I can't help feel that the labor and
suffering which accompanies the end of life has just as much meaning
and significance as that which accompanies its beginning. The labor preceding the gate
into death is worth enduring, because, like the labor preceding the
gate into birth, it has a purpose.
a small meditation on the spiritual path
pioneered by Ralph Waldo Emerson,
including a report of some practical applications
delivered on the occasion of Emerson's 200 birthday,
May 25th, 2003, at the Alcott School of Philosophy
I am not a scholar of Emerson, and have
read only a small part of his works. Yet, what I have read has
made clear to me that for the last 30 years I have walked in a land in
which he walked before me. We are forced, mostly by the current
limits of language, to use such words as soul and spirit and inner life
to point toward this land, but none of these words serve as more than a
mere hint of this world, so different in nature and kind from the world
we know through our senses.
I first became aware of this inner
landscape through the discipline of psychology in the early 1970's in
Berkeley California. Shortly after my initial encounter
with what was literally a magical territory, I studied briefly a
multitude of various maps to this land, most of them traditional in one
way or another - such as Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism, the
magic path of Franz Bardon, the remarkable teaching stories of the
Plains Indians, coming eventually to the work of a man named Rudolf
Steiner, the founder of what is called Anthroposophy or Spiritual
It was through Rudolf Steiner that I was
introduced to an objective study of thinking, principally through his
works on epistemology. I very much needed this practical
work, because my main interest at that time, and since, has been in
trying to understand the nature of the social and political existence
of humanity, particularly in relationship to our divine nature.
It was already by then clear to me through experience that we are
spiritual beings, living in a material world, and it was important to
me to understand society in relationship to this and yet remain within
the scientific spirit of the age. Rudolf Steiner set before me
the means to do this, particularly in what he called the practice of
Goetheanism in this sense is a kind of
training of observation and thinking, and has some relationship to what
others call phenomenology. What is done is that thinking remains
within the appearances, rather than to invent theories or seemings
behind them. For Nature, this disciplined thinking produces a
remarkable understanding. What I tried to do was to translate
this same discipline into an examination of the social and political.
I approached the basic phenomena of our shared existence as if in
how it simply was - without adding or subtracting anything - this given
reality was all that I needed to know.
This work was not easily done by the way,
although much was obvious right from the beginning. It took many
years to bring to thinking and observing our social existence the
needed discipline, and to eliminate from my own inner life, conditions
of prejudice and assumption that frequently stood like a dark cloud in
between my thinking-observation and the phenomena of social reality.
I was also aware that I kept adjusting what I was doing in directions away from Steiner's work and what I knew of Goethe. I felt comfortable in these adjustments, particularly since I would find confirmation in the improved results of my research. Nonetheless, I made changes away from what I thought of as pure Anthroposophy and Goetheanism.
Let me also be honest in another way, for
this work was produced in many fits and starts. I was not
an academic, but a family man. I worked at whatever jobs I could
find, for example, for the last three years I worked in a factory, and
the ten years before that a mental hospital. I mostly raised
children and lived life with all the successes and failures one
Now I have had the great fortune for the
last 16 years to become a friend of Stuart Weeks, and through him to
find a connection to the Transcendentalists, particularly Emerson.
At the same time these last 16 years have not been scholarship of
the bookish kind, so I didn't read a lot of Emerson. I mostly
worked at developing my thinking and my observational skills, and at
gathering what might be called all the basic facts and experiences that
I had discovered over time that it was
important to love the object of ones thinking. I don't mean by
this to become overly sympathetic, but rather to have an intention
willed into the thinking such that we care and honor and trust those
matters which we want to understand. In this way the essence of
the object of our interest, and our own essence, these two
essences draw nearer to each other.
This meant, for example, that I watch a
lot of television, and a lot of movies, and partake of all that could
be called American Culture with a kind of relish. Obviously this
Culture isn't representative of the whole of human social and political
existences, but it was the nearest at hand, and I drank deeply of its
nature. You might say that I read this Culture in much the same
way one learns to read a book. And, of course, watching
television and going to movies wasn't all that I did - its just an
example of where the intention to love can lead someone.
Now to return to Emerson for a moment, before going on to some of the results of my own work. A couple of years ago I read for the first time his The American Scholar lecture. This was really a wonderful experience, for in this lecture I saw, not only a reflection of Emerson's path to inner discovery, but what was essentially an exact description of my own path. All those ways, in which I had instinctively adjusted what had been initially work that emulated Steiner and Goethe, were here described by Emerson.
Now this is, at first blush, a curious
thing. Not having studied Emerson, how did I come to follow where
he had gone before. Well, the explanation is simply enough.
We both read the same instructional text, which is not out there
in the world, but inside ourselves, within our own inner life.
And because we are both Americans, we share something, for
Peoples are not the same all over the world, but have inner differences
of no little import.
So when Emerson writes, as he did in The American Scholar, that: "In self trust all virtues are comprehended", I knew this because I had been there and done that. And when he says in his essay Intellect: "You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct though you can render no reason. It is vain to hurry it. By trusting to the end it shall ripen into truth and you shall know what you believe." This too I understood, for it was where I had walked.
You might recall that I said above: "This
work was not easily done by the way, although much was obvious right in
the beginning." Here you see was my instinct, things I sensed
right in the beginning, but to fully realize them I had to keep at it
for a long time, to let it ripen inside, until there it finally was -
Now I'd like to speak of my research into
the social and political. By the way, there is no possibility of
more than hinting at this work, so that if you want details and more,
you should just do a Google search for my name and this will lead you
to my websites.
The essential aspect of social and
political existence is not in the stream of events, what we tend to
call history such as the recent war or the current political troubles
in America, but rather in the individual biography. The
individual biography is the rooted axis around which all else turns,
because it is only the experiences acquired by the "I am", within its
life path, that endures.
All the rest passes away over time -
governments, social ideals, legal systems, religions, even spiritual
paths, but the "I am" or spirit endures and during its biography
acquires those transforming experiences that become an aspect of its
Our social life does have a great deal of
order to it, however, but this order comes to it from within the
biography outward. Our social existence is fully determined
by the individual and common elements of our human nature, not unlike
the way a piece of just melted wax receives an impression from a signet
ring. Our nature is expressed onto the social organism, giving it
all its essential qualities. This means that we learn as much
from the study of ourselves as we learn from the study of the social.
You might notice that I just used the
term organism, for that which we ordinarily speak of as social
existence and form, that is civilizations, kinds of governments, types
of communities, the nature of families, these are all aspects of a
whole which is quite alive. How could it be otherwise, given that
all the component parts, are individual living human beings?
It is possible then, through a
disciplined thinking and observation, to learn to see with the
thinking, how it is that life processes move though our shared social
existence, giving us all the dynamic life conditions, and more, that we
know from biology, such as birth and death, growth, development,
reproduction, and even metamorphosis. We discover how to know
this by learning to move the thinking in a way that it follows
inwardly how it is that social form changes over time. We don't
just look at any social condition in its static present state, but need
to learn to think it in terms of its own biography. For example,
the family has changed considerably since the 14th Century and the
whole of these subtle developing changes have to be thought, exactly as
they unfolded in time.
Not just that, but we also have to think
any particular stream of changes in such a way that we don't take it
out of its context. To continue the example, families are
embedded in communities, which in turn are embedded in nations, which
themselves are embedded in languages and cultures, while the whole
ultimately is embedded in something we call Civilizations. My
major work, by the way, a book not yet finished, is called: Strange
Fire: the Death, and the Resurrection, of Modern Civilization. [no longer the case as of 2006 ed.]
Once we can see this, then we know that
part of the difficulty of understanding our own Age, is due to the fact
that we are within a metamorphosis-like social crisis wherein Western
Civilization is passing away, and something is being created that will
replace it. It is almost impossibly difficult to appreciate
something like this when we are so intimately connected to it while it
unfolds. Yet, if we want to forge a more human future, this is
the very matter we need most to understand.
Part of our problem is that we can't,
using the scientific thinking of our Time, take hold of the living,
because this scientific thinking has limited itself to the countable
and the sensible. The living, whether it is a simple biological
organism, or, to put a crude name to it, the Life Sphere of the Social
Organism, these can't be thought on the basis of what is merely seen
and allows itself to be calculated.
The driving impulses of social existence,
fear of death, joy in life, - all the virtues and the vices that
inhabit human beings - these are invisible, and none of them can be
reduced to merely physical causes without killing the very thing we
want, and desperately need, to learn to understand.
Rudolf Steiner, in a quite remarkable
book called: A Theory
of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, wrote: "What takes place in human consciousness is the
interpretation of Nature to itself. Thought is the last member in
the series of processes whereby Nature is formed.", while Emerson wrote in his essay Nature:
"Nature is a
thought incarnate and turns to a thought again as ice becomes water and
gas. The world is mind precipitated and the volatile essence is
forever escaping into the state of free thought."
What happens when we learn to properly
discipline our thinking and observing capacities is that the Ideas,
which are the outer garment of the Beings who are the essence of what
we lovingly seek to know, these Ideas - this outer garment - appears
spontaneously within our consciousness as part of a cooperative Art in
which the Creator Being of the World Himself participates. We ask
and seek and knock, after which we are given, and find and all is
opened to us.
Where this leads is to an understanding
that knows that human social and political existence, which in the
cultural East has often been called Maya, is better understood in the
Cultural West as the Creative Activity of the Word come to living
equilibrium. As it says in Genesis: "God blessed the seventh day
and made it holy because on it he rested from all his work of creation."
That, my friends, is where we live, and
have lived and will live as long as our Eternal spirit needs incarnate
existence - within the living being of the Seventh Day. God has
rested, having given us a most remarkable gift - not just outer Nature,
but something much much more, of which the heart of it is the dynamic
and enveloping womb of our social and communal existence - a
living and self evolving growth environment for the human
individuality, Itself ever changing and becoming as our needs and wants
themselves change and grow.
The human biography, with all its ups and
downs, tragedies and joys, is always held within the loving embrace of
a great and wise Intelligence, and if we pay careful attention to our
own lives, to all that lives and breaths there, we will learn to see
this for ourselves.
In the beginning of such a journey we
might have to overcome something. For mostly we tend to think in
this Age along the lines that science has developed, wherein all the
accidents and chance encounters in life are just that - moments without
meaning, happening for no intelligence reason whatsoever.
Yet, there is a counter-image to that, an
impression that the Ancients spoke of when they used the ideas of Fate
and Destiny and Karma - ideas that still might be true. The
intriguing thing is that we don't have to go backward and abandon
reason to discover the truth here. Rather we just have to
heighten the degree to which we pay attention - to change the quality
of the nature of our observation. Then we think about it, in our
own personal Emersonian way, trusting more to our own instincts,
than to what we have been taught and told to think. We free
our thinking from the binding assumptions of culture and religion and
ask ourselves - what is true here? Is there wisdom enfolding my
life? What is its nature? How does it work? If I look
back in my biography, what has been there as a gift that helped me
become who I am today? What about tomorrow - is there some
surprise of special meaning? What about this moment, right now?
How do I contribute? What is the meaning of evil? How
do I understand freedom in this context?
So many wonderful questions - each one
filled with life, for when we really start to see and think here on our
own, in that same inner land walked years ago by Emerson, all the
mundane ways of past thinking that have blinded us to the endless
treasures of each day start to fall away, and we find once again - as
we did first in childhood - that the world is filled with magic and
with love. Thank you...
this and that
- some thoughts on the Four Noble Truths -
This is an
essay on the mind in the light of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha.
In my own studies of Buddhism, I found more satisfaction in
considering these very basic questions myself than I did in any study
of all the rich literature that follows, whether in Zen or Tibetan
Buddhism, or whatever. I did find it helpful to study these questions,
however, not just for their practical understanding of mind, but also
for how this understanding created a much better possibility for
appreciating the mental processes of the "other", the thou.
It is this last which is such a ripe fruit of the Buddha's
basic teachings - namely the growing in the own soul of Compassion.
According to John M. Koller's, Oriental Philosophies, the short version of the Four Noble Truths is as follows: "1. There is suffering; 2. Suffering is caused; 3. Suffering can be extinguished by eliminating the causes of suffering; and 4. The way to extinguish the causes of suffering is to follow the Middle Way constituted by the Noble Eightfold Path."
The same text gives these as the supposed
actual teachings, or words of the Buddha:
1. "...birth is suffering; decay is
suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering; presence of
objects we hate is suffering; separation from objects we love is
suffering; not to obtain what we desire is suffering. In brief, the
five aggregates which spring from grasping, they are painful."
2. Suffering "...originates in that
craving which causes the renewals of becomings, is accompanied by
sensual delight, and seeks satisfaction now here, now there; that is to
say, craving for pleasures, craving for becoming, craving for not
3. "...concerning the Cessation of
Suffering; verily, it is passionless, cessation without remainder of
this very craving; the laying aside of, the giving up, the being free
from, the harboring no longer of, this craving."
4. the path which leads to the cessation
of suffering, "...is this Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say, right
views, right intent, right speech, right conduct, right means of
livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right meditation."
I would be a complete fool to suggest
that I can add anything to this, or to further suggest that I could add
anything to all that the great teachers of, say, Tibetan or Zen
Buddhism, have said about these fundamental teachings of the Buddha.
Rather, the purpose of this essay is
state simply how these ideas have influenced me, and in what way I try
to order or structure my life, based on my understanding of this great
Being an American means that I tend to
the pragmatic, the practical. So my approach, when I spent some time
considering these Four Noble Truths, had the tendency to be directly
related to my personal existence. No theories, just what was happening
in my life that these Truths could lead me to understand.
I was aided in this quest by having heard
some lectures, read several books and known several students of Chogyam
Trungpa, teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, now deceased. My favorite book of
his is: Meditation in Action, Shambhala Publications. In this book is a
statement that has, over time, became my central principle when
considering knowledge: "...and in that sense Buddha was a great
revolutionary in his way of thinking. He even denied the existence of
Brahma, or God, the Creator of the world. He determined to accept
nothing which he had not first discovered for himself." (ibid. p 5)
This became my motto, and, as regards the
Four Noble Truths, I would only understand what I could determine for
myself. The Truths became, in this sense, questions to put to myself
and to life.
1. There is suffering
This seems fairly obvious. Life is
suffering. Yet, what does that mean? What is suffering and what is life
in this sense? And, I don't mean to approach this by means of some
philosophical definition, but rather simply by observing myself and
life. I did think about animals and other kinds of beings for a time,
which seemed to have life (plants etc.), but since my knowledge was
only of my own consciousness, I eventually decided to confine myself to
the consideration of my own suffering, and that which I could observe
around me in those other human beings with which I came in contact.
There seemed to be a lot of it. Friends I
knew were raped, hurt in cars, lost children, lost the capacity to bear
children, lost jobs, lost loves, needed love and had none. Everywhere I
looked, within myself and outside myself, there were experiences of
But the Four Noble Truths are not just a
logical sequence, they are a whole. The meaning of one effects the
meaning of the whole...
2. Suffering is caused
After a time there seemed to me to be two
kinds of suffering: self caused and caused from the outside, by an
agency (others, fate, god, divine providence, whatever). But the more I
explored self caused suffering the more I realized that to think some
was caused by others was an error. The error arises because of this:
Every event in life which came to me from
the outside, that is what we might call fated suffering, rather than
self induced, had a certain quality to it. This quality of fated
suffering depended upon how I related to the situation. The fated
matter was in itself neutral. If it was experienced as a matter of
suffering, that arose because of how I related to it. It was not within
the fated experience itself.
Before we get confused, let me deal with
physical pain, such as perhaps results from trauma. Certainly physical
pain seems on the surface to be fated suffering. However, pain in such
a case is not suffering, but increased consciousness. The body is
demanding our attention. When we resist, when we desire to not
experience the pain, then we have the pain and suffering.
The point of this is to make a
distinction between the experience of physical pain, and the suffering,
that arises because we are experiencing physical pain. The former is an
inescapable physical reality, and the latter is a relationship of the
mind to that reality.
Life is suffering and suffering is caused
by the relationship of mind to life.
3. Suffering can be extinguished by
eliminating the causes of suffering
How I relate to suffering is an act which
takes place within my own mind, and for which I can be responsible. But
just here we start to get to the tricky part, because we start to come
face to face with the problem of mind, and the problem of the I, or the
Throughout the various teachings of
Buddhism, from Zen to Tibetan, to beyond, here is where the nitty
gritty comes in. To understand this part, there has to arise some
degree of self awareness, some degree of inner awakeness. It is my
belief (and only that, because I don't know the whole of Buddhism, only
a very small corner), that all the commentaries, all the Sutras, all
the koans, and the whole purpose of the various styles of meditation,
have to do with this problem.
This is tricky because to some degree the
Ego can't take a hold of it. Merely by grasping, by trying to find a
strategy, the Ego steps off the deep end and just repeats what it is
always doing. Desiring not to desire just leads to more suffering. This
is why we find in the various teachings such ideas as no-thingness,
no-mind, mindfulness, instant satori, and hundreds of other ways of
making an idea about something which doesn't have an idea.
So Buddha, in order to help the crossing
of the threshold of this problem provides the Eightfold Path, as a
means to cut through the confusion.
4. The way to extinguish the causes of
suffering is to follow the Middle Way constituted by the Noble
The Eightfold Path has a very interesting
structure, in that each element is preceded by the word "right", as in:
..."right views, right intent, right speech, right conduct, right means
of livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right meditation."
Now what is that? What is meant, in this
context, by "right"?
This is where we get to the title of this
modest mediation: "this and that". Mind has certain qualities, and one
of the main ones is what we might call "discrimination", or the
capacity to form distinctions. This is up, that is down. This is right,
that is wrong. This is enlightened, that is unenlightened. This is Ego,
that is not. This is desire, that is not. This is suffering, that is
not. This is my Buddha nature, that is not.
Of course, you don't have to be a
Buddhist to have this difficulty. This is Christian, that is not. This
is moral, that is not. Or if you are an anthroposophist: Steiner said
this, he didn't say that.
This is what I have learned as a
practical matter about this problem - the problem of "this and that".
In any given moment, I may not like the
what is, the this. The this could be myself, my feeling life, what
someone else is doing, my thoughts, what someone is saying, the price
of an object, my lack of health, another driver, my salary, the way the
world is, my son's haircut, my wife's spending habits and so forth.
Against this this, I will imagine a corresponding that, which will be
the what is not.
Between the what is and the what is not
there arises a tension, namely my desire for this to change into that.
My discriminatory mind by creating the this and the that, also at the
same time necessarily creates the tension, which is the suffering. I
suffer precisely because I conceive, as an act of mind, of the this
(the what is) and its difference from the that (the what is not).
It actually is that simple to conceive,
but the real problem is practice. What do I do about this? How do I, if
that is what I decide to do, eliminate the this and the that? Of
course, just in conceiving the problem this way, I am still in the this
and the that, but with this one change. I am now aware of Ego's tricks
(or at least the most recent ones).
The practice then comes down to coming
back, ever and again, as a matter of slowly developing discipline, to
the this and living wholly within the this, which does not stand still,
but is rather constantly creative. Trungpa calls it "crazy wisdom". The
reason it is crazy is because it (spontaneousness - the this) can't be
predicted, can't be stratigized, and can't be controlled. It is a
complete intuitive relationship to the this. You could say that the Ego
is constantly going beyond its previous condition, rather then
remaining stuck in one of its past points of view.
Of course, we should again return to the
Sutras, the koans, or whatever practices we have discovered in Buddhism
that seem right for us. These practices are the various paths by which
one moves from living this and that, to just living this. However, each
of us must find their individual way/means through to the this; so it
is a great goodness that so much help exists, and in such great variety.
One last comment: The this comes not from
the past, but is born in the future. In any given moment, even though
"I" am (past looking), "I" really am not (unborn, no mind and so
forth). At this level, there really is no difference between Buddhism
and Christianity, in practice: " Matthew 18:3: " ...Verily I say unto
you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall
not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
is all I have to say about that.
pragmatic moral psychology
Many people have trouble with the idea
'moral". This is understandable given the history of
Christianity (for example), which has included so many attempts at
dominating the moral thinking of others. Especially
in our age we don't like being told what is right to do. We
would rather follow our own judgment. It will come as no
surprise to many, that the Christian Gospels actually support that
latter view (personal moral judgment) instead of the view that
allows someone else to tell us what is moral. But this view
of the Gospels is not appreciated until we have penetrated, in
practice, the psychological teachings these remarkable Books of Wisdom
contain. Many so-called Christians have failed to live the
Gospels, and for this reason have never come to understand what they
teach about mind, about soul and spirit in a practical and pragmatic
sense. This essay is the result of my own explorations of
these Books of Wisdom as they apply to life, to thinking and feeling,
and to how the world is ordered in both its social and moral realms.
For it is here, in such practices that the real facing of the
problem of Evil comes toward us. It is only in the brutal self
honest examination of how we introduce Evil into the world, that we
learn what we need to know in order to appreciate how Evil works in the
social. For a deeper examination of this problem, see my book The Way of
the Fool: The conscious development of
our human character, and the future of Christianity - both to be born
out of the natural union of Faith and Gnosis.
Social morality is the highest form of
art. Remember: the social world is the moral world, and we need to move
from a state of sleep with regard to this, to a state of awakeness. The
material below is offered in support of the reader's struggles in this
regard, and not as a statement of an activity which the reader must
undertake. How one proceeds as regard these matters is very personal,
and the following material, based on the author's own experience, is
given only as an example of how one might proceed; should they choose
to make some efforts in these directions.
The political or community leader, and certainly the story-teller who wants to encounter the Mystery, should realize that some kind of practice, some kind of personal effort at inner growth, of a kind similar to that described below, is essential to carrying out the responsibilities undertaken. We are not born virtuous, but rather human, with all the normal failings that implies. The author can state, with some surety, which he hopes this book demonstrates, that such practice does bear fruit that can be obtained in no other way. The Mystery draws near that which strives toward goodness.
This is not an essay meant for
psychologists. Nor is it about mental health per se, although its reflections may touch related
This essay is based on an understanding
of human inner life that developed out of the necessity of solving
certain real problems of personal experience. It represents the fruit
of many years of practical work derived from a struggle, only
occasionally successful, to live according to certain teachings of
Jesus Christ. It is the latter aspect which brings in the moral element.
When this work was begun, almost
twenty-five years ago when I was in my early thirties, it first
appeared as an instinctive awakening to certain problems, most notably:
what was the relationship between my own thinking, and the world I
experienced through my senses? A secondary question, more subtle, but
quite definitely related, is what was the role of conscience in the
solving of this problem?
Over a few years investigation and
practice, I taught myself to: work at bringing discursive thinking to a
halt (no inner dialog); to think with my heart, instead of my head;
and, to think in wholes, or, what I called at that time, gestalts.
Subsequent to this, I discovered that
essentially the same problems had been confronted by the genius of a
man named Rudolf Steiner, in his 1894 book, The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. When I read
this book, I found therein, not only a much clearer statement of the
problems I had already been examining, but what turned out to be an
introspection of human consciousness that was in accord with the
methods of natural science; and which was therefore, at the same time,
quite compatible with all those academic characteristics of philosophy
that ordinary people find so confusing.
A few years later I encountered another
book of Steiner's, The Theory
of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception, which, although again compatible with academic
philosophic standards, is nevertheless much simpler in its language.
Both books were extremely helpful in making it possible to examine
these questions (the interrelationship of thinking, experience and
conscience), with all their possible subjectivity, in a completely
I mention Rudolf Steiner, because he has
had an enormous influence on my thinking, and those readers, who may
wish for a more academic justification for certain themes in this book,
should begin with the above materials. Most people, however, will be
satisfied by their own common sense.
I use the word psychology in the title of
this essay because this same struggle has also taught me that Christ's
teachings are grounded in a complete understanding of human inner life.
They are, in fact, a moral psychology par excellence; that is, an
understanding of human nature which both fathoms and appreciates our
true moral reality and potential. This is so regardless of ones
conclusions regarding His religious significance.
Those readers who might have some
discomfort with the religious matters below, should be advised that all
that I can do is reflect my own experience. If the reader, for whom
this may be some kind of problem, is careful, they may be able to
translate the materials below into their own understanding and belief
system. The person of Christian faith, who feels there may be matters
of even deeper significance, is invited to read: Meditations
the Tarot: a Journey into Christian Hermeticism,
Matthew 7: 3-5: Judge not, that ye be not
judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and
with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And
why behold-est thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but
consider-est not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt
thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye;
and, behold a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first
cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly
to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
The pragmatic psychological realities I
have so far discovered in this teaching are as follows:
When we meet, or interact, with another
person there may arise, within our own soul life, antipathies, feelings
of disliking. Perhaps we will not like how they look, their class, the
nature of the ideas they present to us or the values they express.
Maybe they are of another race or culture, or believe in abortion, or
believe in choice, or have a selfish political agenda, or a thousand
other categories by which we may define them or weigh their moral or
In each and every instance where we
experience an antipathetic judgment (or sympathetic for that matter),
we do not perceive the individual before us, but rather only that
classification or label by which we have identified them. This is so
even though it is someone we know well. In fact, those in our most
intimate circles are more likely to be the object of judgments we have
made and continue to make, yet sleep through. These last have become
ingrained habits of thought, a (perhaps too rigid) soul lens through
which we view the world of our daily relationships.
We also apply this judgment to ourselves.
Just consider how much we do not like about ourselves. It will even be
possible to turn the material in this essay into another reason for
This judgment is the beam in our own eye. By it we become then blind, confusing our judgment for the "mote" in their eye, the character fault we believe we have identified.
Should it actually be possible that we
could help them, the existence of our beam
nevertheless disables us. We lack the objectivity (which is neither
antipathetic or sympathetic, but is rather empathic) by which we could
actually understand them.
In fact the Gospel promises us that when
we can succeed in setting aside the judgment and can instead empathize,
i.e. know them from the inside-out objectively, then we may actually be
able to be of service to them (then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of
thy brother's eye).
From Rudolf Steiner, I was lead to
understanding, that the most common types of such judgments are in fact
reflections of our own weaknesses and failings. Our normal psychology
is so ordered that our common antipathies are mirror images of our own
defects. We often most strongly dislike, in others, our own worst
flaws. So Jesus Christ advises us: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the
beam out of thine own eye..."
This being the case, how do we work with
this in a practical manner?
The first step is to wake up to it, to
notice each and every act of judgment. This is painful. A wonderful
help is found in an spiritual exercise Steiner taught, the daily
review. This exercise, which the reader is free to use or not, involves
taking time at the end of the day, and remembering it, backwards, from
the most recent events just before beginning the exercise, to those
events surrounding our awakening early in the morning. In this way we
reflect upon our day, and will begin, after a time, to discover matters
which need our attention. When, for example, we have begun to notice
these judgments, they can become an element of the review. They are
"unfinished" soul business.
During the review feelings of remorse and
shame are good signs. In these self reflective feelings the conscience
awakens. Out of the impulse of conscience we can utter a brief prayer
to the guardian angel of the one we have judged, so that the next time
we meet, our perception will be more objective. The angel of the
"other" wants to help us do this. Those who doubt such an idea are
simply asked to carry out such activity with full sincerity. Practice
will, itself, establish the truth of these matters.
In this way we slowly refine the impulse
to judge, and gain thereby (small bit by bit) control of our thoughts
and mastery of our feelings. The soul area, in which these unconscious
antipathies and sympathies have previously tended to pull us, can now
become an ever growing arena of spiritual freedom.
One of the mysteries of our inner life
that this work, the refining of the judgment, uncovers, is that we are
often captured - enslaved - by these repeated thought-judgments. Once
having made them, our continued repetition of them, or habitual use of
them, becomes then a point of view, a kind of judgmental colored glass
through which we view the world. To refine the judgment in the manner
being described in this essay, is to no longer by possessed by it - to
be inwardly, spiritually, free.
These pragmatic understandings have
applications in other areas as well. The reader, who works patiently
with these soul-lawful realities, will discover other possible uses for
the skills developed.
We can in fact be glad of those
personalities who irk us so, who bring out of us these strong and
unredeemed feelings. Their lives are a great gift to us and we appear
to have sought out these relationships just so they could awaken us.
Here is good cause for a prayer of thanks during the review.
Sympathies represent a similar problem to
antipathies. How often does life teach the tragedy of those who fall so
in love that the excessive sympathies and its resulting (love is)
blindness leads eventually to confusion and terrible pain, when clarity
To raise another up in excessive praise
is also a beam of great proportions. Whenever we do this, we are just
as blind to an other's real humanity as when we live in antipathies.
Our judgment is not a source of true understanding when it is derived
from unconscious and unredeemed feeling-perceptions.
In the case where we are turning this unredeemed judgment upon ourselves, this can become another aspect of our search for spiritual freedom. In our inner life, once we become awake there, the voice of the conscience and the voice of the judgment are not the same. Conscience "hurts" because it expresses the truth, and we "wince" inwardly in this perception. The judgment dislikes, or excessively likes, but it is not expressing the truth. Learning to distinguish between these - between truth and dislike - can be very helpful.
While this does not begin to exhaust all
that could be said about the beam and the mote, nonetheless, let us
take up another thread.
John 8:5-9: Now Moses in the law
commanded us, that such should be stoned; but what say est thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.
But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground as
though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he
lifted up himself, and said unto them. He that is without sin among
you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down
and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted
by their own conscience, went out one by one...
We all know this story, but we don't stone
people anymore; or do we ? Obviously physical violence, retribution,
against criminals continues. We understand these issues, to a degree. Is
there then some more subtle meaning? This is what I have found to
be true in practice.
When an unredeemed judgment is spoken,
that is, when it passes from the inner life into the social world,
through speech, it becomes a stone. The flesh is not wounded
by this stone, but the soul surely is. Our ordinary language in its
natural genius recognizes this, for don't we speak of "hurt feelings"?
Yet our ordinary personal life is full of
just these acts of stone throwing. Tired and upset
we throw them at our children and our partners. Believing too much in
our own righteousness we will throw them at work, or at play.
The pragmatic teaching it this. Be
silent. Remember, Jesus' response in this story is first to say
Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though
he heard them not". Examine our own thoughts
more rigorously than that of others. Not every thought must be spoken.
An ancient middle-eastern aphorism goes this way. There are three gates
to speech: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Any thought that
cannot pass all three gates should not be spoken. And there may be even
other reasons for not speaking those thoughts which otherwise could
Further questions are these. What is the
moral purpose for our speech? Why have we said what we have said? What
is the objective? Do we speak to be self important? Or do we have the
possible benefit for others as our purpose? How do we know it will be a
benefit, rather than an interference in their freedom or a hurt? Do we
believe we know the truth, that our knowledge is superior to others?
Hidden here are all the judgments, the consequences of the beam.
Are we so sure of ourselves, that all our thoughts are worthy of being spoken? Silence is golden is the cliche. In truth, outer silence is just the beginning.
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in
spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If my mind is not quiet, empty, poor in
spirit, what can enter there? Inner silence has two valuable moral
The first benefit of inner silence is
that it is essential to listening to someone else speak. If we cannot
quiet our own mind when we are listening, if our whole concentration is
instead on our anticipated response or on what we think, then our
attention is not focused at all on the other person or what they are
In some lectures published under the
title: The Inner Aspect of the Social Question, Rudolf Steiner suggests the practice of seeking to hear
the presence, of what he calls "the Christ Impulse", in the other's
thinking. This is very difficult. It is not just listening, but a
feeling-imagining of the heart felt purposes living in the speaker.
What brings them to speak so? What life path has brought them to this
place? Even if they are throwing stones at us, we must still "actively" listen; otherwise, there
will be no understanding of their humanity.
There is a wonderful experience possible
here, when we have won past our antipathetic judgment and actually have
begun to hear what lives in the other speaker. Each of us has learned
in life some wisdom, and these little jewels lie every where around us,
often in the most improbable places, the most unsuspected souls. These
treasures are often hidden only by the darkness we cast over the world
through our unredeemed thought-judgments.
The second benefit is this. Unless I am
silent, and empty, that is poor in spirit, how will it be possible for
the Mystery to touch me?
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit
The Mystery goes where it wills. If we
are not listening outwardly, we well may miss it when it appears
through others. An inflated sense of self righteousness will certainly
interfere. How much have we missed in life because we did not listen to
what was being offered? Even a piece of an overheard passing
conversation on a bus, which seems to jump into our silent waiting, may
have an import just for us. And inwardly? The Mystery is silence
itself, quiet, like an angel's beating wings. How much has been offered
to us just there as well, a barely audible whispering that our own
internal rambling dialog has covered over in its insistent and restless
"It thinks in me" spoke Rudolf
Steiner. The Mystery has its own will. "It" comes like a gentle wind,
when "it" wills, and we prepare the way by "learning to think on our knees", as Valentin Tomberg, another passionate seeker I find
very helpful, has advised. Two acts, only one our own.
Matthew 11: 28-30: Come unto me, all ye that
labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall
find rest unto your souls.n For my yoke is easy, and my burden is
Two acts, only one our own. Something
comes to meet us and does not bring weight, but rather eases our
Pragmatic moral psychology is not meant
to be heavy labor. We are working together with the world of Mystery.
We make an offering of what lives within; we offer it up. In the
Celebration of the Mass, the Offertory precedes the Eucharist.
The soul makes the same rite of gesture, when the unconsciously created judgment is perceived and then let go, after which the empathic understanding is yearned for. When this has been done we are then met by grace, by the work of others. Moreover, this grace is so quiet, so silent, we may not be able to distinguish it from our own yearning thinking.
Since the Mystery seeks no gratitude for
its acts, we should not mind when it has invisibly carried us to subtle
heights, breadths and depths. To expect this, is faith. However alone
we may sometimes feel, we are, in fact, never alone.
Let us review and synthesize, perhaps
adding a few new thoughts.
We are born into a culture and a
language, a family and a destiny. In our youth we draw into ourselves a
way of seeing the world, consistent with those who raise us, and,
without which we would have become incapable of being a member of
Each of us has an inborn faculty of
judgment which finds its center in the feeling life, but which leaves
its most conscious traces in the life of thought. We do not want to
eliminate this faculty, but it does need to be refined if we are to
evolve it into a capacity for perceiving the true, the beautiful and
the good. As the poet Goethe pointed out, particularly in his
scientific works, it is not the senses which deceive, but rather the
The fundamental quality, latent in judgment and from which its evolution may proceed, is our moral nature, our moral will. Let us consider this in a more practical way.
What do I do with antipathies (or with
excessive sympathies for that matter)? Something enters my
consciousness and my "reaction" is to not like it. The first thing
(borrowing a term from more recent popular psychology) is to own it. It
is my reaction, it arises in my soul, and it is not (in any obvious
way) in the object to which the reaction attaches. There does seem to
be something, a seed perhaps, that does exist in the judgment and that
does belong to the object of the judgment, but this seed only comes to
flower through processes like those outlined below.
The antipathetic reaction, which is a
"feeling", then draws concepts toward it, clothes itself in thought
forms, and in this way enters our conscious thinking life, usually as a
stream of inner dialog (discursive thinking: our spirit speaks, our
soul hears). Above, we considered how to become alert to these
judgments using the daily review, and noted there, as well, that to
feel remorse and shame for having so unconsciously and hypocritically
categorized our fellow human beings, is a sign of an awakening
Once we have become more awake in the
moment, it is possible to work with this process during the day, not
waiting for the daily review. The antipathy arises, we notice it. We
have learned not to speak it, not to allow it across the threshold of
speech into the social world. We behold it inwardly, this thing, our
judgmental creation. This objective perception of our self created
thought-judgments is an act of spiritual freedom, inner freedom before
There are two very practical acts we can
do in regard to this object within our consciousness. One precedes the
other, and the second is born out of the first. The initial act is one
of sacrifice. Steiner calls this: "sacrifice of thoughts". We not only allow it to die, we participate in the
process of its dying. We give it up, we detach ourselves emotionally
from this no longer desired judgment.
Doing this has brought our will into play. Using this same will we now engender a new becoming of the act of judgment. Dying has preceded becoming. We actively engage the process of metamorphosis inwardly in the soul life. The caterpillar of our antipathetic judgment can give birth to the butterfly of our empathic understanding. The crucial act is our moral intention. We recreate in the newly freed soul space the object of our judgment as an act of spiritual will. We choose to behold the "other" with the forces of resurrection. We clothe the object of our previous antipathy in a freely chosen word-picture created in the crucible of a struggle to know them empathically. We redeem them in thought.
The most essential matter to recognize
here is that in this activity one is not acting alone. Two acts, only
one our own.
One last thought. In that activity by
which we transform unconscious judgments into conscious ones, we inform
the world with new meaning. We adorn the world, and the individuals
which inhabit it, with self-created significance. The difference is
that this new meaning-significance is neither arbitrary or capricious.
The world means what we choose it to mean. In this act, however, it
makes a great deal of difference whenever we have invited the
cooperation of the invisible world.
With regard to this problem of meaning -
the creation of new meaning - there is much more yet to say, as this is
one of the principle ways for crafting the resurrection of a new
civilization from the decay and debris of the old and dying culture.
Unto the reader then, I place these gifts
of twenty-five years of practice, with all their flaws, for whatever
service they may give.
The Misconception of Cosmic Space* As
Appears In the Ideas of Modern Astronomy
- and as contained in the understandably limited thinking embodied
conceptions of the nature of parallax and redshift -
Before entering on to the main body of
this essay, we should consider briefly the nature of thinking and of
the imagination. In this little book there are a number of
different comments on thinking and on the imagination, coming from
different directions, but here I want to point out some basic facts as
a foundation for the coming work.
The first is that human beings think, and
that there is no science without the activity of human thinking.
Thinking determines which questions the scientist asks,
what experiments he conducts, and then ultimately how the data provided
by the experiments is interpreted - that is what does this scientific
activity mean. For this essay we are confronted with the
scientific meaning created by human thinking in relationship to some
considerable portions of the data accumulated by scientific work
centered on questions concerning the stellar world. We are asking
here in this essay whether what science thinks today of the meaning and
significance of the stars is what we ought to continue to think, in the
future, or even today to assume is still a reasonable understanding.
As part of the process of examining the
underlying questions, we will be using a particular capacity of the
mind, which might be called the imagination, or picture-forming
capacity. We make all manner of mental pictures in
the normal course of ordinary thinking, and in scientific thinking we
carry out this activity in quite specific directions. Certain
astronomical ideas, for example the idea of parallax, are specifically
grounded in the picture-thinking connected to Euclidean geometry.
While we sometimes use a pencil and paper to work out the
details of this geometric picture thinking, the fact that should not be
ignored (but often is) is that it is the mind of the human being that
contributes the fundamental activity from which our modern astronomical
conceptions arise. In fact, our interpretation of the meaning of
astronomical data is entirely a result of mental processes, a number of
which are expressly born in the imagination.
Yes, we carefully observe the stellar
world with all kinds of remarkable instruments. We also use
a great deal of mathematics in how this material is interpreted, but we
must never, in the process of unfolding this scientific investigation
of the world of the stars, forget the centrality of thinking and of the
imagination to the whole process. If we take thinking and
the imagination away, there is no science of astronomy. Why
this is so important will hopefully become more clear as this essay
- main body -
*"Our Father in the skies..."
are the first words of the Lord's Prayer, as translated by Andy
Gaus in his book The
Unvarnished Gospels. I start here to
point out the fact that the people living in ancient Palestine, at the
time of the Incarnation, had a different kind of consciousness than we
do today. When they looked at the heavens, they understood
(and were taught by their wise elders) that the sky was the abode of
the Divine Mystery. In fact, they understood the whole of
Creation to be en-souled with Being and Consciousness. Since that time a different conception of
the heavens and of the earth has come into existence for large portions
of humanity. How did that original conception change and what can
we learn by observing carefully the nature of that change? In
this last essay in the main body of New Wine, we'll look primarily at a crucial set of ideas related
to the field of astronomy that were a significant part of these changes.
Everyone understands that if we make even
the slightest error in the aim of the bow and arrow, by the time the
arrow reaches the end of its journey, it doesn't take much of an
original error to cause the arrow to have completely missed the target.
Human beings are flawed, and science is the activity of human
beings. In the following essay I am going to concern myself with
clearly amateur* researches and thinking into the problems of parallax
and red shift, as these ideas are used to create for us a conception of
the world of the Stars.
*[While I am not a member of the
priesthood of the religion of Natural Science, I do know how to observe
carefully and how to think objectively, so just because astronomy isn't
my profession, the reader should not automatically anticipate they will
be misled. The reader should, however, themselves test the
themes outlined below in their own careful picture-thinking. The
tendency of scientific thinking has been toward too much analysis, and not enough synthesis, while the return of
a focus on the imagination will help us move forward in the future
toward a needed balance between these two basic gestures in
The fundamental question is this: the current generally understood idea of cosmic space is that it is essentially a three dimensional endlessness - a very big box, which while it must have some unusual properties as a container, it is nevertheless organized such that everywhere inside it one can expect that the same rules of physics we observe in the laboratory on the Earth, will be true all that way out there...one upon a time in a galaxy far far away. Is this conception of endless three-dimensional space true?
Let us consider a rather simple geometric
thought experiment, which everyone (trained mathematician or otherwise)
Make a picture of a small perfect sphere
in your mind. It has a center and a periphery. One
can use the terms radius, circumference and diameter with respect to
this sphere, but they really don't have any exact meaning unless we
define one of these characteristics by giving it first an exact
measure. For example, if we said the radius of our mental sphere
was one meter, well understood rules of the geometry of a perfect
sphere would give us diameter and circumference (as well as other
related characteristics, such as the degree of arc of the curvature of
the surface, the area of the surface, etc.).
Now keep in mind that we don't have to
conceive of this sphere in terms of measure. It can just exist in
our mind as a measureless perfect geometric form.
Next, we imagine the radius line, from
the center of the sphere to the periphery, increasing. We
again don't have to measure it, we just make the picture in our
thinking of this imaginary sphere as something that is slowly growing
through an elongating radius line. The radius line grows.
As that line grows all the other characteristics of the sphere
grow as well.
We could also mentally cause the same
effect by changing any other properties. For example, if we
cause with our picture-thinking the area of the surface to increase, we
change at the same time all the other relationships.
Now lets return to the increasing of the
radius line. In your imagination now picture that
intersection between the radius line and the periphery of the sphere.
At this intersection there is a degree of curvature of the arc of
the sphere. We can notice as we do this thought experiment
that as the radius line grows, the tightness of the curvature of the
To help this, lets imagine the radius
line decreasing. We shrink it, and as we do this the
curvature of the periphery of the sphere gets tighter and tighter,
until we make the radius line zero. When we make the radius
line zero we have lost the sphere, and it has disappeared into a
Yet, since we are working without any
need for measure, a zero radius sphere is simply a point. Once we
give measure of any amount to the radius line of a zero radius line
sphere (a point), the sphere returns. A radius line of a
nanometer takes a point and makes it a sphere.
Seeing this clearly with our geometrical imagination (which is quite exact and precise, by the way), we now do the opposite and complete the earlier exercise by increasing the radius line to infinite length. Instead of a radius line of zero, it is now infinite. What then happens to the curvature of the sphere when the radius becomes infinitely elongated?
Well, if we carefully follow out our
precise and exact geometrical imagination, we will be able to observe
this process unfold. As the radius line increases in length the
original tightness of the curvature of the surface of the sphere
lessens, until at the moment the radius line is infinite there will be
no curvature at all. The sphere has disappeared, and undergone a
metamorphosis into a plane. If we think carefully about
what we have learned here, we will see then that any sphere of any
measure of radius line is always an intermediate geometric form arising
in between a dimensionless point and a plane at infinity.
This fact is already well known in the
profound mathematical science of projective geometry, and we have now
ourselves discovered what is called there: the Plane at Infinity.
The sphere then is geometrically in between the infinitely large
and the infinitely small, or in between the plane at infinity and a
geometric point (which has no measure at all, unless we put it into
relationship with something else). A point by itself is just that
- nothing else. It occupies no space at all.
Well then, what is the point
of this exercise?
There are several. First it is
crucial to realize that we can think geometrically without using any
measure at all. If one is lucky enough to come upon a copy of
Olive Whicher's Projective
creative polarities in space and time*, one
has the possibility to study this wonderful geometry using only a
pencil, a straight edge and some paper (large sheets are easier for
some constructions). Measure has been done away with, and
the creators (or discoverers) of this mathematics describe it is all geometry - meaning by this that every single other geometry is a
special case of projective geometry.
*[check Waldorf Schools or other Rudolf
Steiner institutions for copies of this book. At present it is
tragically out of print.]
The difficulty for Natural Scientists has been how to apply this beautifully symmetric, measure free geometry, to the natural world. Science is rooted in measure, and while the ideas of this geometry are recognized as significant, what could they mean in a world that is already hopelessly entangled in a science which has to use measure for everything?
With this riddle in the background, let
us now examine the history of ideas by which the old view of the
heavens as an abode of the Divine Mystery came to be supplanted by a
view in which space is conceived as a near endless three dimensional
container, punctuated with mass caused curvatures (the space-time
gravity ideas following after Einstein, using the Reinmann geometry -
again a special case of the more general projective geometry).
Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the
stake as a heretic in 1600, is credited with having first suggested the
idea that a star might be like the sun. Would that our histories
were more accurate, because what we think of as the sun today, and how
he thought about such matters (he was, among other disciplines, a
deeply thoughtful meta-physician*) is not quite grasped by believing
his idea, that a star and our sun were relatives, in fact mirrors in
anyway our modern conceptions. For Bruno, the idea that a star
and our sun were related, was a completely different idea than we hold
today. The details of that, however, is a whole other matter.
*[Meta-physics, contrary to modern views
that it is not a science at all, was really always seen as a product of
a synthesis of ones total understanding. Modern physics comes
from taking things apart, from analysis.
Meta-physics always had the task of make the parts of all
human knowledge into a single whole.]
Bruno did agree to a degree with
Copernicus, and so in those years the ideas being produced by natural
philosophers (the grandfathers of natural science) came to be at odds
with the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. While the previous
age of careful thinkers (the Scholastics), would have understood
(keeping to Aristotle) that there was a difference between quantities and qualities, the scientific
impulse coming to the fore in those years more and more felt it could
only deal with that which could be counted or measured - that is quantities. The various categorical qualities of Aristotelian meta-physics more and more dropped away
from consideration (although this was a long term process and many
thinkers (Kepler and Faraday for example, thought this was an error of
thought to do so).
In any event, pure astronomy slowly freed
itself from the meta-physics connected to astrology and related
disciplines, by a process in which the qualitative problems were left aside and everything was more and
more rooted in only what could be counted (and measured). Kepler,
it has been forgotten, was an astrologer as well as the discoverer of
the three fundamental laws of planetary motion*. Not only that,
but Newton was an alchemist. The tendency has been to frame the
history of these thinkers as if they thought as we do today, when
anyone who actually reads what they wrote discovers they did not. (For
a comprehensive examination of this overlooked history of science, read
Ernst Lehrs' Man or
Introduction to a Spiritual Understanding of Nature on the Basis of
Goethe's Method of Training Observation and Thought. Also read Arthur Zajonc's Catching
the Light: the
entwined history of Light and Mind.
*[Kepler believed, for example, that his formula and ideas regarding the Third Law of Planetary Motion was a rediscovery of the ancient's idea of the Harmony of the Spheres]
As this process matures, it reaches a
kind of high point in the 19th Century, and two important ideas are
given birth out of the context of this leaving aside of the problem of qualities, and resting all theories of the starry world only on
what can be counted and measured. These ideas are parallax
and redshift. Such concepts don't emerge on their own, so we have
to work carefully with them, still keeping in mind how dependent they
are upon measure alone.
The idea of redshift doesn't come by
itself, for example, for it is really based upon spectroscopy.
This science is itself not based initially on stellar
observation, but on work in the laboratory where various fundamental
elements are combusted (burned) in such a way that they produce
"light". This "light" is measured according to the quantitative
ideas of Newtonian Optics, and so we get the "spectral" lines for such
basic elements as hydrogen.
As a result stellar light phenomena,
including light phenomena from our sun, are used in such a way that it
is assumed that this light from the stars and our sun is produced in
those places by a burning process similar in kind (but not degree) to
what was done in the laboratory. If the light from a star, or our
sun, has a certain mathematically accurate vibration (frequency), that
is like or essentially similar to the hydrogen line obtained in the
laboratory, this light frequency is then seen as showing us that in
that star, or our sun, hydrogen is being burned up, which combustion
process gives off that particular light frequency.
This is so important a fact (actually
assumed to be universal) that in the movie Contact, the frequency used to send the message to Earth from
the fictional stellar civilization is the hydrogen light frequency
times pi. That is, it is a material constant multiplied by a
All the same, there was a problem with
the hydrogen light frequency, for example, from the stars.
The observed light frequency in the normal range for
hydrogen (assumed to be an exact universal constant) isn't actually
quite so exact to observation. Various stars' hydrogen lines are
discovered to be a bit off center, so to speak, such that they can be
described (in the assumptions of physical astronomy) to be either red
shifted or blue shifted. The greatest number of stellar objects
are red shifted (only a very very few are blue shifted).
Following Newton, color is a spectrum of
light frequencies, with a red end point, where beyond which it becomes
invisible to the eye, or a blue end point (actually violet, but
convention names that end of the spectrum the blue end) where beyond
this end it also becomes invisible to the eye. We see with our
eyes a normal color Newtonian spectrum (so it is assumed) and at the
edges of this visible spectrum the light is no longer visible, although
it still can be observed and measured with instruments (the red end
becomes infrared or heat, and the blue end becomes ultraviolet, leading
then to such as x-rays). The wavelength of the frequency at the
red end is longer and longer (elongation), and the wavelength of the
frequency at the blue end is shorter and shorter (compaction).
These questions arise: what does it mean
that light from the stars is not exactly showing us the precise
hydrogen line we came to know in the laboratory, and what do we make of
the fact that this shift toward the red (the dominant types of shift)
itself varies? Some stellar objects show small redshift and
other's quite large redshift.
The original dominating idea for the
meaning of the phenomena of the redshift (elongation) of such as the
hydrogen line frequency was arrived at by creating an analogy between
light waves and sound waves, in 1842. We all know (or experience
at least) the so-called Doppler effect - the shift in sound of a train
horn as it comes toward us or away from us. This movement toward or away produces a change in the pitch (auditory
frequency), even though we know that the actual pitch the horn is
making never changes. The change in pitch is heard because of the
movement of the source of the sound (which compacts or elongates
the frequency, as perceived by the ear, which is relatively stationary).
By analogy then, redshift was thought to
give evidence of the movement of the object away from the observer on
the Earth. Whatever was going on, most of the stellar objects had
this redshift phenomena (in varying degrees) and from this analogy was
born the idea that the Universe is expanding (which then later is
supposed to logically give us the Big Bang - an explosion which creates
an expanding Universe). I point out this last to urge the
reader to notice how interwoven are all the ideas we have today about
the physical universe, such that if, for example, redshift doesn't
really mean what we think it means, then this idea of the expansion of
the Universe loses one of its main supports.
The first problem to arise after the more
or less universal acceptance of this theory, was the recognition that
while light was superficially a wave phenomena (a movement
propagating in a medium), similar to sound, the analogy didn't really
hold, so a lot of thought went into how to revisit the redshift
phenomena and appreciate it better. Unfortunately, while
many scientists feel certain older kinds of ideas ought to get dropped
away from any current point of view, some ideas seem quite unwilling to
be abandoned, so the Doppler analogy remains, even though contemporary
physics sometimes sees light as both particle and wave simultaneously
(depending on what questions you ask, and which experiments you do).
One of the newer theories as regards
redshift (moving away from the Doppler analogy) is that it is partially
a consequence of the temperature in the star. Another sees some
redshift phenomena as reflecting the influence of gravity wells.
I point this out only to suggest that
theories themselves are in constant motion (a kind of social Brownian
motion among different minds). I am not so much interested in the
current theory here, because it is my view that the resolution to the
fundamental question lies in a quite different direction.
Let us now leave redshift behind, and go
on to the idea parallax, which arose a few years before redshift
historically (1838, so it says on-line).
The basic idea of parallax is that it
enables us to measure (remember what was said above about measure) how
far a star (or other stellar phenomena) is from the Earth.
Basically this is done by coming up with an observational angle,
that can be measured on the Earth, and is made possible in large part
by the orbit of the Earth around the sun. Since I can't put in a
drawing here (the reader can go on-line if they desire) I'll try to do
this with words.
Place on the grass of a football field,
in your imagination, two poles. One pole is at the center of the
goal line, and the next at the center of the 10 yard line nearest that
goal line. Now go down to the goal line at the other end of
the field, and set up a transit (a device for taking the measure of an
angle of changes in a sight line). Move the transit
from one side of the field to the other, stopping every yard, and make
observations of the angle of observation between the two poles obtained
by viewing them from the moving transit.
As we do this the angle we are measuring
changes. This angle is widest at one side of the field, and then
contracts, until we are right opposite the two poles (at which
occurrence the near pole occults the other, or stands in front of it),
and then the angle expands again as we move toward the opposite side of
Now imagine such an activity taking place
with respect to the light phenomena of stellar objects. The
transit is actually the earth, which moves constantly, changing the
observational "angle" with respect to distant objects. As this
earth-transit moves, some of the distant objects seem to occult each
other, as if one was in front, and the other behind.
However, since these objects are so far
away (apparently), the angles that are measured are very very very
small (small fractions of seconds of degree of arc). One writer
suggested that if you took a quarter, and looked at it from a distance
of three miles, measuring the angle between a transit observation of
one side of the quarter, and then the other side - this picture
suggests how small an angle is actually being measured by this method
(parallax) with regard to the nearest star to the earth (for stars
believed to be further away, the "angle" is progressively smaller).
Using this data (the angle measurements
coupled with our knowledge of the diameter of the Earth's orbit) we can
use the basic rules of Euclidean geometry to determine the length of
the sides of the resultant triangle. This information (with a
couple of other geometric ideas rooted in measure) then gives what we
think to be the distance of the stellar object from the Earth.
Now since redshift is believed to tell us that most stellar objects are moving away
from us, these distances change over time, which then appears to give
us a kind of confirmation of the parallax. The problem is that
some of these observations came in conflict (an inconsistency between
redshift and parallax). One of the most obvious of these
was discovered by the astronomer Hal Arp, who as a result for a time
found himself to be seen as a heretic by his fellows, and was
temporarily shunned (couldn't get telescope time to continue his
research (see his book, Quasars,
Redshifts, and Controversies).
Basically what he observed (using
conventional astronomical ideas and methods), was that Quasars
(quasi-stellar objects), while they had a very high redshift
(suggesting they were traveling very fast away from us, and since they
were thought to have been doing this for some time - no changes in
rate of velocity and/or acceleration were assumed, they were also thought to be quite far away) the parallax measurement seemed to
imply they were much nearer. Quasars seemed to occult (get in
front of) much slower (less redshifted) stellar objects). The two
phenomena could not be reconciled. Were Quasars near or far?
I'll not go into what were the
conventional adjustments made (its all very complicated, and
unnecessarily so in my view) in order to preserve the basic set of
ideas of modern astronomy, but we can (with justification)simply step
past these ideas. Why?
Because fundamentally the problem is due
to the fact that phenomena of redshift and parallax is organized in
accord with Euclidean geometry and the need in science to measure.
In effect, at every point in the development of these ideas
(though scientific thinking and imagination), we exported to Cosmic
Space those conceptions that were true here in the center (the Earth),
and further, we assumed that these conditions were an invariable
For example, the distance we measure
using the idea of parallax can't actually be tested empirically.
In essence, we export from our Earth reality the concept of
Euclidean three-dimensional space to the apparently farthest reaches of
the starry world, but at the same time have no way of testing the set
of assumptions behind the activity of exportation of such an idea.
We can't go off to the side of the container in which all stars are held, and measure from another
quarter whether in fact the distance the parallax formulation gives us
For another example, we find the hydrogen
frequency line by a laboratory experiment here on the surface of the
Earth, and then assume that nothing of physics changes at cosmic
distances, and that the universe will obey the same laws way out there
that it obeys here. Under the influence of these assumptions we
export our earthly picture to cosmic spaces, something that really
isn't justified if science wishes to remain properly empirical.
All our observations are made on the
Earth or from near-earth space. It is really only in our mind
that we go outward toward cosmic space. If that is the
case, then we must be very very careful in how we let one thought grow
from the other. Clearly if there is an error in thought
(remember our arrow to the target analogy at the beginning of this
essay), then the further
out in space our imagination, of the picture
of the meaning of the data we collect here goes, the more a small error in our thought will produce
a quite large miss in our understanding of the truth.
While there were many small mistakes made
(such as the assumptions observed regarding the hydrogen line), there
is one single idea that saves the situation as it were. We set
aside Euclidean geometry and substitute for it Projective Geometry -
the fundamental geometry of which all other geometries (including
Euclidean) are a special case. Let us next then try to apply this
geometry to the image creation aspect of our thinking, because after
all it is the image we are making of cosmic space that is important.
It is the mind that travels to cosmic space, riding the ideas we
have created from the data only empirically observed here. We,
who live today, have traveled far down the historical path of one kind
of mind-created image, and now it is time to perhaps deconstruct it and
create something new.
Lets recall the older (or current) image first, namely of a three dimensional emptiness, filled with stars which are like our sun, some surrounded by planets like our planet. It is a powerful image. Science fiction, books and films, tell all kinds of tales. If one were to suggest that this might not be correct, most people would think you were crazy.
Return now to our earlier work in which
we expanded the radius line of the sphere to infinity and observed how
the sphere became a plane at infinity (or the reverse, where if we
contract the radius line the sphere disappears into a dimensionless
point). Also keep in mind that the geometric form never changes
its basic nature - it just transforms at the different
extremes (the infinitely large and the infinitely small radius aspect).
A lot of people should have some trouble
here, because they conceive of infinity as something much larger than
say the multiple light years of measure we have applied to the distance
between the Earth and the stellar objects. In this regard, lets
look at some apparent facts so far developed under the old methodology.
For example, the so-called nearest star,
Proxima Centuri is thought to be 4.2 light years away (its degree of
arc in parallax is .77233 seconds of arc - which is by the way the
largest degree of arc using parallax measures, for every more distant
object will have a smaller degree of arc). 4.2 light years (this
next is an amateur calculation) is 24 billion miles (that's
24,000,000,000, or 24 thousand million). The farthest
distance objects are high multiples of that. We'll return to this
a bit later.
Remember, we have exported an idea to
cosmic space which we can't empirically test. Science, tied to
the idea of counting and measure, has exported to cosmic space a
measure (huge light year distances), which idea can't be checked by any
other means. As a result, we are quite right to challenge this
exportation of measure to test whether it is a thought that is properly
rigorous. Since we cannot empirically test the assumed measure,
we are left with the quite definite necessity to even more carefully
and rigorously subject that idea to the tests of logic.
Here is a very important question.
If at the center of our infinitely small sphere, the point, there
is no actual space, once we have created any measure of radius distance
(a nanometer, for example), we now have three dimensional space, then
what happens at the infinite radius, when the sphere disappears and
becomes the plane at infinity? Is this transition as apparently
sudden as the one from the point to the very very small sphere?
If we actually think very carefully about
this we will notice (using our geometric imagination) that even the
transition to the very very small is not sudden. There is a lot
of work on theses themes in mathematics, and you can Google it by
starting with Zeno's paradoxes. In any event, at the
infinitely small end of the transition, from the sphere to the point,
itself is likewise smaller and smaller in
nature, while the transition from the very large sphere to the plane at
infinity must be, by virtue of laws of symmetry, larger and larger in
nature. Keep in mind we are thinking here of the transformational process, from one geometric state or form to another state or
The plane at infinity doesn't appear
suddenly out of nowhere, but as we approach it the nature of
three-dimensional space is slowly undergoing a metamorphosis.
Three-dimensional space is becoming plane-like in its
fundamental nature, but not all of a sudden. Space itself
is changing, and the rules of physics applicable to a purely
three-dimensional sphere (Earth conditions) will no longer, at these
extremely large distances, apply.
What are huge light year imagined
measures then (such as the 28 billion light years assumed for diameter
the visible universe - there being thought to exist a greater universe
we cannot yet see even with our instruments)? They are simply a
fantasy or myth, born in the assumptions of the scientific imagination.
Since we cannot conceive of anything as knowable scientifically,
without measure and counting, we presently are unable to conceive of
the universe without measure either. Again, an assumption that
causes the arrow to miss the mark. The question right here then
is whether the current limits of our imagination and thinking reflect
the actual limits of reality. Confined for a time in the limited
box of Euclidean Geometry, we stand on the cusp of transcending those
limits by applying the more universal Projective Geometry.
This should not surprise anyone, for we
already know that in particle physics, where the transition of matter
endowed space becomes infinitely small (remember the sphere collapsing
into the point - which has led us into all the paradoxes of quantum
physics) the conditions there are suggestive of all kinds of
alterations of the rules observed at a more (relatively) macro scale of
matter. At very small dimensions, the rules of physics change, so
why would we be surprised that at very large dimensions, the rules of
physics will also change.
In fact, in the wonderful movie Mind Walk, the character of the physicist describes matter as a
huge emptiness, punctuated with geometric points, where fields of force
intersect. In effect, there is nothing there at all in terms of
substance (or what we call matter) but this organism of intersections
of fields of force in various kinds of pure geometric points (no
space). No space at the infinite periphery, and no space in the
infinitesimal point. In between, the perfect geometric sphere
mediates between the greatest and the smallest. "Think on it: how the point
becomes a sphere and yet remains itself. Hast thou understood how
the infinite sphere may be only a point, and then come again, for then
the Infinite will shine forth for thee in the finite." Rudolf Steiner.
Now if this is true, then as macro cosmic
space becomes more plane-like and less like the normal physical
conditions of the Earth, we ought to be able to observe phenomena (just
as we do in the very smallest dimensions revealed by quantum
experiments) that reveal to us that this condition of space itself has altered. Space, being no longer three
dimensional at the plane at infinity, must become something else.
Before we believe this is a poor idea,
recall that already we have been taught about the so-called gravity wells (especially near such objects as our Sun). Many of
us have seen images, either on TV or in a page in a magazine, which
suggests that near a massive object, space itself is distorted. Light, we are told, traveling near this imagined
state of a gravity well, can't travel in a straight line. This is
thought to have been proved by Einstein's predictions regarding light
from Mercury as it passes toward us from the other side of the sun
(when Mercury's orbit causes it to hide (be occulted) behind the Sun.
Using the Reinmann geometry (a special case of projective
geometry) Einstein was able to calculate exactly the amount of the
bending of light by the gravity well our our Sun.
Since we already know how to imagine a distorted near space around a massive object like our Sun (recall
that Bruno thought our Sun and stars were of a similar nature) it is
not too great a leap to imagine a fully transformed space at the transition from the very large sphere to
the Plane at Infinity. In a sense, the image of gravity
wells is already a transformation of our ideas of space itself,
although not going so far as to free itself fully of the need to
measure. What I am suggesting is that we take our spacial
imagination faculty all the way, and also bring projective geometry
itself all the way into play as descriptive of the natural world.
Which is of course exactly what our
observations of light, and other phenomena of the stellar world, can
tells us if we let them. Once we overcome the one-sided Euclidean
geometry previously applied in parallax, and substitute Projective
Geometry principles, then all the anomalous problems of redshift are
The reason the hydrogen line is different
is because it (the light) originates in a kind of space which itself is different). A star isn't a sun
(unless we change our ideas of our near sun-space - going back to
Bruno, which is entirely justified but a whole other problem).
Those stellar objects with large redshift characteristics (such
as Quasars) are deeper (a presently necessary poor choice of words, for
it implies a continuation of three dimensions) within the transformed
plane-like space. In fact, if we make a picture only of the
redshift (disregarding Euclidean parallax) phenomena by itself (and
related other astronomical facts of stellar radiation phenomena), a new
kind of picture emerges.
Think for a moment on all the pictures we
have been graced with of the starry world from the Hubble telescope.
Everyone has seen these. Rich colors (actually
computer enhanced far too often, but that is a whole other problem).
Marvelous shapes and forms. Just looking at the redshift
characteristics we can make a picture of an object that is remarkably
active. It is not static or at rest in relationship to the Earth,
but dynamic. Its relationship to other stellar objects is more
fixed (perhaps musically harmonious, because there is a dance of such
objects - including our solar system - all based on the projected
geometric form of the vortex*), but the light phenomena, which our
instruments observe, suggests (since we observe this variation of
redshifts, x-ray stars etc) that stellar objects have dynamic
properties. The various kinds of radiation, pouring toward the
earth from the cosmic periphery, are not constant, but rather always
changing and dynamic.
*[A vortex is, in terms of projective
geometry, a dynamic form. That is, it is, in its actual nature, in
movement. A tornado funnel cloud is a vortex, and we see a vortex
every time we flush a toilet. A vortex is also a relative of the
cone of light, which is how we think of what light does when it enters
the eye through the lens. These cones of light are well described
in all their geometry properties by the rules of projective geometry;
and, a vortex is simply a dynamic (moving) cone-like form in nature.]
Many stellar objects are extremely
dramatic (x-ray and neutron stars, for example). Keep in mind
that these pictures are created by a thinking which has removed all qualities, remaining only in quantities. To better appreciate this lets make a little
Consider a flower garden in full late
summer bloom. Vivid colors, lots of insect life and birds dancing
and playing. For some almost violent growth (how fast does a sun
flower grow, on its way to a height of 12 to 14 feet in three months
time). Of course, to the gardener it makes no sense to disregard
the way such a garden makes us feel (its qualities), but if
astronomical thinking were applied to a flower garden, all that would
disappear. We'd end up with a bunch of numbers (how many, of
which kinds, what frequency of light were the colors, what was the
speed of growth etc. etc. etc.). Our actual experience of the garden is washed away by the process of limiting
our thinking only to the quantitative.
Now think (if you can remember) of a time
when you were deep in Nature, away from city lights, and lay on your
back in a meadow looking up at midnight at the night sky.
Thousands upon thousands of stars, and your mind naturally
saw everywhere patterns. Moreover, we feel awe. The
starry night touches something deep inside us, that can only respond
with marvel and wonder. We forget this living in our cities, and
we have also forgotten (and losing) even the ability to have such a
view because the atmosphere itself is so polluted that less and less of
the stellar light passes through it to our eye.
This is what we observe - what we experience. What we think - what is our mental image or picture - having been formed by modern astronomical ideas, is that this endless emptiness is filled with objects like our own planet and solar system. But now we are discovering in this essay the possibility that deep space is not three dimensional at all. Cosmic space is a peripheral plane of light, alive with dynamic processes creating what? What is this new kind of space, the plane at infinity, from which stellar light pours down upon the Earth?
Lets take a small side trip here, to
consider light itself. The book mentioned above, Catching
the Light: the
entwined history of light and mind, goes into
remarkable detail and history. Keeping our projective geometry
idea in mind, we might then make a relationship between the sphere that
has collapsed into a point, and what is now called light quanta or
photons. As mentioned above, these quanta exhibit all kinds of
properties that normally spacial (in a three dimensional sense) objects
For example, the world we see of trees
and clouds does not reveal the micro world of light quanta and the
other many strange particles known to modern high energy physics.
The scientist doesn't see much of this either, except with his
instruments and the image making powers of his mind.
We could say (from our more naive point
of view - which has a special validity) that it is as if light quanta
have stepped outside of time and space (this is one way of viewing what
the experiments with light show to us today through quantum physics).
To help here, let me add another idea from projective geometry.
We know in Euclidean geometry this
general rule: parallel lines never meet. In projective geometry
(of which, remember, Euclidean geometry is a special case) parallel
lines meet at infinity. To appreciate this better we need to
practice another imagination, for we can with our picture thinking
follow quite easily in thought the wonderful paradox expressed here.
Picture two parallel lines (I can do this here):
Now imagine the top line, in the center
of which is a point, rotating around that point. Picture, for
example, the top line crossing the bottom line at about a 45 degree
angle toward the left side of the page. As we rotate this line
further to the left, the angle of crossing gets smaller and smaller,
until at infinity it no longer crosses the line. Yet, if we keep
rotating the line in the same direction of rotation, as soon as it goes
the smallest possible distance further, the top line starts to cross
the bottom line at the farthest distance to the right.
When we couple this idea with our
appreciation of the plane at infinity, we can with our geometric
imagination feel (picturing it is hard, but logically we can feel this
is right - and all these ideas have been proved by those working with
the rules of projective geometry using algebraic formulas and
calculations) that these two lines, which could be seen as parallel
lines contained in a sphere, will at infinity arrive at the same point
on the plane at infinity, because as we saw before, when the radius
line of the sphere is infinite it is no longer a three-dimensional
space. The rounded sphere has become a plane, an all encompassing
plane to be sure, surrounding from the infinite periphery (the unseen
universe imagined by cosmologists) all that was at one time interior.
The surrounding geometric quality remains, but since space itself is transformed, it
accomplishes a kind of paradoxical miracle.
To travel to infinity in one direction
(in terms of the spherical three-dimensional nature of ordinary space)
means to return from the opposite direction, for once within the plane at infinity, the line that intersected the
ever flattening arc of the sphere is now simultaneously a point that is
everywhere. The point, in the center dimensionless, expands,
first becoming a growing measureless sphere until it ultimately
becomes a plane. Our geometric imagination never has to leave the
proper and logical train of geometrical thought. Once more: "Think on it: how the point
becomes a sphere and yet remains itself. Hast thou understood how
the infinite sphere may be only a point, and then come again, for then
the Infinite will shine forth for thee in the finite." Rudolf Steiner.
If we then appreciate that the night sky
is the plane at infinity, and that the measure we exported from our
earthly perspective is not valid out there in cosmic space, then the
light quanta, existing there outside of time and space, radiates toward
us from this cosmic periphery, only becoming space-bound when within three-dimensional space. At the
periphery, light quanta are not limited by the so-called speed of
light, but are everywhere at the same time, yet somehow differentiated,
for that is what we see, not just with the eye but with all our
instruments as well.
Light comes towards us from the stellar
reality. If that reality is not spacial in the sense that we
previously assumed (rooted in three-dimensionally matter based bodies
like suns and planets), then what is it? What can exist in
the transitional space in between a true three-dimensional sphere, and
the pure plane at infinity? If out there is not an empty space in which three dimensional
matter arises, what does arise there in that space that, like the
infinitesimally small, will not allow itself to conform to Earth-like
These are the questions that have to be faced if we apply projective geometry to the relationship between our Earth center, and the peripheral plane at infinity. If we look at the stellar phenomena, such as redshift, then what meaning can be attributed to that kind of existence which creates light that violates the rules we know at the Earth center?
Perhaps it would be better (disregarding
the word "deeper" above) to think of these objects as more filled with
Life. The plane at infinity, as transformed space, reveals a high level of dynamic properties in all its
light radiations. Could that dynamism be Life? Why could we
think that and remain within reason?
Something is happening out there that
comes here. Light is created out there and comes here. Our
science has made all kinds of pictures for us of what is happening out
there, yet these pictures are not empirical, but entirely theoretical.
Moreover, they are entirely material and assume that the laws of
physics at cosmic distances will be the same as they are on the Earth,
which already we have noticed is not justified for the very very small.
If we work from the idea of the plane at
infinity first (for which projective geometry grants us every right),
then we might ask whether or not space
itself is created out there. We see the
light coming toward us from the cosmos, and we notice its dynamic
properties (all the various intensities of redshift, among others -
Quasars, neutron stars etc). If we discard measure (which
projective geometry doesn't need), then the plane at infinity, with its
inward radiating light is perhaps creating space itself, not from a
point center (such as the Big Bang), but from the cosmic periphery.
The plane at infinity (transcendent of
matter oriented three dimensionality) creates three dimensional space and time, by radiating light
inwardly from the cosmic periphery. Redshift is not old light
receding, but its opposite - new light becoming space and time.
This is exactly the idea of a student of Rudolf Steiner's, George
Adams Kaufmann, in his 1933 essay on cosmic theory (rooted in
projective geometry): Space and
the Light of Creation, which essay's first
chapter is Radiation
Space (the second chapter is The Music of Number, and the third and last chapter is The Burden of Earth and the
Sacrifice of Warmth).
What kind of power could create Space
itself? Our point centered assumptions, working from only
quantities, have only been able to think of a spiritless matter filled
Universe, born in a Big Bang. Certainly, working inwardly from
the cosmic periphery (the plane at infinity) which the new geometry
gives us every right to do, what is that which can be out there that rays inwardly the creation of Space itself?
"...and in it was life and the life was the light of the
world..." The power
(fiat lux - let there be light) surrounding the Universe, is Life, and
the Life creates the Light, and the Light rays inwardly creating Space
and Time, in the center of which the Earth of living matter and
substance arises, itself a narrow spherical band, for Earth life is
only on the surface - go too deep and it is fire and there is no life,
go too high and it is airless and again no life.
From the plane at infinity, through the
inward plane-ward sculpted spheres of light, resting for a moment at
the Earth periphery, where humanity unfolds its evolution, then
eventually still collapsing to smaller and smaller spheres, ultimately
disappearing into pure point centered geometric intersections of fields
of force and the mysterious light quanta we discover in our laboratory
experiments in quantum physics. But is it light quanta that
is born first in the cosmic periphery, and then flies inward ultimately
dying into very very tiny points from out which are built living matter
Should not, according to the laws of
symmetry so essential to projective geometry, there be both a
similarity and a difference between the infinitely large and the
infinitesimally small? If life is created at the cosmic
periphery, does it die into the very very small, only to be reborn
instantaneously once more in the cosmic periphery? Recall
our imaginative experiment with the parallel lines. If time and
space rules don't apply to light quanta (photons), this will be true
both at their point of first appearance and then again at their point
Yet, something not quite right here.
The measureless sphere exists in between the infinitely large and
the infinitesimally small. Appearance and disappearance are the
same process in a way. Here again is Rudolf Steiner: "Think on it: how the point
becomes a sphere and yet remains itself. Hast thou understood how
the infinite sphere may be only a point, and then come again, for then
the Infinite will shine forth for thee in the finite."
Created out of the uncreated and
formless, generating space and time, falling then inward toward the
center from the periphery until collapsing into the nothingness once
more of timeless and space-less point centers, before returning
instantaneously again to the cosmic infinite plane of life.
And, the simultaneously opposite:
Arising out of the uncreated and formless nature of the
mysterious light quanta, radiating outward from an infinite number of
point centers, spreading out toward the cosmic periphery, there to
disappear into the remarkable spaceless and timeless plane at infinity.
A mystery aptly caught in the image of a
mobile imagination of the gesture in space that creates the form we
know as the lemniscate.
Moreover, of all the mysterious facts
quantum mechanics has discovered, it seems that it is the mind itself
that determines the nature of the collapse from potential becoming
(probability) into manifestation. Consciousness is crucial.
Without consciousness there is no manifestation, only
probability. Could not a Larger more Infinite Consciousness
exist at the Periphery, where time and space themselves are first
manifested? Then too, if the Great Mind can do that, what then is
involved in the small mind, when it thinks and acts so as to unfold its
own creative imagination and exact picture formation in learning of and
practicing the measureless beauty of projective geometry?
Beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and God was what
the Word was. It was with God in the Beginning. All things
happened through it, and not one thing that happened happened without
out it. In it was life, and the life was the light of the
So Christ advises us to pray: "Our Father in the skies..."
*translation from the Greek of a part of
the prologue to the John Gospel, from the book, The
Unvarnished Gospels by Andy Gaus.
Of course, currently Natural Science
hasn't the capacity to appreciate such a change in their understanding
of the Cosmos. But this book isn't written for scientists, its
written for those Christians, who might like to have a sense that one
can still be deeply religious and not abandon the rational.
What we have done, by the way, is look at
the image building processes of the fine minds at work in natural
science, which have created a kind of myth regarding the stellar world
- a myth quite different from that held by more ancient minds in ages
long ago. We have not returned to those ancient myths so much, as
taken up, out of the advancing progress of natural science itself, a
particular discipline (projective geometry, or all geometry), and
applied it to move past the current astronomical myth to what perhaps
might well be the kind of truth the physicist pursues when he chases
his holy grail of the so-called: Theory of Everything.
Most versions of the Theory of Everything
rely on highly abstract mathematical complexities - a kind of
near-secret symbolic language only useful to the priests of Natural
Science. Would it be possible to construct a Theory of Everything
using ordinary language? Can the symbols of words on a page and
simple concepts, understandable by ordinary consciousness, produce a
better Theory of Everything? May it not be necessary in fact to
reintroduce qualities and mix those with quantities, if we are actually
going to have a true Theory of Everything? Doesn't such a Theory not only have to explain
consciousness, but our form of consciousness - why we live in the world
in between the very very large and the very very small?
We have constructed this essay in a way
that makes it possible for the naive consciousness to behold in their
own minds something that so far has been presented to the world as a
secret mystery only knowable to the mathematical adepts of the religion
of natural science.
We live in a time when there are to be no
more priests, of the religious or the scientific kind. No more
claims that the ordinary and naive mind has to be dependent on another
for their understanding of the world and of the universe.
The Universe wants to be known, just as we want to be known. "You see, for now we look as if in a mirror, shrouded in mystery; but then we will see face to face. Now I partly discern; but then I will perceive the same way that I was perceived all along. And so we will have faith, hope and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love."*
*[Andy Gaus, Unvarnished
Testament - end of chapter 13, of St.
Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians.]
- many questions remain -
No reader should consider that the above
has exhausted all the remarkable possibilities of projective geometry
in advancing our understanding of the Nature World as it appears to
both our senses and our scientific instruments. All I have
really done is try bring to light aspects of thinking and
the imagination that many don't yet appreciate.
Nor is the above perfect by any means,
for it is clearly the work of an amateur. That fact, however,
should not stop us from going onward and asking all the many questions
that still need to be asked.
For example, does the plane at infinity
collapse into one point, or into all points? We can think of the
very smallest, as we observe them in the local conditions of the earth
in our laboratory experiments, as a very huge number of such point
centers. All matter and substance seems to be built up out of
light quanta, and other oddly named particles.
Now a plane, which has no measure, is
infinite in all directions. It can also be constructed,
under the well known rules of projective geometry, of points.
There is, in this geometry, a plane of points, a plane of
lines, a point of lines, a point of planes, and a line of points and a
line of planes. If we recognize that the Plane at Infinity is
made up of all possible points, then what keeps it from radiating
toward our Earth-Center that which becomes all the many point centers
from which matter and substance arise. Once there, in this
infinite number of point centers, that which has first radiated inward,
returns once more to the periphery. This our geometric
imagination can experience.
A deep study of projective geometry
reveals several kinds of processes which arise according to the basic
relationships of plane, line and point; or, the source or origin of
light (the plane at infinity), light becoming space and time (radiation
of space) and light dying into the source once more through its
collapse into the infinite number of point centers quantum physics
discovers. To this we add the process of that which radiates out
from point centers towards the periphery. In the light of understanding this, we can come to quite new conceptions of how
crystals grow, and what is happening at the growing point of a plant.
Such work has been done, in fact, by the Goethean Scientists
pointed out in the above essays.
In addition to these questions then we
are right to ask another: what is the nature of the space
occupied by the imagination
itself? We know this exists, and not
only that it exists, but that we create it. We consciously create imaginative space
ourselves. What are we that we can do something that has such
kinship with the space and time creating activity of the Mystery at the
Plane at Infinity?
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." Albert Einstein [emphasis added, ed.]
- healing materialism -
The human being possesses a remarkable
power in that he (or she) is able to make images and share them with
others. Meaning streams from one to another upon this product of the
picture-thinking imagination. We are taught science out of this
image creation capacity. We tell the wonderful stories of our
ancestors out of this same image creation capacity. What we
frequently don't do well, is find a way to be scientific about this
image creating capacity itself.
Of all the scientific disciplines that
will enhance this image building capacity, in a logically rigorous
fashion, it is the discipline of projective geometry (as taught by such
as Whicher above) that will be the most fruitful. At the
same time, the human being is more than rationality - much more.
That human culture produces art and
religion, as well as science, ought to give us a significant clue.
Whicher's book takes account of this, to a degree, by
including a number of pictures of art, including religious art.
What is less appreciated is the role of human intention, of human
will, in all this (the will is the point center of the
same consciousness which the quantum physicist recognizes is needed for
the potential to collapse into the real).
At the end of the main body of the essay
above, I tried to remind the reader that we are part of reality.
Quantum mechanics has seen this, for the potential of quantum
events only collapses into actual space and time when our consciousness
participates. The genius of Owen Barfield discusses participation in detail, in his book Saving the
Appearances: a study in idolatry.
In this book, through a wonderful
examination of what the deeper study of human languages can reveal,
Barfield shows us how there is an evolution of consciousness, to go along side the physical evolution so far
discovered. For Barfield, the quite ancient times could be
participation. This was a time when the
human consciousness was instinctively one with reality, thus giving
birth to all the ancient myths.
This original participation eventually
faded away, giving us an intermediate state, called by Barfield (and
others): the on-looker
separation. Humanity is pushed
out of the condition of original participation by the Gods themselves,
so that we can by this independence learn to experience our freedom and
our ego (self) consciousness. The on-looker separation is
itself marked by special changes in language, in art and also gives
rise to natural science. It is as on-lookers (forgetting
our role as thinking observers) that we build the images of the natural
world, both earthly and cosmic, as only matter and never spirit.
But the natural world will not submit for long to that false view, and so quantum mechanics finds that it must reinsert human consciousness into its concepts of the basic physics of the world. With this now well established basic scientific knowledge, to which we can add the discipline of projective geometry (especially with its understanding of visual cones of light), the path is laid out of science itself toward what Barfield called then: final participation.
Quantum mechanics tells us that our
consciousness is needed for the potential to be able to collapse into the real.
Geometry tells us not just rules about the light cone
of physical space, but as well the light cone of internal imaginative
space. Rudolf Steiner's introspective science (outlined in A Theory
of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception and The
Philosophy of Freedom) shows us how to
experience the world of image building (organic form) and concept
creation (pure thinking) in a fully mature participatory way.
At the same time, I don't participate
solely as a rational being, but as a being to whom art and the sacred
have meaning. If I add these dimensions of my being to my imaging
building and conceptual formulations, what kind of picture of the world
will I paint? Given this question, I will end with a couple of
stories as a kind of demonstration.
In the mid-seventies I was traveling with
some friends in Northern California. We were a group of adults
and children, and during the day a few of the adults were designated
camp-parents, while the others were free to wander farther.
Thus I found myself, on the evening of the Summer Solstice,
sitting on a beach in Northern California watching the Sun set over the
As the Sun set, the sky slowly grew
darker and stars slowly appeared. This is what I observed
as I continued to watch the horizon where the Sun had set.
Together, as a group, at the precisely same arc of the edge
of the ocean, there appeared three stars in a somewhat vertical line.
The Sun goes down, and soon thereafter where it went down a
vertical line of three stars appears.
Now the reader should realize that I was
at that time quite convinced of the spiritual reality of things, out of
my own direct experience. As a consequence, when I observed
our natural world I perceived it as a teaching. For example, we can observe that of all the many
inorganic and organic beings that appear in visual space, there are a
variety of forms. Of this variety of forms, only one form,
one shape, has hands that have been so creatively freed by our ability
to be able to stand upright.
Moreover, this human
being changes his living environment in profound ways. We act
upon the creation, as if it was within us that the creative power
itself was slowly incarnating. To my thinking then, there existed
a kind of dialog between the world of the senses and my own inner being
(the teaching). Here I was on a beach watching the Sun,
itself a very special form (we receive light and heat from it that are
necessary for life - without the Sun we do not live). As this
form set on the Summer Solstice, the first stars to appear (the night teachers), were three.
This then is what the teaching sang to me
on that beach: one becomes three. So the Mystery of the Trinity
was written right there in the most simple events of the world of the
senses. One becomes Three.
The ambient light became slightly dimmer,
and not too soon thereafter, above the three was four, in the shape of
a kind of box, standing on one of its corners above the last star of
the three. The One becomes Three and then Four is added to become
Seven. Those who know what is sometimes called the occult
significance of Numbers will recognize here all manner of analogies,
about which nothing more need be said. (for the more traditionally
fixed of mind, the Sun set and in the order described, the
constellation of the Great Bear emerged, standing on its tail above the
same place on the horizon the Sun had set on the night of that
particular Summer Solstice - yet this constellation did not
appear all at once, but in a very definite sequence as the day light
faded and the night lights manifested themselves).
In this way I was initiated more deeply
into the Mystery of the Night Teachers, and while I wished my life
would have allowed me to study over many decades this teaching by which
we noted not just the starry sky, but when and in what order the stars emerged, I did then realize that those who
observed from such as Stonehenge saw a world of wonder we have still
yet to fully appreciate.
One more similar picture. If the
shape of the sense world is from a Creator, and this Creator is such
profound Mystery that we have hardly yet begun to appreciate all the He
has done and is doing, should we be surprised by the manner and depth
of the teaching that awaits us both within and without?
Consider, sunrise and sunset. Something that
happens all over the world everyday, and has done so for eons.
If we, as an aspect of final participation, re-ensoul the world of the senses with being and consciousness, might we not then begin to see that when the Sun sets, when the shape representing (in its speaking-teaching) the Highest of the Mystery, recedes from our sight, at that moment the stars, one by one and then in groups, slowly emerge, slowly appear in the dark and by their order of appearing and by the shapes and forms they thereby render, they can be seen as singing praises to this Highest. He sets, and they rise and sing.
Then the night ends, the regular
night-singing has passed, and as the Sun begins to once more return to
shed Its light and warmth and life on humankind, the stars recede, and
kneeling down, in groups and then one by one, they give way to that
which they honor above all else. Yet, this is not all.
For the shape of time and space, of stars
and suns and the world of humankind, is also teaching. We are there too, and what are we, we human
beings, that the Highest and all the Angels look down upon us -
surround us and gift us with such Love we hardly appreciate it.
Not just that but more, for we are not only looked down upon from
Above, but we are also carried through cosmic space by the Earth -
Father Sky and Mother Earth - as the world's oldest peoples and
cultures well know.
The dark moist earth is the Mother, from
which all that grows and nourishes flows. The waters that give
life, the very air we need to breath. There in the center
of all, looked down upon by Father Sky, upheld and nourished in the
Womb of Mother Earth, sits the human being, the upright shape with the
hands and the creative and curious mind. That is the real
question of final participation: Who
recent news concerning Red Shift
Sept. 12, 2008
Port Angeles, Wa. This week, dozens of leading astronomers,
researchers and other scientists from around the globe met for a
Cosmology conference. The conference provided eight panels composed
of experts in every facet of cosmology including the reality of
expansion, quasars, dark matter, dark energy, “black holes”, and the
true nature of the microwave radiation from space. One astronomer made
his presentation live from Germany using video-link technology.
Organizer Tom Van Flandern said “This was a thrilling
success. We heard and discussed three new mechanisms explaining
redshift and a new equation modifying our understanding of gravity. If
any of the redshift proposals passes experimental tests that would mean
we do not have an expanding Universe; that the Big Bang theory would be
without its strongest foundation.
Physicist John Hartnett from the University of Western
Australia said “it’s amusing that our conference occurred just as they
fire up the Hadron Collider in Europe. Most of our presenters showed
the deep problems with the Big Bang while a 40 billion dollar project
starts up to trying to find an elusive particle to keep the Big Bang
story from collapsing.”
Redshift in the light from galaxies led to the belief that
the universe is expanding, and this belief has persisted for 80 years.
But modern observational evidence, especially from NASA European Space
Agency space telescopes and satellites, has clouded the picture and
raised many doubts. In 2004, an open letter was published in New Scientist magazine, and has since been
signed by over 500 endorsers. It begins: “The big bang today relies on
a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never
observed-- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most
prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction
between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the
big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual
recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging
the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise
serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory.” (http://cosmologystatement.org)
From the many lines of evidence presented at the conference, It now appears that those concerns were justified. Presenters also outlined the principles that a good cosmology should be based on. Chief among them is that it should not require a series of miracles to remain viable.
the Natural Christian
the world is full of people whose heart
is Christian through and through, but who
cannot, with good justification, grant themselves
for that name has been stolen by others
this is for them
part one: how may we describe the consciousness of an ordinary human being, in ordinary terms?
part two: what does Science Believe it Knows about Consciousness?
part three: ordinary consciousness studies itself.
part four: Is Science Limited to its Present Methods of Investigation?
part five: the psychology of the moral life of a natural Christian.
part six: the relationship of Natural Science to Thinking.
part seven: the relationship of the natural Christian to thinking.
part eight: culmination and integration: becoming scientific about our own consciousness and self-consciousness.
part nine: arguments with God; a personal view, offered ...
addendum: BICYCLES - a Children's
Christmas Story, which is also for Adults -
- introduction -
First ... I can't answer all questions
here, but I'll try to point out some things that might be helpful to
people, especially those who say something like: well, I'm not religious, but
I am spiritual.
What I have in mind here, by the idea of
a Natural Christian, could even include Sam Harris, the author of the End of
Faith, who believes himself to be more of a
atheist, than a religious person. The God he finds
described in most religious texts (especially as interpreted and
practiced by modern individuals who consider themselves to be believers
of Christian Faith) seems to him to be completely irrational. I
think Harris is quite justified in this view.
The practice of religion, by many who
name themselves Christians, is often irrational, and what is often
worse - even more often hypocritical. This is not to suggest, by
the way, that anyone who calls themselves Christian is of this
tendency. The reality is more difficult to apprehend and come to
terms with. Which is why this essay is being written - to
help anyone who stumbles upon it to perhaps orient their own nature and
life with greater surety of purpose.
One of the peculiarities of the present
time, especially with connection to those organized religious
institutions that call themselves Christian, is that while there are
many who have beliefs, few actually practice the teachings. To
actually follow the teachings of Christ, as most anyone who bothers to
read the Gospels knows, is rather difficult. A lot is asked
As a consequence of this difficulty,
Christianity has become today mostly a system of beliefs, with
different institutions espousing radically different points of view,
from the Roman Catholic Church to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints (the Mormons). Holding beliefs is a lot easier than
following those oh so difficult teachings. Not to say there
weren't a lot of people who tried to follow the teachings, it just that
a lot of them got killed for heresy* by the Roman Church, or if they
agreed (submitted) to correct institutional doctrine, had to end up
living in domiciles for the members of Religious Orders (Franciscans,
*See the essay the Transcendentalist Impulse
and Heretical Christianity, included
with this essay in the book: New Wine.]
Since most systems of belief became rigid
(rules and doctrines and dogmas), one could ask whether this had any
value at all. This question really has significance when
one considers the meaning of Faith in the psychology of a human being.
In the prologue to the Gospel of John, we find these lines: "...There was a man sent from
God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness
to the light, that all might believe through him. He was
not the light, but came to bear witness to the light."
Even Christ understood this: "Blessed are those who have
not seen and yet have believed."
Most religions make a great deal of the idea of Faith, but
perhaps get confused when they insist that it has to be Faith in their
version or system of beliefs. Even Harris, mentioned above,
called his book, the End of
Faith, but if you read him carefully, he is
actually highly critical of beliefs. We could say that
people today don't understand the distinction, or the importance given
to all this by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: "And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Faith is as much an act of trust in the Divine
Mystery, as it is anything else. To equate Faith, however, with a
system of beliefs, is to mistake the superficial (beliefs) with the
depths of religious practice (Faith).
Why can I say: that people today don't
It is mostly a question of the difference
between reading about something in a book, and learning to actually do
it - to practice it. Obviously we can recognize that a
person who reads all kinds of books about the martial arts, knows a
great deal less than a person who has become a master of their
practice. The same is true in religion. Reading about
religion in a book, and actually practicing it for a lifetime, are two
very different things.
Someone who goes to Church on Sunday and
prays the Lord's Prayer in public (as most Christian Churches do)
doesn't understand the first thing about the Sermon on the Mount, which
very clearly says to say the Our Father in secret. Out loud and
in secret. To actually follow Christ's instructions (say, for
example, about the mote and the beam in the Sermon on the Mount) leads
to experiences, the same way the practice of martial arts leads to experience.
No pain, no gain is the modern cliche.
Same is true in religion. Its easy to have a belief
system. Its comforting. It doesn't ask too much. You
hang out with a bunch of folks who all believe the same thing.
Sort of like a club. Thing is Christ didn't say
join a club. In fact He said kind of the opposite: He who loves father or mother
more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more
that me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and
follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose
it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who
receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent
Then, of course, there's the example.
You know the one. Preaching what was essentially a bunch of
ideas contrary not only to the dominant local religion of the
time (according to the Hebrew Priesthood), but also all kinds of social
ideas not exactly in accord with how Rome conducted its political
business. We know not to talk at dinner about religion and
politics. Christ didn't seem to know that one. He
thought the truth was more important. Then they killed him.
Afterwards - well in the beginning
anyway, there were a lot of people running around telling the good
news, telling the story. Churches were founded (of a sort).
Women were often leaders. The story didn't agree with
the beliefs of the Hebrew religion. Disciples were martyred, both
for religious reasons and political. People, ordinary
people, liked the story. It was impressive. The
Disciples were impressive. The Romans were often jerks or thugs
and the Hebrew priests often hypocrites.
Then comes Emperor Constantine, who
unites the declining Roman Empire with some of the bishops of the emerging Christian Church.
Institutional politics and institutional religion make for good
authoritarian bed partners, and the teachings of Christ starts (had
already started, but here it gets serious) getting re-interpreted.
For example, the Gospels, in the original Greek, don't have
the word sin (the Greek word means missing the mark, or making an
error). Where Christ (again in the Greek) says you are to
love God with all your mind and all your heart and all your spirit, the Roman Church drops the idea of an immortal spirit,
and substitutes the idea of the soul (you are to love your God with all
your heart and all your mind and all your soul).
only that, but the New Testament gets organized,
leaving out a whole bunch of books that talk about things like Gnosis
(how to have direct experience of the Divine Mystery), as well as
Faith. I could go on.
Periodically certain personalities try to
refocus on what Christ actually said and did, and that maybe we should
be worried about living the way he taught, and no so worried about
whether our system of ideas is officially approved by the head guy (and
his cohorts) in Rome (or other places). The so-called Christian
religion slowly more an more loses its connection with what Christ
actually taught. Yet...
These moral ideas have become part of the
general cultural background of Western Civilization. When science
arises, those who want the truth instead of doctrine again become
martyrs to the truth, only this time to the truths of science, which in
the beginning was just another heresy to the Roman Church.
Are you getting the picture yet?
Now not everyone in an organized Church is a fool, or stupid. Many scientists are quite religious, in all kinds of ways. Kepler was an astrologer. Newton was an alchemist. Faraday was a deeply religious Christian. Einstein, born a Jew, reacted to the probability theory in quantum mechanics by saying: that God doesn't play dice with the universe.
A lot of people get turned off to
organized religion, yet are very concerned about what they call ethics.
The belief systems are weird (as Sam Harris and others have
observed), but even the new atheists are inclined to ethics. Some
scientists are so convinced that people are often moral, that they try
to find a way to explain this using evolutionary psychology (which believes something got hardwired into the brain in evolution,
including moral behavior, which has to have a survival utility, or so
it is often assumed).
If we look at what people do, and not
just at what they believe, we often find that many people struggle to
do the right thing. While some find the idea of the right
thing as an aspect of their religious beliefs, many others want to
decide for themselves what is right to do. Fundamentalists speak
of moral relativism, and find evil where their particular
interpretation of morality is violated (mostly biblical - that is in a
so-called holy book, which as we know was very much edited by
institutions with other agendas). Even though warned about the
mote and the beam, preachers of absolute biblical moral truths
(e.g. all abortions are murder), still don't get it.
No practice, and all beliefs, is not
following Christ. You follow Christ, you get in trouble.
You join a comfortable club, you get to hate everyone that isn't
in it with you. Apocalyptic end times eschatology isn't Christ
based. Its human mistrust of the actual world, and a vain
delusion that only the true believer has it all right. The rest
of us can go to hell, literally.
So are there real Christians out there?
Of course, and many are in organized Churches. There's also
this other group. People with a personal ethic, that if you
trace the history of their particular ideals, you'll end up with the
influence of Christ's teachings on Western Civilization.
What's weird is that because the
institutional Churches made a primacy of belief (instead of practice),
the focus of modern critics has been on the irrationality of the ideas
in the beliefs. The Churches have leaned far too long on
rigid doctrines, and not having actually practiced the teachings of
Christ, don't have a clue where the real meat is. Where's the beef? said the lady in the commercial. In the
practice folks. Want to know the real meaning of what
Christ taught - follow the teachings.
In a sense there is a considerable
difference between a world view or a cosmology
(thus the arguments between creationists and neo-Darwinian
evolutionists) and the experiences provided by the practice. Our ideas and beliefs about the fundamental
questions of reality are one thing, while the religious life (the practices) are quite another. Modern
scientists are right to question (as they did 500 years ago when
natural philosophy first appeared), whether the world-pictures espoused
by the Roman Church (and other similar religious institutions) are
true. What is the truth about human origins is one question.
How do I be a moral person (should I so choose) is a
The truly odd thing, however, is that if
one really practices the teachings a new state of being arises.
In the cultural
East, this is seen as the pursuit of enlightenment. In the cultural West, the following of
the teachings of Christ will lead to a related state of being, but one
which is more appropriately called: initiation. The John Gospel, for example, is a description of
a path of initiation - a path leading to Gnosis or direct personal
experience of the Mystery (when we are practicing, that is being truly
moral, our life more and more takes on the following qualitative
washing the feet, the scourging, the crowing with thorns, the carrying
the cross, the crucifixion, the entombment, and the resurrection - that is, the true moral life becomes a Path or Way).
In the midst of these apparently
conflicting views over cosmology and the goals of the religious life,
there are the countless biographies of ordinary people, whether they
are living in the East or the West in the wider cultural frames of
reference. What does all this mean for them? Does
being a member of a church have anything at all to do with the moral
life of the individual heart?
Hopefully now the reader will appreciate
that there are many questions, some a bit strange, others quite down to
earth and practical. This essay (and booklet), the
Natural Christian, seeks to shed some light
on these questions. Hopefully this process will enlighten the
reader as well as initiate them into the deeper aspects of the true
Christian religious mysteries, without leaving behind the rational
nature of the human mind.
In order to proceed carefully, and
logically, it will be necessary to give some order to the themes to be
elaborated. This book then takes the course of trying (one
can always fail) to proceed by sticking to knowable facts as much as
possible, well all the while not forgetting that even though we may be
involved in very practical aspects of human psychology, we will also
have living in us fundamental questions due to our experience of the
teachings of natural science.
This then is the basic structure - to
alternate the subject matter of the chapters or parts. We will
start with psychology, of the sort everyone can appreciate, and then
move to the scientific riddles which so enchant us. Close
personal questions and wider questions of meaning and significance,
will then be elaborated in the different parts, in a kind of
To make this all a little more concrete,
consider the following:
We all know, in ourselves, that we have
something we call: mind. We think, and out
of our thinking we make decisions. Scientists study this,
as do psychologists. So one kind of question is very personal and
concerns our own understanding of our own inner life, or mind.
How do we operate our decision making process? Not just what
do we think (the content), but how do we think? Is there somewhere an operating
manual for the mind, and how do we make moral decisions with our own
mind and remain free? That would be the theme of the one sequence
The other sequence of parts would concern
the wider questions. Where does mind come from? What
is the relationship between consciousness and the physical brain?
Are we only matter, or are we also spirit? With
these many questions in mind, let us begin...
How may we describe the consciousness
of an ordinary human being,
in ordinary terms?
One of the interesting things life has
taught me is that quite often the simplest matters are the most
important. Not only that, it is frequently the case that the
simplest matters are subjects about which there is sometimes the
For example, there is sleeping and
waking. This, it would seem, is all very obvious, but hopefully
as we go forward in this first part, the reader will discover that
these obvious and simple matters, when carefully thought about, can be
When we are awake, that is conscious,
certain processes go on within our minds. When we sleep,
these process may or may not cease, but at the very least it is clear
that we are unaware of them. Certain kinds of injuries
cause unconsciousness. We can also faint from not eating
right, and then experience momentary unconsciousness.
So we know two quite different states.
Being awake and being unconscious. Yes, there are dreams,
but keep in mind that dreams have a number of odd characteristics.
In them we are aware, but of what. The world of
dreams is quite unlike the world we know when we are truly awake in the
When we are conscious in a normal way, we
are conscious of some object. We experience through the senses. We hear sounds, see
things, smell smells and so forth. We are also aware of inner
states - things others can't see. Our thoughts for example - no
one (apparently) sees/knows our thoughts, but us.
We are also aware of our self as a
subject. We are ourselves, and then there is the world that
is not us. So there is not only, when we are conscious, that
experience, but also that which experiences. Most of us call that which experiences our I.
We say: I saw the cat scratch the dog. Or, I
experienced a certain idea.
We also have feelings, which also tend to
be invisible, but sometimes these are so expressive that others can
read them in our face, or in our posture. Of someone we
know well, we could notice when they are angry or afraid. Other
times we need to speak of our feelings, for others to know of them.
In certain times of developing intimate
relationships, our anxiety over the possibilities will make us tongue
tied. We have thoughts and feelings of which we are conscious,
but we can't express them. Our language is full of such
descriptive phrases as tongue tied. If, to
continue the example, we have to hold in our anger we might say: I had to bite my tongue.
We could say that we have both an outside
(which others experience through their
senses) and an inside which only our I experiences. Thus the
wonderful phrases: you can't tell a book by its cover. Or, beauty is only skin deep.
waters run deep.
Now we all know these very simple things,
don't we. Our whole social life and a great deal of our language
takes account of these very simple observations. Where
things get interesting is when we try for more detail, especially when
we go for more detail about the experience of our inner world by our
Some of this is also embedded in our
language, although occasionally in odd kinds of ways. We have,
for example, the word insight. We can even
describe a person as insightful. We also speak
of some people as bright, or that someone had a bright idea. In a cartoon, when a character has a bright idea
the cartoon has a picture of a light bulb going off above the
person's head. Then there is the word enlightened.
We have another word: intuition. We also speak of gut feelings. Some people today, who a few decades ago would
have described themselves as a psychic, will now call themselves an intuitive. In a recent New Yorker magazine I just read there
is an article called: The Eureka
Hunt: why do good
ideas come to us when they do? (by Jonah
Of course we have such words as:
thinking, thoughts, ideas, concepts and so forth. Our inside is
rich, and somewhat mysterious, for while we have learned more and more
about the brain (see the next chapter), the scientists of consciousness
still have to confess that they do not know just quite how the material
brain produces this assumed subjective state known as consciousness,
much less why we have this sense of the I itself (self-consciousness). Oh, there are plenty of theories,
but real accurate scientific knowledge is hard to come by.
Now lets take the mystery all the way out
there, as far as it can go (perhaps), with this quote from Christ in
the Gospel of Luke: "The kingdom of God doesn't come with watching like a
hawk, and they won't say, Here it is, or There it is, because you know
what? the kingdom of God is inside you."
Gospels, by Andy Gaus. [emphasis
Of course, among scholars of the Gospels
(and the Bible in general) the version above is disputed (what isn't
disputed in the Bible?). Recall, however, from the introduction,
the difference I pointed toward with making a distinction between
systems of belief (which has to include any effort at interpretation), and what is learned by practice. If we read the
writings of the truly religious, as against the writings of the true
believers, what Christ says in Luke above makes a lot more sense.
Serious practitioners of Christ's teachings have experiences via their inside.
So that we may make one fundamental
question obvious: Do good ideas come from God? That would
be one reasonable question, although there are many many more.
This being the case, perhaps we should now move to a short
part more explicitly on science, since many readers will be somewhat
familiar with those ideas concerning these kinds of questions.
What does Science Believe
it Knows about Consciousness?
The first thing we have to recognize is
two general assumptions common to scientific thinking in this field of
interest. They are somewhat related.
1) The world only consists of physical
matter and all phenomena will be discovered to the based upon matter
2) The mind and consciousness are
products of the nervous system in the human being, particularly the
physical brain. (although no one presently has a satisfactory
explanation for how the physical brain produces consciousness, or
A lot of behavior is also thought to be
rooted in our evolutionary past. The general idea here is that
through processes of natural selection, various behaviors become hard
wired in the brain, or are the result of a similar process occurring at
the genetic level. Again, in these ideas science is consistent,
with the result that solely physical explanations are arrived at for
how and why we act as we do.
Some theorists even go so far to say that
self-consciousness (our sense of an I) is an illusion produced by
electro-chemical processes in the brain. We really don't have an
I according to this view, it is just a convenient illusion manufactured
by the brain for the purpose of ... well, here the explanations
(theories) get a bit fuzzy.
The article mentioned above (the Eureka
Hunt) describes some current research, and
certain aspects of the method used in that work are quite common today.
Various individuals are wired up to EEGs or put in MIR tubes (or
both at the same time), and then images (or other kinds of sense
experience) are shown to them, while the scientist records data on
which parts of the brain show greater activity when stimulated in this
way. In the essay in the New Yorker they showed their subjects
puzzles, and tried to map what happened in the brain when the subject
had a "aha!" moment when they solved the puzzle. Science has also
worked with people with various defects and injuries, where the brain
seems not to function normally (in part), and thus this data adds to
the total pictures created.
Basically all modern scientific research
into consciousness takes this same general path. Subjects are
studied and data accumulated. The scientist approaches the
subject through his own senses, stimulating the subject and measuring
electrical and other physical changes in the brain. There
are of course also purely psychological studies conducted
often in the form of interviews, but again the scientist comes to the experiment with a certain formal approach.
We need to keep in mind that research of this kind is held to certain standards (unless it is part of government black operations or similar secret and probably illegal corporate research); and, we also need to keep in mind that in most scientific disciplines funding is needed. A lot of research on the brain is also done by looking at the chemistry. The basic question here is what happens in the nerve cells at this level. The pharmaceutical industry supports, or itself carries out, a lot of this research, especially with regard to developing medications for what we call: mental illness. Multiple motives drive the nature of this research - it is not always purely done for the purposes of seeking the truth.
The totality of the work, legitimate and
otherwise, is extraordinary. Detailed maps of the brain have been
created. Left hemisphere, right hemisphere, spacial sense, motor
skills, language areas, what happens when we think, what happens when
we run - the terminology is almost endless.
Of course, the two assumptions mentioned
above are the overriding ideas determining everything else. The
very tricky problem of causality (what causes what) is not well
understood. For example:
"It is old hat to say that the brain is responsible for
mental activity. Such a claim may annoy the likes of Jerry Falwell or
the Ayatollah, but it is more or less the common
educated people in the twentieth century. Ever since the scientific
revolution, the guiding view of most scientists has been that knowledge
about the brain, its cells and its chemistry will explain mental
states. However, believing that the brain supports
behavior is the easy part: explaining how is quite another." (Mind Matters: How the Mind and Brain interact to
Create Our Conscious Lives, Michael S. Grazzanica Ph.D. pp 1, Houghton
Mifflin, Boston 1988). [Emphasis added]
and, from the same book:
"A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical
event in the brain can change a thought."*
*[pssst, Michael, I think you goofed
here. If a thought can change brain chemistry, what causes
the thought if not the I? Oh, yes well, don't actually know that
do you. We'll come back to this riddle later.]
Now this book quoted above is 20 years
old, but these problems remain unresolved today. 20 more
years of research into consciousness has not rescued natural science
from the mystery of how the brain produces consciousness and
self-consciousness. Of course as Grazzanica admits above, for the
working scientist this causal problem is resolved by a common assumption. Mind and brain are assumed to be one thing.
Perhaps the scientist has not yet asked
the right question, because his assumption stands in the way and blinds
There is one very very big peculiarity in
modern consciousness research. The dominant thinking (there are
tiny exceptions) assumes that the present nature of scientific method
will yield results, and further this thinking acts more or less as if
nobody ever studied consciousness before.
This last is a major paradox.
Human beings have always wondered about their minds, and
any look at the history of human thought, in the cultural West and the
cultural East, finds not just all kinds of philosophical examinations
of mind in great detail, but also rather elaborate disciplines where
the fundamental truth of mind is sought to be known through what are
essentially experiments (practices that teach).
There is a difference, however.
What the older mind sciences do is something quite radical
in relationship to modern consciousness studies. Mind, in these
disciplines, is studied from the inside, not from the outside. Those who lead
the consciousness studies in modern natural science look upon another
person as a subject to be studied. The more ancient (and
far wiser), and some modern disciplines, require of the subject that he
Know thyself said the Greeks. The Zen Master practices
meditation daily for hours. The Carmelite Nun prays for
hours every day. A serious student of Anthroposophy (a modern
Christ-oriented spiritual discipline) spends years thinking about
thinking. All study their inside, although the methods differ.
ordinary consciousness studies itself
Don't be shocked, we already do this.
Who is more curious about our self than us? If there is a
limit, it is a bit natural too. Most of us forget our adolescence
with all its "who
am I" questions, ambiguities and
uncertainties. We are, as we grow psychologically, inventing our self. We participate, as an I, in the construction of
our personality. If we can stand the pain of remembering this
time in our psychological development (adolescence), we can become
aware in detail just exactly how we constructed our personality - how
we created a kind of mask by which we lent to the world one image of
who we are, and kept private a great deal of the rest. There is a
lot that shapes this, of which I'll remind the reader soon, but lets
make this first point as clear as possible.
The natural or instinctive elements of
psychological growth run out of steam in our 20's. This is why so
many adult men and women seem to remain emotional children. To a
degree this is an artifact of culture. If our cultural
experiences don't teach us that we can continue to grow and
psychologically mature, we end up just letting the development of our
personality become fixed - become a set of habits.
Now culture itself grows and develops.
What we remember as the 1960's was (among much else) an
explosion of ideas whose essential common center (from multiple points
of view) was that we could continue to grow spiritually and/or
psychologically. We take up meditation. We go
to encounter groups. We join AA. We enter
therapy. The result is that there is a near endless list of
transformative processes in which people can be engaged today.
Many people do more than one.
Sometimes they'll do several at the same time, and other times
they will do them serially - one at a time, but still be always
involved in personal
growth. Those who didn't do this, would
often make fun of it. Stuck in their own post-adolescence stasis
they talked of the me generation, or new agers, or moral relativism, or
family values or culture wars - demonstrating all kinds of ways to
label the natural curiosity to become something more and something new,
possessed by others, as some kind of defect.
Many people are afraid of change, and
they seek others of a like taste and relationship to life. They
form different kinds of clubs, and these clubs often resist the natural
movement of culture and of human nature. Many of these
clubs sought to label themselves as Christian, or found in certain
Christian sects a warm safe home. At a psychological level what
they really were looking for was something fixed, just as their
personality was fixed. Some even went culturally backwards.
They tried to bring alive in the present something of the
past. The ambiguities of the 1960's frightened such people, and
they wanted the family to be just like their romantic idea (probably
taken from television) of family life in the 1950's or earlier.
Once you take such a view, which is at
its roots driven from fear of change, it becomes easy to use a text
like the Bible to provide justification for the need. So
our society itself devolves into factions - those moving forward, those
holding still and those trying to run backwards.
Underneath this are fundamental
questions, which some are willing to face as they mature, and which
others can only find comfort in relationship to, if they hold still and
get answers from the outside. They don't want to think and decide
their own beliefs, they want to be told what to believe.
Who am I? What am I? Why do I
exist? What do I believe? How do I find love?
How do I find comfort? How do I avoid pain?
How do I be moral?
These questions began for many in
adolescence as our own thinking woke up. We wanted, we
hungered, we were uncertain. It was so painful finding our self in the midst of all those hormonal changes and inner
psychological developments. Our parents wanted one thing
and our teachers another. So did our friends.
Everyone around us had an idea of who we were supposed to
be. But what about me - what did I want?
Everyone knows today that their High
School experience seriously sucked. It sucks even worse today,
since we live within a culture with a lot of aspects which are decaying
and dying. When I was an adolescent (the 1950's), the world
wasn't so sexualized or so full of drug temptations. I have
raised five children through adolescence now, and it always amazes me
what they have had to face - the older ones with less troubles of a
certain kind, the younger with issues I never could have imagined
possible. The miracle, however, is that they seem equipped to
handle these experiences. I would not be able to do what they do,
for they endure a much tougher adolescence (rite of passage to
Social change today is accelerated.
The structure of society is falling apart. In other places
in my work I write of this time being the end of Western Civilization.
Whether you buy that or not, I don't think many people
today think we live in simple times. Who we are is affected
by this social context. The context pushes more questions at us.
If we reflect on this we can see that there seem to be laws in
My self understanding is influenced by my cultural experience.
One of those simple things, that we know in such an obvious
way, is perhaps far more important a fact then we realize. We
will return to this later.
Is Science Limited to its
Present Methods of Investigation?
Lets move away from the direct study of
consciousness by science, and take a look at modern physics, in
particular quantum theory and mechanics. If one appreciates
how basic aspects of science advance, physics is generally the leading
edge. As a general observation we could say that it takes
sometimes as much as 30 or more years before a discipline, such as
microbiology for example, is able to integrate into its fundamental
ideas what the physicists have already learned.
One of the more interesting scientists to
look at this is the mathematician Roger Penrose. To call him a
mathematician is a bit lame in a way, but he is quite skilled at the
pure and abstract thinking of a leading mathematician. He
takes these skills and tries to integrate knowledge from other
disciplines. At the same time he is very open minded.
He is more interested in discovering the truth than he is a
proving a favorite theory can't be touched or changed.
For example, in his book The Emperor's New Mind he wrote (in 1989):
"It seems clear to me that the importance of aesthetic
criteria applies not only to the instantaneous judgments of
inspiration, but also to the much more frequent judgments we make all
the time in mathematical (or scientific work) Rigorous argument is
usually the last step! Before that, one has to make many guesses, and
for these, aesthetic convictions are enormously important..."
"...I cannot help feeling that, with mathematics the case
for believing in some kind of ethereal, eternal existence, at least for
the more profound mathematical concepts, is a good deal stronger..."
A very open mind indeed...
Following this early book, which was
rather popular, Penrose began to speculate that what goes on in the
brain, if connected to ideas about quantum states of matter, might
begin to explain consciousness. These were controversial themes,
but lets look a little at quantum theory to see what it says about
substance or matter, for after all the brain is matter and the
assumption of science is that consciousness arises from matter.
What is matter to modern physics?
If you've never run into these ideas, don' worry. However,
they are a bit strange if you are not familiar with them. All the
same we need to dip into the past a little bit, for a lot of ideas grow
out of earlier ideas.
For example, it used to be thought that
at the fundamental smallest level of matter there was a thing. An
object. Very tiny yes, but you could with instruments
perhaps see it. Some scientists even did (or thought they
did). But then the idea of fields came into play (Faraday). You know, like the
magnetic field that organizes a bunch of iron filings.
There is no tiny thing there, in the field. But
anything that enters the field is affected by it.
The next idea was that when we spoke of a
particle (like the kinds of particles that are smaller than atoms, and
from which atoms are made) this particle was a result of the
intersection of various fields. Where the fields intersected,
this point in space (which was not fixed, but moved) resisted being
penetrated. So while a rock, for example, seems very dense and
full of what it is made of, in reality it is mostly empty space
punctuated by intersections of fields of force. A
sub-atomic particle began to be more and more conceived of as no longer
a thing occupying space, but as a dynamic (moving and changing)
point center created by intersecting fields of force.
It gets worse.
Experiments with photons (split beam
experiments and the like) suggested some very odd ideas.
Indeterminacy theory emerges, and theorists decide you can't
predict anything at this level anymore. Its all
probabilities. (Thus Einstein's comment that God doesn't play
dice with the Universe - he couldn't believe these ideas). Not
only is matter mostly empty space (that is there is no there there),
but even worse, whatever it is, it only exists as a potential, as a
probability. It might be here, it might be there. It
definitely isn't yet. Something has to intervene before the
probability collapses into definiteness. For something to
actually be, and to have a there (mass
or being-ness and position
or there-ness) consciousness has to influence
Did he really write that?!?!?
Want your mind to start to fray at its edges? Google
"consciousness and quantum mechanics" and start trying to read that
stuff. Is this a problem? Not really. In my
view it is better understood as a limit.
Science has followed carefully the
examination of smaller and smaller conditions of matter until matter
disappeared, first into the interactions of fields of mysterious forces, and then finally into conditions of indeterminacy. Of potential. Of not yet. Of a
constant state of becoming, in which the I or self-consciousness of the experimenter was the final contributing factor. The fall
from potential into manifestation only arises when the experimenter
goes looking for either the being-ness (position) or the there-ness
(movement) of an object, which to his mind has none of those qualities* until he acts).
*[Physics, in spite of its efforts to
deal only with data that could be counted and measured, that is with
only quantities (but never qualities), has been unable to
fully abandon qualities (being-ness and there-ness). In spite of
generations of effort to eliminate the subjectivity of the observer as
well, physics has ended up discovering that this very subjectivity is
essential to maintain its present line of experiments. This
subject we'll take up in more detail later.]
One thing is certain, if you read what
these physics writers try to say about consciousness. They
don't know much about it. They mostly live in the same
assumptions as those scientists studying consciousness directly from
the outside - which is that at some point we must figure out how to
show consciousness emerging from the matter (which simultaneously
doesn't become determined without consciousness?). Did you get
At a fundamental level there is a huge
circular system of reasoning (a tautology) at the root intersections of
modern quantum physics and theories about how the brain produces
consciousness. We study the brain, but can't figure out how
it makes consciousness from matter. We study matter and observe
that it needs consciousness to become determined. Yet, of
consciousness itself we are very very ignorant.
We know consciousness directly, but we
never study what is right before us in our own minds. We study it
indirectly, using others as subjects, but avoid our own mind.
Perhaps there is a reason for that.
the psychology of the moral life
of a natural Christian
A main difficulty for those engaging in
the self study of their own mind is those nasty moral questions.
Right at the beginning of such a study we already know the own
dark within. That is, if we have what is called: a
conscience (some folks don't appear to have one). This fear
of facing the own shadow is what keeps many from being willing to look
This is partially why Alcoholics
Anonymous has the forces for true change it has. The Twelve
Steps help you take that journey of facing the dark inside.
Hitting bottom is a life experience that tends to wake
people up and confront them with a choice. Do I take my life
(particularly my inner life) in hand, or do I just continue to let it spiral
out of control, destroying all those I love in its wake. Those
are powerful moral questions, and the process of AA's Twelve Steps
walks you through this minefield in a very healthy way.
The fact is that AA is universally valid
as a Path, and need not be confined to just people with obvious
addictions and flaws. Everyone is flawed, everyone. A
lot of so-called Christians, for example, are addicted (selfishly in
love with and hooked on certain systems of belief, by which activity
many others are harmed). There could well be a recovery group for
former fake Christians. Lets look at the Twelve Steps a bit and
see if we can appreciate their deeper nature.
Twelve Steps, twelve Disciples, twelve
Signs of the Zodiac. One Sun in the Center, shedding light and
warmth on All.
From a certain point of view, the Twelve
Steps can be conceived of as three processes, through which the soul is
mastered (its dark and its light integrated - healed and made whole).
These three processes elevate the spirit for the mastery of the
soul. The self-consciousness (the spirit) becomes awake in the
consciousness (the soul). What was fallen in the soul is
redeemed, by the forces of the own I.
The first stage of this total process is surrender.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a
searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
The first part of surrender is directed
at our egotistical idea that we can, out of the present state of being
of our own I, rule our life of soul, in particular its shadow elements.
The second part of surrender is to recognize that something
other than our own I can help us. The third part of
surrender is to choose to include this other-ness consciously as a force within. The fourth part is
to surrender the I's defenses of its own dark truths about itself.
In a way the 4th Step and the 1st form a circle.
In the surrender phase (and keep in mind
people don't always get it the first time or the tenth time) we circle
around ourselves, trying to create a true attitude of surrender to the
truth. Admitted powerlessness, sought help from something
greater, let this something greater have more influence over our self
than our own egotism, and began the work of understanding that egotism
(too much I, not enough Thou) in brutally self-honest detail.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a
list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to
Having learned surrender, we now move
away from egotism toward the Thou, via the higher nature of our I.
In this process surrender becomes confession and
contrition. We include others - we confess to ourselves, to
another and to God as we understand him (maintaining our freedom to
think for ourselves). We ask for help. And, we get ready to
face our responsibilities. This is the central process, and
it takes us away from our self as the egotistic center of our life, and
involves us in community. Confession and contrition makes
us better social beings. AA is a social process - we don't
do it alone, but as part of something greater.
In a certain way this gesture of movement
away from self and toward community is the heart of the Twelve Steps.
It is clearly, to those who actually become able to experience
it, the hardest step of all, and the one most difficult to maintain.
We don't get perfect. We don't recover.
We continue to have a dark inside, as well as a light.
Yet, to help us maintain (continue one day at a time our
recovery), we have the process of the last four Steps.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to
carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all
The process of the last four Steps is:
practice leading to service. We need a daily practice, just
as a monk or nun, or meditating Zen student needs. One day at a
time, - but to do that we have a form as it were - a Way of Life. The beginner in AA is encourage to do 90
in 90, that is to make 90 meetings in 90 days. A lot of those
well into their recovery and able to help others go everyday. If
things get tough, you go more than once a day. If things
get really tough in the dark of the night, you call your confessor,
your sponsor and they will come and sit with you.
We don't have to be alone in our trials.
We redeem the past, and as there is
always more past as we walk into our future, and as we are in recovery
and not recovered, we will continue to screw up. We never
stop making amends, we just get used to being occasionally idiotic
(making mistakes and missteps) and learn how to deal with it.
So, three processes. Surrender. Confession and Contrition
(social acts as part of a community). Practice and Service. If you re-read the steps you will see that 4 and
5 together meditate between those two processes, while 8 and 9 also
mediate between those two processes.
Everyone has a Way, everyone.
We think of it as our routine. A prisoner has a
routine as does his jailer. The wonderful movie Groundhog
Day is a beautiful modern fable of what can
be done if we take the right attitude to the Day. This
movie understands that we do wake up everyday the same person, and that
there is no change or development (growth past the end of adolescence)
unless we use each given Day to move, one step at a time, forward on our Way.
the relationship of Natural Science
Recall Grazzanica above:
"A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical
event in the brain can change a thought."
We now need to explore more carefully the paradox observed here by a leading neurophysiologist, as that might illuminate the problem of causality in our thinking.
The scientist of consciousness studies
the brain by stimulating this physical organ in another human being
through the vehicle of the senses (although sometimes directly by
electrical stimulation of parts of the brain - a course of action I
find a bit reprehensible). This is done in part because of the
idea the scientist has about his own subjectivity. Scientific
method, with its experiments, seeks to overcome human subjectivity by
designing experiments that can be repeated and requiring that all
conclusions be open to argument and logical reasoning by peers in the
scientific community. In a sense, the scientist surrenders his
own subjectivity to the community activity of peer review, and through
this process hopes to discover objective truths.
The scientist's relationship to this
method is his belief system. He believes he will more and more
approximate the truth (he confesses a limit to his knowledge, when
forced to so confess).
The scientists in the Eureka experiments noted previously, stimulates the puzzle
solving ability of the brain (his assumption) and tries to measure in
which part of the brain there is increased measurable activity when the
puzzle is solved. The scientist's subjectivity asks something of
the subjectivity of the experimental subject. He
says (essentially): I am going to give you
a puzzle to solve, and then I am going to measure what
happens in your brain when you solve it.
Notice the pronouns above, which are essential in order to communicate his ideas about his experiment to the ego of the subject. The scientist makes a kind of appeal, from his I to the Thou of the subject: please cooperate with my experiment by helping me, through your trying your hardest to solve this puzzle. Even a scientist convinced (theoretically) that there is no self-consciousness never actually uses language in such a way, or probably even thinks in such a way. Ask yourself this: can he even think about his own brain or your brain, without a subjective pronoun? Nobody can do this. Nobody can form a thought that does not contain the subjective pronouns in some variation of I and Thou.
The activity of mind cannot think
discursively (more in a minute) and at the same time deny its own
subjective nature. There is no social speech without pronouns,
all of which parts of speech are rooted in the commonly shared obvious
truth of the existence of self-consciousness.
In a way it is impossible for the
self-consciousness of any thinker to deny that self-consciousness,
because once we become awake to this during our psychological
development, the existence of an independent self as against a world of
others is, as the Founders of the American Experiment said: self evident. "We hold these truths to be self
evident", they said.
At the same time, and during the same
period of history that gave birth to the American Experiment, natural
scientists recognized the existence of flaws in the subjectivity of the
human being, including themselves. All the arguments in which
they engaged are silly unless they are based on the recognition of the limits of human thinking in relationship to the discovery of
the truth. Out of this emerges scientific method, so that at
least there is a community of discipline (surrender, community and
practice) among seekers of the truth (scientists).
As we have seen so far, however,
consciousness and self-consciousness retain a degree of mystery, both
for the researcher on brain function and processes, and on the
researcher into the real nature of matter (of which the brain is
supposedly composed). Grazzanica above recognized the
fundamental paradox, for if the researcher asks of his subject that he
undertake certain kinds of inner activity, this thinking activity will produces measurable effects to the instruments
observing the brain. Different kinds of thoughts give rise to
effects in different parts of the brain. Memory in one place,
language in another, puzzle solving in a third and so on.
The subjectivity of the research subject
is often a necessary and needed participant in the experiment. It
is the subjectivity of the research subject that lets Grazzanica write:
"A thought can
change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can
change a thought."
In both this realm and the realm of
quantum experiments, the subjectivity - the self-consciousness - of someone present (the experimenter in
physics and the experimental subject in brain studies) is an essential
part. Also in both case thinking activity plays a role.
The experimenter must choose to seek either
knowledge of mass or position, thus bringing about by his intervention
in the experimental process, the collapse of potential into actuality.
While in the other case, the experimental subject must choose some inner activity (such as to solve a puzzle) in order
for the observer to have something to measure.
As we observed previously, the thinking
subject, even if they believe there is no self-consciousness, can't
actually engage in discursive thinking (the inner dialog we all
recognize as the first stage of conscious thought) without using
pronouns, which by their very nature have to be based in a conception
of the subjectivity of I and Thou. Some scientific thinkers as
noted above, will put forward their view that the I is an illusion of
the matter based material processes in the brain, while at the same
time be incapable of using language (either in thought or in speech and
writing) that is able to divorce itself from personal pronouns.
In fact, by asserting the ability of the
brain to create an illusion of self-consciousness (a fundamental
operation of the brain, apparently), they open all thought into
question, including their own. If self-consciousness is an
illusion, could not everything the scientist thinks be an illusion?
Perhaps there is here not an illusion, be
a delusion. In the face of illusion we are perhaps more passive,
but a delusion is more actively created. Why do some scientists
want to get ride of the self-evident fact of self-consciousness?
Why does it trouble them? Is it perhaps that they
instinctively recognize that self-consciousness (the presence of a real
subjectivity within the human being), suggests that something other
than matter is involved?
Recall once more Grazzanica's remarks: "A thought can change brain
chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought."
What causes the thought that changes the
brain chemistry? In this problem of causality, which is
everywhere present in many studies of brain activity (the subject has
to be a participating actor), the paradox of imagining that there is
only matter and no spirit more and more manifests itself.
The thinking of the scientist of the brain is running into
the same problem (but from a different direction) that the quantum
physicist did. The brain researcher can't figure out how matter
produces consciousness, and since a large part of his experimental
process includes him having to ask a subject for participating mental activity (puzzle solving for example), the researcher confronts
his own inconsistency. If it is only matter that makes a human
being, why does he need to require its cooperation? Would you ask
a rock to move and expect it to do so? A plant? Animals can
be trained (domesticated), but everyone knows the difference between
cats and dogs. The cat is indifferent to our commands, unless its
own instinctive self interest is involved. The dog lives for our
attention, and readily obeys (when so trained). We have the
wonderful expression noting how much some human beings are like cats.
We say: To get this group of people to cooperate is like trying
to herd cats.
the relationship of the natural
Christian to thinking
When we try to practice Our Way each Day
in Life, we run into moral and ethical dilemmas more or less
constantly. Some are very ordinary, such as if we are given
too much change at the store do we return the overpayment? Some
are potentially catastrophic, such as do I start an affair with my best
Further, we know we are inconsistent.
In one mood we are more generous and naturally ethical and more;
and, in another mood we are downright dangerous and propelled toward
risks almost without any control of our emotions at all by our I.
That inner dialog I have called discursive thinking (we talk
inside our own minds to ourselves - that is our self-consciousness
speaks into our consciousness) is often in forced flight, and seldom
calm and collected. Life-demands propel us through the day: wake
to the alarm, feed the children and get them to school, go to the job,
hassle with the boss, come home, argue with the spouse and on and on
So much seems out of our control,
especially in the present times of seemingly more and more social chaos
world-wide. It really is not surprising that some groups just
want to check out of the world, and form communities of zero change or
even try to enliven past social forms and realities. Other
individuals can't find a club, unless it is the club of checking out
into one kind of addiction or another. For some it is shopping,
for others overwork. Even madness beckons to a few - they
hide inside their own minds and become completely disconnected from
At the same time, everyone thinks or has
thoughts. Sometimes thoughts are intrusive and even illusory.
The whole field of mental health, and as well criminal
justice, deals with social and individual problems that manifest out of
something whose causal reality is within the own inside - the
consciousness we see that others do not.
We worry. We get depressed.
We get high, we use downers. We zone out on TV. We
escape into books or sex.
Yet, for most of us, there are a few
simple facts (remember those I talked about in the very beginning of
this little book) worthy of noting. Our thoughts have a content,
which we sometimes call ideas or concepts or mental pictures or
whatever. The activity of the self-consciousness produces a
mental or conceptual product via the discursive thinking. We know
these are our thoughts, and we often guard them quite carefully.
They are very personal, and rare is the other - the Thou - with
whom we will share.
Oh, we do have all kinds of glib chatter.
are you, how's your sister and so forth.
Most of the time we don't expect the truth, and often are
shocked if we get it. Actually screw you and I'm going crazy and I just killed
A lot of the content is culturally
produced. We suckle it in in childhood simply by learning
our native language. We are raised in families and churches
and schools, all of which try to forge our beliefs and the content of
our thoughts. As noted previously, in pre-adolescence and
adolescence proper we start to free our thoughts from these influences,
and sometimes can't do this until we leave home, and move far far away.
Our self-consciousness wants freedom in this most intimate aspect
of our consciousness - our thoughts. Don't we say: I'm entitled to my opinion!
At the same time, even as adults our
social environment often requires conformance of thoughts. The
work place, in spite of our being in a so-called country with free
speech, is not a place we can afford to speak freely.
Remember above where we noted the phrase: I had to bite my tongue. Spontaneous speech, while often a true
representation of our thoughts and feelings, just as often can get us
in a lot of trouble.
What happens when our boss (or a close
relative) requires of us an action we know (to our own view of things)
is not ethical or moral?
Now the point of this is not so much that
these obvious things go on all the time, but rather that they go on all
the time for all of us. Each individual human being, as a
thinker, is born into a world of concepts and values, from which they
may or may not emerge into some kind of personal or ethical/moral
freedom. What is especially odd, is how often we forget
that all of us have values, and ethical and moral rules that are
We easily become angered when someone
doesn't act like we would act. We know what is right to do, don't
we? Shouldn't they know this too?
We normally don't think carefully about
this particular fact, which is so important (see my little story Bicycles in the appendix) to understanding the world in which we
live. When we do, however, (and many do) there is a shift in our
relationship to other people. Usually we call this: tolerance.
We accept that others necessarily think differently, and in
our own thinking we find a way to live with this when we can.
Sam Harris's book The End of
Faith (noted at the beginning) makes a big
deal of this. He finds the tolerance of moderate Christians
of the irrationality of so-called extremist Christians, a worse moral
failure than the irrationality he describes. He doesn't tolerate
this, so why should they?
Mr. Harris, who is a natural scientist of
a sort, doesn't yet know what to do with human social facts he doesn't
like. He seems to believe that there are purely rational ethical
principles (in this he is not alone) that are so soundly reasoned that
everyone ought to agree. His difficulty is one typical to us all,
and which we noted above on our way to looking at the Twelve Steps.
We all have a dark inside, all of us.
If you pretend you don't, you'll make false assumptions, often
hypocritical ones. If Our Way doesn't include some confession of
the own dark inside, as well as the light, we will make missteps along
the Way. Christ in the Sermon on the Mount called it the problem
of the Mote and the Beam, and while a lot of these teachings are
present everywhere as ideas in Western Civilization, not all of them
are practiced. Remember: surrender, confession and
contrition in community and practice.
At the least, we should recognize that
while many of us are natural Christians, because we
have taken in certain fundamental values that are sourced out of
Christ's parables and teachings, we are not finished yet. Life
growth can stop or can go on, and this too is a moral or ethical choice
that belongs to our own freedom to decide.
There is a kind of a trick here, or
perhaps a puzzle that needs to be perceived and then worked with.
This puzzle is with our own thinking.
We think instinctively. That
is we don't generally think about thinking, or study our internal life
as a puzzle, we just do it. We swim in the sea of our mind,
not paying much attention at all to the content, mostly because life
makes so many demands we just don't have time to be reflective or
That a lot of people don't think the same
thoughts, we already know. That is pretty obvious. What is
less obvious (except perhaps to professional educators or others who
work with people intimately) is that not only is the content clearly different, but how
people think is sometimes also radically different. There
are a lot of different ways in which this has been observed, depending
on the context and the discipline making the observations.
It is most obvious to those teachers in
the field of special education, however. The ADHD student,
or the dyslexic student or the autistic student or the aspergers
student - all these children have a different how
of thinking. Artists tend to think differently as well. A
couple of examples: the emotional relationship to color is for one most
important, while for another it will be the tactile relationship - how
their medium of art feels to the sense of touch.
A lot of people end up in jobs where
their naturally different how of thinking finds a place.
A highly disciplined abstract thinker (who lives only in
conceptions, and hardly in their senses at all) might become a
mathematician. Someone who thinks with their limbs might
become a dancer. Someone who thinks with their hands might become
a carpenter, or other kind of craftsman.
If you walk through your own life, asking
this question: what
or way does this person think and feel that are different from my
own? - a whole other world within the social
environment will light up before your own thinking. In a way, you
are letting what you can observe about their outside (not just how they look but how they act and in what
kind of environment have they come to live), show you a way to see
deeper into their inside. With this kind of question (and its variations)
you will begin to understand (in practice) how to come awake to the
Mote and the Beam. It is our semi-conscious reaction to the outside that comes from the own Beam, while our self-conscious seeking
after the inside takes us much nearer the Mote.
culmination and integration:
becoming scientific about our own
consciousness and self-consciousness
Lets first look at something we passed by
above, namely our recognition that our life pushes our consciousness and self-consciousness all the time.
Life makes demands. Life is suffering is the first Noble
Truth of the Buddha. People get martyred on a cross of truth all
the time, sometimes not so obviously, but all the same, they get fired
from jobs and/or are left by a spouse.
The wise cliche is that god never gives us more than
we can handle, but a lot of people who check
out certainly don't seem to be handling life at all.
Wasn't there a Country and Western song
about giving someone an attitude adjustment? A
lot of us recognize the importance of attitude. When we form our personality we take on a costume
of attitude (or what an acquaintance of mine Catherine MacCoun, in
her book called On
Becoming an Alchemist called style.
has a style or attitude (a personality), that originates
in the self-consciousness (which some call our: immortal spirit).
These are all individual and unique in
their formation, but often imitative in the presentation. Right
from the start our personal biography pushes at us, and as we grow we
create this response: the attitude or style we present to the world.
We don't expose all, except in very significant personal
relationships, because we are taught by life that such exposure often
leads to pain (we get hurt).
Natural Science hardly talks at all about
this. Hard to quantify a hurt, or a style or an
attitude. When Natural Science did
approach this it first did so in the soft sciences (as against the hard
sciences such as physics or chemistry), such as psychology or history
or sociology. In recent years such disciplines as evolutionary
psychology have tried to imagine that they can think reasonably to the
roots of human behavior, inner and outer, by supposing some kind of
adaptive mechanism, sometimes getting all the way into the DNA.
The brain and the genetic code adapt
to evolutionary pressures (the pushes of life). A lot of
work wants to compare us to the higher mammals, and certainly we have
the idea of the human
That last phrase, while common in our
language, is a kind of very subtle oxymoron (a figure of speech
that combines into a more or less contradictory set of terms).
What's the point of the word human in that phrase: human animal? We often use the terms quite separately and
everyone understands in those uses the distinction. We also have
the variation: humane. Would we ever call an animal humane and have such a sentence mean anything?
Animals, for example, aren't moral.
They are instinctive. They don't create art or language.
We can project on them human qualities (and often do this to our
pets), but no one is every going to call a tiger in the wild humane. The confusion between the human and the animal is
just a result of very sloppy thinking.
Now human beings can forget their
humanity. We even have a phrase recognizing this: man's inhumanity to man. Or, he was such an animal. In
the latter case, the term animal is more of a metaphor than it is a
rational judgment. But Natural Science seems to be committed to
this idea, and finds rationale for it in such well know facts that the
difference in the nature of the DNA between a higher order mammal and a
man is slight.
Remember, however, that this train of
thought is completely based on the assumption that only the physical is real. Hopefully, in the
above parts, we have somewhat deconstructed this idea in our
examination of consciousness and self-consciousness. This problem
then leads us to something that is a kind of socially sloppy
disagreement: Intelligence Design vs. Random Evolutionary Processes.
I say sloppy, because most of those involved in these arguments
haven't bothered to look at the history of the development of science.
In that history this issue was originally everywhere, and
it has never gone away. Its just gotten buried under more and
more assumptions as time went on, and as Natural Science seemed more
and more to occupy an intellectual territory that was increasingly
abandoned by orthodox religions, as they lost themselves in the vanity
of their belief systems, at the expense of the actual practice of their
Another acquaintance of mine, Don Cruse,
writes about the development of ideas that have led to the conceptions
of Darwinian Evolution: random processes and so forth. He has a
web site and a book: Evolution
and the New Gnosis: anti-establishment essays on knowledge, science, religion
and causal logic. On the web there is a
wonderful essay Dogma and
Doubt by Ronald Brady
thoroughly unzips the basis of evolutionary biology as a rational
system of thought.
Cruse puts the whole thing quite simply.
For long time in the history of science, the scientists used
metaphorical language to communicate their understanding, such: as mechanism. Nature was a randomly created mechanism. The problem, says Cruse, is that that word, mechanism, means only one thing, something created. Human
beings make mechanisms, and to export, from our understanding of the creative
activity by which a clock is made, to nature the idea that nature is a mechanism is to define it as designed and created. He
actually challenges them, in his book and in letters to scientists, to
forgo (if they can) the use of such metaphors to describe what they
observe. Create, he insists, a language that isn't based on an
analogy to human creativity, but which truly describes evolution as a
random accidental process. They can't do it.
Whenever they stop the process of
analysis to take up the task of synthesis (making a whole of the data
or parts discovered in experiments), they always use metaphors rooted
in one way or another in human intentionality. The hand
of natural selection. Even the term selection involves a meaning of human intentionality. A
truly random process can't select anything. It
doesn't - it can't - make choices.
Hopefully the reader will now see that
Science has reached limits. It has very definite views
(assumptions and ideas), but in the brain biology (the study of
consciousness) and in quantum physics (the question of what actually is
matter), and even in evolutionary theory, some element of human
intention - participation - can't be gotten rid of. If then,
self-consciousness is spirit - the I is spirit, and consciousness is
soul, then the need to use the idea of some kind of intention in
explaining the facts of evolutionary theory leads only to one place: a
Divine Mystery. Moreover, the story of Christ's teachings in the
Gospels, when practiced, lead to the same place.
If one goes to what is described in other
essays of mine (and in books), and studies there either Anthroposophy
or Goethean Science, then it is clear that New Revelation was poured
over humanity in the 20th Century. How? Why? Good
questions, not all of which can be answered here.
arguments with God;
a personal view, offered
Among the ideas that reality teaches is
that the human being is being born more and more into a co-creative
role with the Divine Mystery. In fact, something of the
Divine Mystery itself lives in the ego or I of the human being, and to
be co-creative, as Owen Barfield suggested in his book Saving the
Appearances: a study in idolatry, is to
engage in final
participation. In Ages Past the human
being was more passive and less free (original participation). Now we are more free and more potentially
active. This, to my experience, has brought certain consequences.
One of these is quite odd, and I was
surprised to discover this mood of soul. The more I understood
the design of the creation (at least this present part - see my book the Way of
the Fool), and even more and more appreciated
it, the more certain aspects of it bothered me. These next
paragraphs then come from such a mood. I start by
recognizing my antipathy towards certain elements of the what some
might call: Gods Design. In effect I recognize that Lucifer was
not entirely wrong to go through a period of rebellion, and I have
begun to think that part of developing fully the Divine Mystery of the
own I is to (on occasion and quite deliberately) approach our
observations of the design with a critical faculty.
We are, after all, quite intimately
involved in this situation. To just sort of roll over like a good
dog and always love everything the Master does and did, is to loose
something that is part of being human. Like a child
becoming truly free and responsible, I am finding that part of the
separation, that has to precede the choice and pursuit of
reintegration, must include taking the attitude of whether we find
everything just perfect.
Some urge upon us the idea that the Gods
make no errors, and this is becoming more and more to me one of those
truths that paradoxically can be seen from a totally different
direction to be false. In point of fact, a fair reading of Rudolf
Steiner's researches into the supersensible worlds will come upon many
comments where it is clear that the communities of spiritual beings
that have led the way so far were not in agreement on all aspects of
We could actually say that our critical examination of the design is quite necessary if we are to ultimately become responsible for many of its future aspects. In the light of this I want to share an odd thought that has come to me many times now, and which I confess I find to be more and more true. Let us call this: the mobius strip incarnation idea.
First call to mind what a mobius strip
is. If I have a belt-like form, and make it into a circle by
joining the two ends, I have two surfaces and two edges that don't
exactly connect. If before I join the two ends together, I give a
half twist to the form, I end up with one continuous surface and one
continuous edge. If I make the form geometrically perfect,
by having the edge be without measure - that is it is zero in
thickness, I can still have a geometric form that is plane-like, and
circular, while at the same time endless - that is without two sides.
Now lets apply this idea to the Creation,
to repeated earth lives, to reincarnation, and to what appears to be
the separation from God which ancient ideas of the cultural East often
considered to be an illusion. Some readers will have noticed the
goal of ego-lessness, which is urged by teachers from the cultural
East. They say things like there is no ego,
is no I, there is no am. In the cultural
West we have the opposite idea (in a way). Here in the West we
say there is an ego, the I-am is what God named Himself in the ancient
texts, and that in that the individual human being has an I, another
name for it would be: immortal spirit.
In different words: we all come from the
same Source and to that Source we will return. With the
Mobius Strip Incarnation Idea, I mean to suggest that the truth is that
both East and West see the same reality from different (and necessary
directions) and that for developmental purposes the idea of each of us
having a separate ego is important for some purposes and not so
important for others. I mean to suggest here that there is just
One Ego, and as it enters Time and Space (the Creation) it separates
into distinct parts in order to learn. And, that if we
followed each part in Time we would find that like the Mobius Strip there
is only one continuous surface.
I am you. You are me.
We are Christ and the Buddha and the Holy Mother. But
in Time and Space we are sequential, like the Mobius Strip.
We are to live all these apparently separate points of view
in Time and Space in order to become at the end of Time and
Space, when on the other side of the Last Judgment we all unite in
Eternity - in timelessness and spacelessness, something that only
arises because of this becoming and that was
impossible before the Creation. Through this process of
sequential becomings, the Father Principle and the Mother Principle
will not only have become something they were not before, but they will
also have lived all the lives, of all the parts, from the human part to
the dog part to the tree part to the atom part to the gluon part and on
and on and on.
Thus Christ says: Whatsoever ye do to the least
of these my brethren, ye do so also unto me.
In the meantime, in order to fully
separate from the Divine Mystery (from a human perspective), arguing
with God about the design is a natural and necessary act. This
necessary spiritually adolescent attitude is in fact everywhere already
(what after all is scientific materialism and atheism).
This has often led at various times to so much fear in
certain egos, egos that imagined themselves as superior religious and
moral authorities, that they murdered and tortured heretics
(non-believers in their doctrines). Sam Harris, and those of like
mind, are right to see such an attitude as the height of irrationality.
These new atheists, however, just don't get it that that guy over
there that is making (to them) so much trouble has a quite valid
aspects of his point of view and an equally valid state of being.
with all your heart and all your mind and all your spirit, and
your neighbor as yourself.)
Getting the picture yet?
"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all
together.", sang the Beatles in I am the
Walrus (Lennon/McCartney - Lennon, according
to Wikipedia got the idea while on a acid trip).
But who is this I that is we? Our
discovery of this I goes through it, that is through individuality.
Developing our I fully is how we come to any deep spiritual
realization. The Narrow Gate. Where people, who want
to put down new age and other religious ideas outside their own limited
vision Christian beliefs get confused, is where they think you arrive
at the goal by being saved. And then, by saving others by
teaching them to give themselves to God. Not a bad idea, were
they just the opening bars of the song of development. Thing is
most fake Christians stop there. They cherry pick the
Gospels for what serves their own ideology, and either feel the rest is
superfluous, or too hard.
Beliefs are assumed superior to practice
(not by works alone). This would make sense if all fake
Christians had the same beliefs, but the very fact of their constant
bickering over these matters, sometimes leading to horrible wars and
other crimes, pretty much ruins such an idea as anything reasonable at
all. But the idea of not by works alone also doesn't say being
saved alone. Belief, in the form of true Faith (trust) belongs
together with practice. Ora et labora is the Latin for prayer and labor. Prayer is the main practice of Faith, and
meditation in action the main faith of Practice. Meditation
in action is another way of saying prayer in action, or acting from the
center of our heart, or acting out of moral grace. It is my
prayerfulness (meditative inner attitude) that enables me to know the
Good, and to act on that knowledge.
But this is a bit more complicated and
has to be read elsewhere: The
Meaning of Earth Existence in the Age of the Consciousness Soul; and, In Joyous
Contemplation of the Soul Art and Music of Discipleship.
In this essay (booklet) I just wanted to walk the reader through some basic questions and ideas, as a help to prepare them for discovering their Own Way.
Blessings and good luck.
- a Children's Christmas
Story, which is also for Adults -
This story is
dedicated to Gabriella, Catherine Rose, Ross Gregory, and Adam, who
were on my mind Christmas Eve, 1996, as their fathers (of which I must
confess I was one) were absent from home for the Season. It was written
the following Christmas Morning.
There once was a girl, who
found herself weeping in the dark, alone in her room.
This is nothing unusual. Many people, not just children, can be found weeping, alone with their pain in the dark of the night.
there was a difference. Although it was not a difference as infrequent
as we might imagine.
the difference was this. While she was weeping an Angel appeared,
sitting quietly at the end of her bed.
It was quite a while before the girl noticed the Angel. Yet, this did not bother the Angel, who had been, if we do not mind, created out of patience and joy.
a time the girl stopped weeping, and the two simply looked at each
other for a while.
Angel reached out and touched the girl on the shoulder, and asked:
"What is troubling you child?".
Now it is true that the Angel already knew the answer to this question, but the Angel also knew that the girl needed to talk about her grief.
was the girl's answer.
is Christmas Eve." she said, "My father and mother have quarreled and
my father is not here. I don't even know when, or if, he is coming
At this the girl, who was at that very awkward age between being a child and being a young woman, began to weep again, even more deeply then before.
a while she stopped, looked at the Angel and asked: "Why?" and, then
began weeping some more.
you may wonder why the girl wasn't troubled or confused by someone
being in her room at night. The fact is that when you meet an Angel
there is no question about what is happening. No doubt, no confusion.
Angels aren't like anything else except Angels.
is how the Angel answered the girl.
you ever bad?" asked the Angel.
said, a bit hesitantly.
you ever bad on purpose, knowing you are being bad?"
said, almost whispering now.
you ever bad by accident, not having thought about what might happen?"
said, a little more confident.
bad things ever sometimes happen even though you were trying as hard as
possible to do something good?"
said, back to herself finally.
they sat together for a while. She was thinking and the Angel just was.
eventually said. "Mother and father aren't trying to hurt me, and I
didn't do something wrong."
said, having just reinvented philosophy, "Why is the world such a
a very long pause the Angel said, "It's because of the bicycles."
this was said with a straight face, as much as an Angel can be said to
have a straight face, their normal countenance being filled with
so, the girl's dark mood broke and she laughed, and then caught in this
odd feeling she tried to stop and ended up almost falling out of bed
because she was giggling so much.
Again there was a passage of time, so that the girl could ask her next question without breaking up. It actually took several attempts before she could get the question out.
do you mean by "it's the bicycles"?" she said, pulling up the hem of
her nightgown, as much to distract herself as to dry the tears of both
suffering and mirth.
the Angel, "As you have guessed the bicycles are invisible, being
made out of ideas and dreams, hope and despair, all stuck together with
bits of conscience and just plain stubbornness.
wake up and ride around on their invisible bicycles, forgetting
the bicycles are there and then because they have forgotten them,
people just keep banging into each other.
all the bicycles are in great disrepair. Some with flat tires, some
with crooked wheels, and some without even handlebars to steer by.
takes a great deal of courage for people, for mothers and fathers, to
get up in the morning and ride their bicycles out into life each day. A
great deal of courage."
the Angel was quiet again and so was the girl.
a while the girl, having graduated from philosophy to theology, asked:
"Why does God let this go on? Why doesn't he fix the bicycles or make
people learn how to ride them without banging into each other?"
before you imagine the Angel is pausing to think, I should tell you
that is not what was happening. Angels do think, but when they do
something happens. For Angels thinking creates. The reason the Angel
said "Hmmm" was so the girl would first reflect a little about what she
had said, before the Angel answered her.
you ever talk to God?" asked the Angel.
think so," said the girl, tentative again, and rightly so.
should you know.", said the Angel. "You can't interrupt him, or bother
him when he's doing something else. He always listens. Always. And when
you talk to him he never interrupts you, never tells you he's heard it
before or done it himself or knows more than you. You couldn't ask for
a better listener. And when you're done he doesn't give advice, or tell
you what to do, or criticize what you've done or tell you, you aren't
adequate. He just listens, and accepts you and loves you, whatever you
have to say."
the Angel asked another question.
you ever get angry at God?"
the girl. "Get angry at God !?!"
course." said the Angel. "God loves you and wants your love. People who
love each other get to be angry with each other. It's a way to care.
God doesn't mind your anger. Now your indifference? That's another
the girl, now a little more in touch with her own frustration.
"But you still haven't said anything about repairing the bicycles or
giving lessons on riding them."
to" said the Angel. "All kinds of excellent repair and riding
manuals already out there. There's the Bible, and the Vedas, and the
Torah, and the Koran, and the Sutras, and the..."
get it." she said, interrupting the Angel, who didn't mind at all.
Then she paused and thought a little.
right." she said. "This is what you've said. The reason the world is so
difficult is because we all have our own ideas and dreams and
conscience and stubbornness, and when we go out and ride these
"bicycles" in life we bang into each other, or ride over each others
feet, because we have forgotten about these invisible things. But if we
want riding lessons and repair instruction, that information is already
there. We just have to use it. Right?"
the girl, after a very deep sigh, "Just one more question."
is the best listener in the world, always available and never
critical. But how come he never answers me?"
last was spoken with a great deal of anguish, as only the very young
can feel at the impossible burdens they sense when they contemplate
growing up and being really free and responsible for themselves.
the Angel waited for a while, as silent and beautiful as a starry
well do you listen?" the Angel answered. "He always answers you,
always. You just don't always hear him. He answers in many ways. With
the continued breath of life, or with a fading sunset. With the touch
of a breeze on the cheek or a crash of thunder. In the most quite place
inside yourself he whispers to you. More softly then the endless beat
of your heart he sings to you in the voice of the dancing colors that
delight the eye. You eat his answers for breakfast and when you walk
barefoot through the dew wet grass his answers touch your feet.
you have eyes, ears? Or if not even these, you have the thoughts you
choose. You believe or not. Is that not a great gift itself? To
have faith or not, hope or not, charity or not, according to your own
will. God does answer. With life, with freedom. And yes, with sorrow
and with pain. Are these not gifts as well?"
there was a harmony of silence between the two of them. Then the girl
smiled and looked mischievously at the Angel.
you have a bicycle?" she asked.
Then the Angel laughed. And outside the girl's window the birds sang to greet with joy the first hints of dawn on Christmas morning.
Healing the Insanity of
Psychiatric Medicines and Practice
It is one thesis of this small paper that
common sense thinking, applied to the question of the efficacy of modern
anti-psychotics and similar medicines, will reveal that such drugs cannot generally be healthy
for either the mental or physical health of the human being. They only seem to work, and then only if you
define the goal of the application of such medicine in a quite limited, and anti-human, fashion (behavioral modification
instead of healing).
This is not to say no good at all comes
from the lifetimes of effort put out by many professionals in these
fields, but rather that the picture we have of this work is spun, just
as politicians spin their versions of the truth. Spin is not the
truth, and in this essay we are trying to come nearer to the social
reality represented by our institutional mental health systems.
They are mostly not about mental health (those problems of the mind are not being adequately
researched or solved), but rather about power, wealth and social
It may help some possible confusion in
the reader to distinguish the psychiatric profession, from the
psychological profession. Most psychiatrists no longer
participate in talk therapy (classical analysis on the couch), but by
and large engage in the practice of diagnosis of mental illnesses
according to the DSM* V (a system of labeling various symptoms into a
name that can be recognized by the mental health system for purposes of
insurance payments and other institutional processes). Following
such a diagnosis the psychiatrist (being also an MD) prescribes
medications designed to adjust the behavior of the patient. More
will be said about this later.
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V,
for interesting details look it up on Wikipedia.]
Psychologists almost universally engage
is some form of talk therapy, although often in connection to some kind
of prescription medicine, and as well often using the same
classification system as the DSM V.
The important point above concerns the general method of thinking involved in the practice of this discipline (psychiatry), for that is where the
failure begins and ends. It is not so
much the individual thinking, but rather the institutional thinking -
the generalized paradigm which serves as the context and background to
all the rest. Let us begin the examination of
this method of thinking, by first looking at something with which most of us today
are quite familiar: the movement toward organic food.
Some history ...
In the 19th Century natural science reached a kind of pinnacle of
advances in knowledge were seen everywhere, and technical devices of all kinds were being created in
the hope of solving any number of humanity's pressing problems. The industrial
revolution was a seeming success, and not a week went by without some scientist somewhere
pure knowledge or in some practical art.
In agriculture the plant had been studied in the laboratory very
how it was composed of basic elements, such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen (plus a few trace elements) was
now assumed to be quite clear. Farms as a result
started to become more and more modeled after factories, where what is now called
mono-culture started to flourish. Machines planted the seeds, watered the plants and artificial fertilizers were added
to the soil to make up for any missing elements such as are related to
the plant's need for clay, silicon or calcium.
Large corporations grew into existence, many of them chemical
factories creating pure and ofttimes synthetic substances that were
applied at the farm or then later during procedures by which food was
distributed to consumers via grocery stores.
Needs of commerce became
important and shelf life required new chemical methods of preservation. Foods were enhanced, adulterated, preserved, and supposedly purified. Flour was bleached. Sugar was too (keep in mind you wouldn't, yourself, directly drink bleach).
In many places, however, things were not coming out so well. Large farms using
mono-culture and artificial fertilizers found themselves more and more
attacked by insect life (nature, sensing something dead or dying or ill, sends its littlest
workers to take it apart, and return it to the whole). This required the application of poisons to kill the
also to kill any weeds (unwanted plants). The farm became essentially a chemical factory siting
astride the land. Ordinary farmers couldn't compete, and the whole of
way of life, changed
Eventually, people began to question whether this was sane. After some time organic
farming (which is
really only a return to the pre-industrial farm)
became important, as ordinary common sense was applied by ordinary people
to examine the assumptions of mono-culture and corporate industrial
food processing and practices.
This is a brief, but I believe quite worthwhile picture. What is the nature of
the thinking that produced this history of farming practices that
ultimately have failed on such a huge scale to provide healthy food?
The first step was in natural science
has followed primarily a method of analysis (taking things apart). For example, the plant was burned in the laboratory to produce ash. Then the ash was
analyzed to see what were the basic elements of which it was made (the burning only eliminated
the water from the harvested plant - although that is not precisely true, for the combustion
process creates many products such as light and heat, but which come from where - the burning takes something
less quantifiable away from the once living plant.).
In any event, the modern scientist looks at plant biology on the farm
as a process by which the plant was created by the DNA of the seed out
of certain basic elements available in the soil. Already, before DNA, if the soil was lacking
be added later (fertilizers etc.).
This turning of the farm into a chemistry
factory was before the need for ecological or holistic thinking was understood. Pure analysis needs to
be followed by wise synthesis. After you take something apart, you have to know how to put it back together, in order to prove you
actually learned something. The later discovered flaws of mono-culture have pretty
much proved that the original thinking about plants and foods was
To this analytical thinking was added the
thinking involved in mass production. Machines were seen as useful replacements for physical
labor and the farm became large and mechanized
(leading to mono-culture or farms sowing and
reaping only one plant, such as wheat or corn). The profit motive was added to the search for scientific
the whole thing becoming a bit distorted because as agricultural
colleges grew in size (and developed more research capacity),
a great deal of the funding for
research in these schools was provided by business (and sometimes government), neither of which had pure agendas and motives.
Ultimately, regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration became less the
defenders of the public interest, and more the creatures of the lobbyists for big
agricultural and chemical corporations.
Everyone today is more or less aware of
these facts and tendencies.
As common sense was applied, it became clear that the
earth in which plants were grown was itself alive with microorganisms
and worms etc. The
chemical fertilizers and anti-weed and insect poisons were added
to the farm, the
more “dead” the soil became. A kind of vicious
cycle arose, which
more and more chemicals on the farm,
that has since resulted in more and more a
denaturing of the food itself. We could try to look for laboratory evidence for this, but since it was the
human population itself upon which the experiment (denatured and processed food) was conducted, we need only look at
people to see the results.
Now it is not usual to relate to this
certain other facts, but it is clear to a holistic thinking that modern
diseases of the heart, and many cancers began to arise at the same time as
changes in farming. In fact, the so-called obesity epidemic in America is clearly
related as well. True experts in nutrition realize that the real reason so
many people are fat is because there is no actual nutrition in the food
you get at the grocery store. As a consequence the body keeps telling people to eat
more, but the
only thing in the food is empty calories which the body then stores (converts the excess of sugars
into fats) if one
has a certain body-type (an endomorph). Other body types burn all the calories, but need stimulants such
as caffeine and cigarettes in order to function at work and in home.
What is worse is that many today in the
medical field want to castigate the consumer, and leave aside or ignore the responsibility of the
producer of the food, as well as the role of the government (or absence of a role, might be a better way to
phrase it). Wealthy corporations and
corrupt government officials get a free ride, but the fat person has to take the whole blame for his
are to be able to overcome corporate and
government power, and the influence of
the same time raising the children and creating through our work all
So to the flawed excess of analysis
without synthesis, and the flawed excess of corporate greed, we must now add the
flawed reasoning which wants to blame the consumer for buying products
that should never have been sold to him in the first place.
Now why did we bother to look at this, in an article partly on
problems with mental health medications.
The reason should be clear to the
reader with common sense: the same flawed thinking that debased the food supply has
come alive in the realm of soul-healing, and is currently debasing the physical and mental health of
Natural science remains locked in an
excess of analysis, and an absence of wise synthesis.
Corporate greed in the creation of
pharmaceuticals has led to a need to force the sale through
advertising of products after products whose side effects kill
and injure. If these so-called medicines were truly healing,
there would be no need to sell them - they would sell themselves.
Government has become corrupted, as are
many universities and hospitals where research is conducted. In
the absence of holistic thinking, suffering is produced directly on
many minds. Lets look at some examples.
The writer of this essay has 18 years experience in the
trenches of the mental health field, including ten years as a mental health worker in a
for-profit psychiatric hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire. I could tell a lot of stories, but I'll just tell one, after making a few basic observations.
First of all it was clear, to my observation and
working at the hospital were basically poorly supervised
saw a diagnosis made at the beginning of an admission remain the
same over the whole course of treatment (unless the patient had been in the system for years).
It was routine to order one medication (or more) in the beginning, and then change that as
treatment went forward. The goal, of course, was not to heal the patient, but to modify behavior. The diagnosis defined certain behavior as socially
the psychiatrist experimented using various medications until the
desired behavioral result was reached.
During this process the subjective inner
life of the patient was often not a factor, although many patients came seeking help with their inner
states of being. Of course, such inner states often led to deviant social behaviors, such that people would
come recommended by various agencies (social services, the police, the family etc.). The new patient would have a complaint, of sorts, but the social matrix
surrounding this person would also have its own separate complaint.
The patient was worried about their state
of mind, and
the family or job was worried about their behavior. What we did was
modify behavior, often by what was essentially a chemical restraint on
some aspect of the patients subjective state of mind. We pressed down the
personality with drugs in order to make them more easily fit into their social
went with this process a number of side-effects
(physical and mental
collateral damage is probably a more accurate term), some of which were more or less permanent (such as tardive dyskinesia).
Now in appreciating what I write here
about the psychiatrist as an experimenter, the reader should be clear that I am pointing out a great
deal of ignorance and some degree of arrogance
(just as was done to the farms we need for the food we eat).
At the same time it is the
institutional system of mental health that perpetuates these problems, because these flaws are
well known and are everywhere criticized, although unsuccessfully
(Google: psychiatric polypharmacy; psychiatric and organic
anti-psychiatry, for example). Psychiatry is a “soft” science, not a “hard”
science. It is more art than science, and a lot of people practicing it clearly don't have any
Lets do the horror story now ....
The hospital where I worked had a Chief
of Psychiatry (a
different job than the business head of the facility).
He was also paid outside money by
various pharmaceutical companies to manage research projects. When a new experimental
drug had to be tested, we were one place such tests were done. This process costs
a lot of money (the
drug company paid the full admission costs of all patients in the study
as well as additional staff time needed to support the study, such as through frequent
blood tests, physicals
The Chief of Psychiatry maintained “professional” relationships with the
Nashua community, and was in fact already the “doctor” for a number of individuals with chronic mental health
these individuals were provided living support through local social
services agencies, as they couldn't work and often needed help just with
basic living skills.
A new drug for schizophrenia was to be
shortly thereafter a number of regular patients of the Chief of
Psychiatry were admitted to the hospital to participate in the study. They were not in
were admitted solely for the study. Because the study was a double-blind study, some would get a placebo, instead of the
One patient, clearly receiving a placebo, began in a couple of weeks to show severe symptoms. He had been taken off
the medication that helped him live (with aid) in the community, and brought into the hospital for the study. He was, in the jargon we used, decompensating.
He began to be awake for 50 hours at a time, and then crash for about 16 hours and then be awake
again (I know this
because I was the one who went carefully through his chart to develop
these and other facts in order to confront the Chief of Psychiatry with
the torture of this individual). He wasn't eating and existed mostly on coffee and
was erratic, and
his speech pressured (speedy and incoherent). He pestered staff and other patients constantly. Fortunately he was
not violent, just
terrific nuisance to others, and of course miserable inside himself (for which his “madness” - as it were - offers him no understanding).
We forget, or ignore, that the world seen from inside such a mind is not the
same world we see at all.
Lets look at what happen here - the reality. People with known mental
health issues were brought into the hospital to suit the convenience of
the Chief of Psychiatry and the drug company, and used as guinea pigs. This is not only shameful, but it ought to scare us that such callous and
indifferent impulses fill in the structural nature of the mental health
that no one objects on an institutional level.
Of course, the professionals put a good face on all such activity, because as anyone knows, we can with our thinking
Even today in the food industry, that system still lives
in denial of what has been done (and is being done that is worse)
to the food supply.
The same attitude is rampant in the
field of mental health. Natural science does not understand what it is doing. Commercial interests
mine this field of confusion for profit making purposes. And, the human beings, the patients and their
families (as well
as society) are
not being well served.
One really doesn't need to be an expert, but just use common sense; and, in fact recognize that the expert has his own agenda, which is often the
preservation of his status and his income.
The only way to stop the insanity of
the mental health institutional system is for public opinion to marshal
its common sense, and ask of their representatives in legislative bodies to
use their common sense as well.
Human beings shouldn't be the subject of
experiments by psychiatrists no longer interested in their subjective
inner well being, but only in changing the behavior, all supported by a
pharmaceutical industry which has proven it will lie and cheat in order
to make money. There
alternatives as everyone who looks at this question knows.
To come at this from another direction ...
There is a field of science that is called (or was called) coal tar chemistry. Basically this field (and its related industries) took something that was
already quite dead (petroleum in the ground) and killed it some more (took it apart on a massive scale). Those smelly gasoline making plants you drive by were at
one time called “cracking
what they do is heat the oil to very high temperatures, while keeping it under
pressure (crack the
petroleum coal tar into pieces that don't exist in nature) and then as the various
vapors rise, they
them and make gasoline, kerosene etc. (a kind of distillation process). From this same chemistry
we have ingredients for plastics, cosmetics and even medicines. These are all synthetic, which among other things means nature didn't make them, man did (with all his selfish motives, and his ignorance and
We are aware today of all those allergies
that comes with the proliferation of these products throughout human
full of this stuff. It has a lot of uses, of which one is that it makes some people a lot of money. Lets make a synthesis, a common sense picture.
As science matures in knowledge, human impulses everywhere
look for personal advantage. The industrial revolution includes a chemical or synthetic revolution where all kinds of
substances are created that never before existed in nature. Human beings now swim in
a sea of synthetic (artificial) chemistry, for which their bodies
were never originally adapted. Nature made us, we made synthetics and synthetics are ruining our food, changing the climate and
torturing mental patients.
Seen as a whole social process, we've essentially
conducted a huge set of experiments on the human population of the
right, we are
the experimental subject of a lot of badly thought out theories, acting in collusion with
profit making industries.
We played with the world in ignorance and arrogance and now must reap the consequences. Yes, a lot of the time we were trying to solve problems and meet genuine human needs. But at the same time we were not humble. We believed we could try anything and fix any mistake. We were childish, and as all of us learn growing up, when you are impulsive and childish, you screw up, and sometimes ruin the rest of your life. Humanity, as a group, has been doing the same thing on a very large scale for some time.
Here's the rule that is frequently
violated: Just because you can do a thing, does not mean
you should do a thing.
At the beginning of this small paper I
made an off-hand remark regarding modern psychiatric medicine, which now needs some
said: “They only seem to work, and then only if you define
the goal of the application of such medicine in a quite limited, and anti-human, fashion.”
I have watched all kinds of people
receive all kinds of medications over my 18 years personal experience in the trenches of the field of
mental health. By “trenches” I mean direct patient care (the psychiatrists see their patients briefly, sometimes not even daily).
It is people like me who see them all day long and talk to
them as one human being to another (instead of as treating doctor to insane patient).
What we call “mental patients” are individuals of great personal courage, who suffer inwardly in
ways few of us can imagine. They live in an Age where they are not understood. They are often lucky to
have caregivers (nurses
mental health workers) who treat them as human beings - with
and compassion. The mental health system treats them as things and as numbers on summary sheets. If they are really lucky
they sometimes get compassionate doctors, but these doctors are themselves caught up in the
institutional system, which has a quite distinct life of its own.
Years ago an acute observer of the
business world (Peter
forward something called “the Peter principle”, which
that: in a hierarchy people
naturally rise to level of their incompetence.
A truism for sure, but certainly not always
are competent, but
the nature of that competence can often be solely for
their own benefit. The present-day financial crisis in America is an example
of that truism. Our mental health institutional systems, and their related
pharmaceutical allies, are full of folks not very good at anything but serving
their own interests. We really shouldn't expect them to produce something that
helps mental patients - that's
the agenda under which they operate.
John Maynard Keynes wrote this about our
economic system: “Capitalism is the
extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the
benefit of us all.” A similar statement can be said about the mental health
system. But we (patients, and families of patients, and Society, and state and federal
ourselves if we expect the institutional mental health system to
benefit those unique individuals we label "the mentally ill". The evidence showing
this failure is overwhelming. Hopefully this paper will reveal that even common sense
can know and understand this, and that we need to not be dependent upon so-called
experts to realize something is badly wrong.
Further, we need to realize that only we can fix it. The system won't fix
Of course, we often think of certain
people as violent and aggressive, and with good judgment want to
exclude them from our communities. This need to exclude is a
theme we'll come to at the end of this paper.
Lets add another approach to our
Above we noted that the scientist in the
laboratory sought to understand the plant through reducing it to ash. He did not study the
living plant in its natural environment, but removed it to the laboratory and disassembled it. The medical doctor
in this same period of scientific development spent a lot of time
taking apart the cadaver - the dead body. He did not concentrate on the living organism, but on the dead organism.
A similar kind of thinking has gone on in
brain studies, where
physical apparatus is assumed (if we read the literature carefully) to be the basis for all
mental activity. The scientist studied dead brains, and if he studied living
often studied ones with problems - that is ill or dysfunctional brains (such as people with the split
If we do a survey of psychological
find different attitudes there as well. Some study optimum states of consciousness, others only diseased or
deviant states of consciousness. Recall the Chief of Psychiatry, and his allies in the pharmaceutical industry - he tests his drugs on an already ill (socially deviant) population, who can't truly consent, because the real nature
of their abuse by the system is not apparent to them. Like most people in the
field, he and
his allies consider their activity (the use and abuse of the unfortunate in the pursuit of limited goals, such as behavioral
profit) to be
normal - that is okay. Remember, the psychiatrist and the
pharmaceutical company are not even trying to heal the patient, but
only modify behavior.
In the background here is a very deep
question, upon the rocks of which Western Civilization now founders.
Natural Science has taken the course where it has rigorously
decided that there is no spirit in the world - no spirit in Nature, no
spirit in the human being. All we are, to this
materialistic outlook, is matter.
In large part this view comes from an
unfortunate truth in the field of psychological studies: that the
investigator never studies his own mind, but only that of others, and then only through processes which take apart (destroy or eliminate the
living element), or which only look at a
dysfunctional consciousness. From an ontological (or basic premise) point of view, natural science mostly uses death processes and disease
processes to try to wrest, from the once living and healthy, its secrets. Were natural scientists to study their
own minds objectively, the presence of the spirit would soon be quite
The application of a little common sense
logic might suggest that the secrets of the living and the healthy will
be found in the study of those elements of existence, where they arise - that
is in the family and social environment. This is not easy,
however. While certain thinkers in these fields have looked to
the positive (Abraham Maslow etc.), the institutional system does not take such an approach.
There is a view held by some in the field
of psychology that speaks of the "identified patient". This
is the person who comes to a soul-healer (the psychologist) in order to
resolve certain personal problems, and many mental health professionals
realize that the so-called "identified patient" might be the most
mentally healthy person in that family. At the least this person
recognizes a problem, but the root of the problem may not be discovered
in the individual, but only in the family-matrix.
A related theme ...
It took a while, but women finally understood that this same method of
thinking had led doctors to think of birth as a disease process, and such views had to be
opposed and eliminated (a struggle not yet over). In a similar way, we have to resist taking the so-called deviant out of
Society in order to study them in isolation, but rather we need to keep the whole together, and recognize that they
aren't so much deviant, as unique and highly individual.
It is in fact Society that needs to be
healed of the assumption that unusual mental states (and their related behaviors) are an "illness".
That is the true insanity - to take the living personality and treat it like the
plant in the laboratory where we first destroy it before we can
understand it. To
the unusual personality through powerful and intrusive
to coerce changes in behavior, is not healing.
It is in fact the worst kind of tyranny - the tyranny of the majority (who declare themselves superior psychologically) over an essentially helpless
different). It says more about us, as a Society, than it does about them. It reveals our "us and them" assumptions, and our moral weaknesses in shunning them and setting them
outside our company, all the while pretending as if we were helping them, when the raw truth is
that we are only helping ourselves.
It is Society that lacks the sanity of
true charity, and
honest impulse to help (and or heal) the weak and troubled. Its far past time for us to grow into a greater maturity
in our social relations with the different.
Lets come at this once more with a
slightly different emphasis ...
Healing the Healer: the first steps in a sane future
evolution of psychiatry and psychology -
works were translated into English, from the
German, the terms geistes and seele were
translated as mind, and not as
spirit and soul, which easily
could have been done (c.f. Bruno
Bettelheim's Freud and man's soul, A.A.Knopf, 1983). Thus continued
and deepened the materialization of the underlying thinking of those
who sought during the 19th century
to treat problems of human inner life - of the psyche - the soul (which as
everyone knows is the root term for the words psychology and psychiatry).
thinking on the brain now seeks to explain all inner states
of the human being today as consequences of material causes. Mind and brain
are now seen as equivalent. The Fall, from a one
time appreciation of the human spirit and soul dimensions of existence, is, within
scientific thinking, nearly
complete. At least at
the level of assumptions.
"It is old hat to say that the brain is responsible for
mental activity. Such a claim may annoy the likes of Jerry Falwell or
the Ayatollah, but it is more or less the common assumption of educated people in the twentieth century. Ever since
the scientific revolution, the guiding view of most scientists has been
that knowledge about the brain, its cells and its chemistry will
explain mental states. However, believing that the brain supports behavior is the easy part: explaining how is quite another." (Mind Matters: How the Mind and Brain interact to Create
Our Conscious Lives, Michael S.
Grazzanica Ph.D. pp 1, Houghton Baffling, Boston 1988). [emphasis added]
of materialization of our ideas of human inner states of being
has now gone so far that some believe today that there is no "I" , or "ego" or "self
consciousness", and that this
perception of self by the brain
is nothing but a chemically manufactured illusion.
minefield today come those who feel called to what remains of the
profession of "soul healer". Even
Grazzanica, in a recent
dialog with the writer Tom Wolfe, when
questioned on this very issue, was loath to
admit such could be possible. This interview, broadcast on C-Span
Grazzanica rising from his chair and moving around so certain was he
that the I or ego was real. All the same, he had to confess
that some evidence more and more suggested otherwise.
the depth of this problem for modern humanity, the reader is
urged to try to speak or write
of human interactions without using personal pronouns, for this is
the ultimate implication of this train of thought: If there is no
I then there is no you, nor he, or she. All is simply it.
was dramatically portrayed in the film the Silence of the Lambs when the
serial killer commands the "it" to rub on the
oil and for "it" to obey all commands. If it is an
imagined serial killer madman that refuses to acknowledge in his victim
the reality of an I, how equally
insane then has become certain kinds of thinking in natural science
that would, in the name of
some kind of hyper-objectivity, declare as a
complete illusion the idea of any human subjectivity at all.
very real sense, we can see
that scientific thinking has run up against a wall of sorts. At the same
time, a careful
review of the research reveals that this wall only really exists in the
conceptual frame of reference in which all this research is conducted. It is not the
facts of experience that are flawed, but the thinking
that makes the errors. It is the paradigm itself that
has reached the limit of its viability (c.f. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).
writer of this little essay is not unfamiliar with these fields of
interest, but as
previously noted was in his work life drawn into them, albeit not at
the professional level of the doctors. I have 18 years in the
trenches mental health, from lay
therapy in California in the 1970's, to group-home
work with adolescents in the 1980's to ten years
in a for-profit psychiatric facility in New Hampshire in the 1990's. I've been a
counselor, an orderly and
a mental health worker. Nor am I
uneducated, but I have
degrees in pre-seminary (B.A.) and Law (J.D.) My avocation (now full time
in retirement) is philosophy, and this at a
level far beyond ordinary academic philosophy. With this
aside set out, let us
of the paradigm of scientific materialism have been reached
everywhere. The studies of
consciousness and how that might arise from a material brain still are
unable to explain how this happens or what consciousness is. There are
theories, but nothing
testable. In reality for
this thinking, the sacrifice
of the idea of self-consciousness is just a cheap and easy way to get
rid of a very big problem.
physics, the natural scientist has
his own problem with consciousness, for his
split-beam experiments prove in this field that the fundamental
indeterminacy of states of matter does not become "real" until the
observing subjective self-consciousness acts upon the experiment. The observer
can't actually keep any longer his own subjectivity outside the work - the two remain
true also with regard to a great deal of research being done on the
brain. The researcher
in these fields often has to ask the subjectivity (the "I") of his subject
to engage in certain "mental" actions, in order for a
brain scan to have something to look at. The subject is
to look at pictures, try to access
memory and so forth. The problem
comes when the experiment is thought about afterward, and researcher
tries to create his "model" or theory, and not
include the facts that the subjectivity of the researcher and the
researcher's subject, first had to
make a social agreement before the "mental" act even
knows he can't do this (refuse any
longer to recognize the participation of his own consciousness and
self-conscious choices) anymore, so perhaps it
is time for those who do research on the mind to recognize the same
In Mind Matters, Grazzanica, having already
likened brain to a mechanism, then says
paradoxically: "A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought". My question
for Grazzanica is: what does he
think causes the thought which changes
the brain chemistry?
the naive experience of any thinking subject, it is their
own self-conscious activity that directs thought. In point of
fact, there is no
experiment and even no theory, without the
thinking of the scientist.
leads us then is to this:
psychiatrist and the psychologist are human, and flawed (as we all are
flawed), can it not be
possible that hidden within
modern theories of consciousness are assumptions that are no longer
justified precisely because we have arrived at the above noted limits?
the question as stark as possible: Can a researcher or "healer" in the field of "mental" health, subject his
patients to treatments he
would not do to himself
or to his own children? Have any
doctors prescribing ECT, for example, actually had
answer is that it seems necessary to engage in this kind of
treatment in order to
help the patient. But this is
falsified by the fact that quite often the soul healer no longer
believes he is healing a subjectivity or self-consciousness, but in fact is
really only altering behavior. Certainly, in many
circumstances, the subjective
self-consciousness of the patient wants some kind of relief from inner
simultaneously the social order surrounding the patient seeks and needs
a change of behavior, which this
same social order considers to be deviant, or outside the
Further, since the soul
healer no longer thinks of the subjectivity as real, but only the
material brain, then all kinds
of gross processes and adjustments become possible, because one is
really only dealing with the alteration of a mechanical system. Biological to
be sure, but (and this with
a kind of unrecognized denial) essentially a
thing, not a person.
The system of mental health seems to run itself these days, and the soul healer is just a cog in a unhealthy aspect of the social organism, whose purpose more and more requires of its participants that they not feel either sympathy or empathy with their patients.
not one of the costs to the psyche of those who work in this field
that they have to stop having normal human feeling, and basically
dehumanize their patients on some level in order to subject them to
such powerful forms of suppression of the individual spirit? Mental health
professionals routinely subject their patients to chemical restraints
on behavior, while at the
same time never actually believing they are curing the patient of a
Remember, please, psychiatry has
become almost entirely behavioral in its approaches. No longer is
the subjective inner state of being of the patient relevant. All is driven
by the need to define certain
behaviors as undesirable (the DSM-V), and then to
attempt to modify them without respect for
the subjectivity of the patient. The
subjectivity (how they feel about the
treatment) of the patient is
less and less a concern, and
modification of unwanted behaviors the entire goal, for the
individual spirit is here being sacrificed to the assumed needs of the
social organism for
order. Any individual
unable to conform to social order is quickly defined (already in
school, and sometimes
even earlier in the family) as either
criminally or mentally defective. (for a
sociological perspective on this read: Deviance and Medicalization: from Badness to Sickness, Conrad and
Publishing Company, 1985)
a way out?
to answer that question, lets take a
look at the whole situating in its basic form.
Are the individuals crazy, or is Society crazy
First lets step back a bit and think about growing up in modern culture. What was it like to live in a family and go to school and then join the work force?
didn't like to sit still in class. You were
curious and perhaps gregarious. You wanted to
touch things, and play with
them and talk to the other kids, and do fun
stuff. You were full
of life and full of spirit.
adults around you had, even prior to
your arrival, already "conformed" to the social
norms, and so they
expected you to "conform" too.
family, if you didn't
behave you were probably physically and/or emotionally punished, although no
one likes to admit how much this still goes on
survived your families rules and the school's rules, you went to
work. At work you
had a boss and he had his rules too. These also you
need to survive, because in
order to live you had to eat, in order to
eat you had to have money to buy food, and in order
to have money you had to work for a boss.
were criminal or crazy, that is
deviant and non-conformist - that is
irrepressible of spirit in one way or another and wouldn't follow
normative social rules "just like
Everywhere while growing up some "authority" (with a great deal of practical power over you) demanded you do what it wanted you to do, and not what you wanted to do.
go through this and it seems to make a lot of sense. Everyone more
or less agrees this makes a lot of sense, and it is the
normal or standard thing to do, so most
everyone does it.
a problem, right?
a couple of things we tend not to connect to growing up and
learning to conform to the social authority which has spent this
enormous amount of effort to get us to be what it wants us to be and
not to be what we want to be, such as:
ILLNESS, both PHYSICAL
energy and spirit that gets pressed down during growing up, through the power
exercised by the "authority" towards the
social conformance urged upon us by society, moves into our
psychological and physical organism and causes stress and illness.
all the good we believe we do by using our authority on children to
get them to conform to social norms, maybe that's
not such a good idea after all.
nature of the child has a kind of kinship with water and
similar fluids (there are other kinships as well). The one I have
in mind here, however, is concerned
with a well known physical law: the
incompressibility of fluids. This is how
your brake system on your car works. Because the
brake fluid is incompressible, when you push
your foot on the brake pedal, this fluid, trapped in the
tubes of the brake system, pushes the
brakes (whether disc or pad). Because of
other laws of physics the force of the foot gets multiplied, either by
changes in the diameter of the tubes or assisted by engine power (this makes no
difference to the analogy).
means is that when we use authority, either in the
family, and/or the
school and/or the work place to repress the spirited nature of the
individual, we stress the rest of
"system" of our being
and nature, both
physically and psychologically. [See
the film The Village, by M. Night
Shyamalan, for a fairy tale like metaphorical look at these kinds of
later, when the
stressed individual acts "mental", or "criminal", we treat this
problem with those social systems, which are even
and not less. Even with
physical illness we do the same - the medical
profession uses its "authority" to get us to
take drugs, and the drugs
are a "physical authority" applied to our
bodies and minds. Instead of
offering more freedom from stress, we increase
the stress (remember all those nasty "side effects"?).
Maybe we really need to think out the whole damn structure of our social culture better from top to bottom, and in the meantime we ought perhaps to stop whacking the "mentally" ill (overstressed spirited human beings) over the head with more authority to conform (whether the rules of a hospital or the physical rules of a drug).
point of view, its just might
seem like society is more crazy
than the individual; or, that the
collective is more stupid than the one.
to the question of what might be done...
of this little paper is not to attack those called to the
professions of soul healing. They are, in fact, caught in
between. On the one
hand there is the social order that wants something done about "them" - the deviants. On another
hand is the massive presence of the paradigm of scientific materialism, which will not
tolerate any mention of spirit or soul, but rather
insists (with less and less evidence everyday) that all is
matter, and all
explanations of human existence must be based upon materialist or
create prophecies about the end of the human, and the supplanting of
the human with the biomechanical. They imagine we will discover
how to transplant the consciousness of the human being into the memory
chips of a machine, thus giving us imperishable bodies and immortal
other end are those - the "them" - the deviants. We still don't
know how much behavior is derived from Nature and how much is derived
from Nurture. What we do
know, those of us
lucky enough not to be
caught up "in the system", is that we
don't want someone messing with our inner life. This most
personal sphere of autonomy - our own
thoughts, feelings and
impulses of will - this we will
guard even to the point of violence if necessary.
the American and French
revolutions. We applaud the
iconoclast, who manages
their individuality without getting too deviant - we even often
call them artists. We worry about
tyranny, especially the
tyranny of the majority. We even have
gone so far today, that conformance itself is
often seen as a
character flaw. That is, until your non-conformance goes too far.
and more the parents and friends of psychiatric patients find what
is done to their kin to be unjust, even criminal. Since the
patient is often unable to advocate for himself, others must
take up the task.
mount on the soul healer. If we step
back from this, and look at it
as a kind of an organic process in cultural development, we could ask
whether or not the soul healer is in fact just that person who can do
the most for all parties, given that the
soul healer is already in the center of
the storm. If the soul
healer takes a stand, then all will
be forced to pay attention.
the weight of scientific materialism
need for social order -> the soul healer <- the kin of the patients
the patients themselves
healer is himself a spirit struggling to be scientific, a member of
the social order, kin of some in
need, and perhaps
has even been a patient. All which
surrounds the soul healer socially should help the soul healer, instead of
demanding that the center conform to their one-sided point of view. If we find a
way to heal the soul healer, we might well
begin to heal the whole.
First, concerning scientific materialism: This approach, in that it seeks knowledge of consciousness, makes one glaring fundamental error. It assumes nobody has studied consciousness before. The whole cultural history of mankind is full of such studies, all of which are practical and experimental and rational. Some seem to lean toward a vague mysticism, but this is only when see from the outside. The more modern are eminently scientific. A partial list: the Middle Way of Lua Tzu; Yoga; Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, Quabbalah; Gnosticism; Sufism; Alchemy; Rosicrucianism; Transcendentalism; Christian Hermeticism; and, Anthroposophy (this last is the most modern and scientific).
healer will find much to aid his ability to help scientific
materialism overcome its own one-sidedness, by taking in hand
his own path to self knowledge.
Second, concerning the
social order: the soul
healer needs to speak plainly to power, and recognize
that while political
power can want almost
anything, a great deal
it wants is not possible, and let us
still have a free society. Go too far in
eliminating deviance (something more
and more hard to define), and all other
freedoms will be eroded. The soul
healer, being in the
middle of these social forces, needs to have
his views particularly respected, for only he
sees and knows certain aspects of the whole. The social
order needs to follow the guidance of the soul healer in how money is
spent and on what.
Third, concerning the kin of the patients: more and more the kin must accept that they are often (but not always) the best caregivers. Their hearts are most open and committed, but such care must be cooperative in nature ... all four groups, who surround the soul healer in the center have to work together. In practical terms this means that families and communities in which special individuals have been born and raised, perhaps need to stop wanting to send these individuals away, and hide them in institutions.
Fourth, the patients
themselves: they need to
realize that the more they want to indulge in
socially deviant behaviors, the more
necessary they make it
that they be isolated from
the rest. No one, the conformist
or the non-conformist, can force
themselves on another individual
human being. Actions will
have consequences, and no one
will have a perfect life.
essential, for all five
parts of this organism directed at soul health, is mutual
trust and cooperation. Each has a
role. All must sit at the same table. Nothing can change
overnight, but with
patience and agreement the whole can make progress, one day at a
also needs to be said to the soul healer:
define deviant behavior as symptomatic of a disease (mental or
otherwise), you have
locked in a box a whole other set of questions that need to be asked. Predominant
among these questions are whether the social order itself is healthy. If the social
order breeds deviance, then why do we
blame the deviant? If all causes
are material, why do we even have a
debate about Nature and Nurture?
problem, from a
philosophy of knowledge point of view, is that we
live in a time where there is an excess of analysis, and hardly any
synthesis. Remember: the scientific
enterprise (at the present, this can change) is dominated
by analytic thinking - thinking which
takes apart what it observes in order to make it easier to
analyze. The fewer
variables, the easier to
define the experiment.
this, at the
beginning of the 20th Century, knowing more
and more about less and less. Detail
multiplies far faster than wise synthesis.
So for example, physics,
having confined itself to dealing only with what it could count (quantities to the
exclusion of qualities), can only
create a world view (the big bang) based upon
number relationships - no other
relationships having been investigated or understood. The soul
healer, trapped in the
scientific model which only counts and takes apart, can't any
longer understand his patient whose subjective psyche is complex in the
extreme, and completely
inter-related and inter-dependent - not just
inwardly, but more
soul healer there are almost too many variables, at least in
the sense of what is acceptable science today. Thus, everything has
become dependent on material chemistry (in its widest
sense), while the
reality the soul healer faces is obviously a mixture of material
chemistry and emotional or social "chemistry".
Perhaps we need an entirely new discipline: social alchemy, which would
be concerned with how we transform the soul-lead of human weakness and
darkness, into soul-gold for the benefit not just of the individual but
the community as well.
the problem is the pursuit by the
soul healer of pure objectivity, following the
sense) of physics. By various
kinds of rules (developed over time in the history of soul healing such
as the problem of transference), the soul
healer more and more abandoned his own subjectivity. Yet, and everyone
in this field knows this, the best talk
therapy work is often done in groups, and involves a
great deal of perception on the part of the soul healer of "feelings".
chemistry has to be brought into the open. In order to do
this, the best guide
is actually the self-awareness of the soul healer's own feeling life. A therapist
not seeing his own therapist on a regular basis is not upholding the
necessary standard of self discipline. An explorer of
the spiritual dimensions of human inner life, that is not
studying with someone more experienced, will also fall
into error. If the soul
healer combines his work (that is he
studies his own mind and the art of soul healing), will need to
work not only with other soul healers, but with those
whose spiritual practice is mature.
want to move in this direction will find, obviously, a mine field. Therapists are
human and subject to much temptation - sexual
manipulation of the patient being an obvious case in point. The soul
healer who pursues real self knowledge in an objective fashion, will discover
that his best guide is his own moral attitude, a problem that
is not at all simple.
best perceived when we develop the ability to think with the heart. Thinking with
the heart, however, is best done when our conscious
motive is to realize the good. We will the
good, and then think
with the heart. Moreover, the gesture of
what is the good begins in the head. We think first, what is the
good, then we will
the good and let the heart be what it was designed to be: an organ of
this work in the realm of soul healing?
every human being wants is to be known and cared about
non-judgmentally by other human beings. This is where
the child begins its life, and where all
the deep pain of growing up is lodged. At the same
time this is a very frightening want. We want our
truth to be known, and our social
order discourages us from expressing our truth. The social
order already in the family doesn't want the truth of who we are, but rather
some kind of mask. Everyone there
is already wearing masks, and this we
imitate from childhood onward. The very first
thing deep psychological art we learn is to put on a mask.
the fundamental nature of childhood and it leads easily to the
correlative creation of an outer personality - it is a mask
designed to navigate troubled emotional seas. We have how we
behave, and then who
we really are inside - known to our
secret self. Conflict
arises between the two modes of being - the mask and
the reality. Everyone
solves the conflict in unique ways. Some parts we
mask, other parts we
share. The variations
on the mixture are remarkable, and once we
really appreciate the nature of individuality - the true spirit of the
individual human being - we will
discover that scientific materialism has been itself a mask hiding our
fear of religious domination for a long long time.
order itself put on a mask. The whole
exists to manipulate this conflict
for the benefit of commerce. The soul
healer will find that in order to truly heal the individual, he must
simultaneously help to heal the social.
And, all the keys
to this vast work lie within his own humanity. We discover
and heal the truth of ourselves, and we at the
same time discover and heal the truth of the world. Fully half of
what the soul healer can know is available to him only through a
scientific and objective introspection. At present the
soul healer only knows what is available through his senses. What lies
interior, a vast
landscape already explored by many others, remains
potential. Unexplored, the rest of
the world is incomplete. Once explored, no secret is
What happens when we do this
two common problems: hearing voices
and serious depression.
side of scientific materialism, these often
reported phenomena are diagnosed as defects at the level of brain
chemistry. The mind, as a mechanism, is seen to be producing
such effects because those who are not seen as deviant supposedly do
not experience them. The
sub-conscious thought of the soul healer is that since I do not
experience voices or become paralyzed with depression, such phenomena
must be a flaw in the brain chemistry itself. The logical
conclusions then is that if I can change the brain chemistry with drugs
or ECT, I have fixed
very reasonable, as long as we
refuse to recognize the inherent contradictions and present day limits
of scientific thought about consciousness.
Suppose, for example, we do
something very dangerous (only at this
time, and in this
essay, as a thought experiment), and consider
the possibility that the paranoid schizophrenics' report of
hearing voices is in fact accurate. They are
hearing voices that are real. Granted this
is not a normal condition for a human being, but why do we
assume that because it is abnormal, it is not true. The one fact
does not automatically follow from the other.
Further, if we turn to the understanding of the historical (and recent) mind sciences (who dangerously don't accept that the mind is based in matter only), we will find all kinds of explanation for the voices. So as to not complicate things, let us just consider such a view as might arise in the West, and is modern and scientific: Anthroposophy.
voices are real, what, possibly, is the patient
invisible people is to mock the experience of the individual having
the experience, but at the
same time, this is
precisely what we see when we notice a paranoid schizophrenic walking
down the street, seemingly
talking to the air - talking to
someone that is apparently not there (we don't see anything).
defines this as insane and seeks to rid this individual of this
experience. Yet, in Western
mind sciences, two clear
possibilities are recognized. One is that
the schizophrenic is talking to the dead, or that they
are engaged in a kind of spiritually abnormal dialog with the double or
the shadow. These mind
sciences would not say that the individual talking to invisible people
is behaving in a spiritually healthy way, yet at the
same time they would say that what the schizophrenic experiences is
real, and not
illusory (albeit warped by psychic imbalances).
everything on its head, certainly. Yet, it also
redefines the problem, and in a quite
significant way. The problem at
once ceases to be one of ridding the brain mechanism of a mechanical
dysfunction, but of actual
soul healing, for something
is out of sorts in terms of the self-consciousness of the individual. The inwardness
is out of balance, and what is
out of balance can be restored to harmony.
this exclude physical therapies. Rudolf Steiner, the discoverer
of Anthroposophy, gave a series
of lectures to an audience of both pastors and doctors, which he
called Pastoral Medicine. He talked at
length and specifically about mental illness, putting
forward the idea that many such individuals needed both medical care
and pastoral care, simultaneously.
give an example from personal experience. I was working
on a woman's unit at a for-profit psychiatric facility where was
admitted a nun. She was a
member of an order that teaches children and she no doubt was
exhibiting anomalous behaviors. What struck me
as particularly tragic, was that while
she was in the hospital, the inner
ground of her spiritual life (daily prayer
and Mass etc.) was ignored. If fact, I was the only
one who would talk to her about her spiritual life, and it was
clear how much she hungered just to have someone listen to that aspect
of her soul.
course, the reader may
now say this is ridiculous, but the reader
no doubt has not practiced meditation and other inner disciplines for
years. Had they
engaged in such practices, the
schizophrenics' experiences then take on an entirely different meaning. Hearing voices
and seeing things that supposedly aren't there is a common stage of
spiritual development well know to those on a meditative path. When mind
becomes sufficiently inwardly silent, it also
becomes receptive to that which is otherwise too subtle to be
experienced by ordinary consciousness.
subjectivity is actually more real than matter, and when it
wakes up to itself sufficiently, it discovers
another world along side the one we normally experience through the
go too far here to give meditation instruction, but at the
least lets revisit some of what science thinks is knows. For example, it is common
in an experiment, where the
brain is being watched
with a CT scan, to observe a
certain sequence: the
subjectivity is asked to perform a certain mental function (solve a
puzzle, for example), and then at
some point there appears to the scan a great deal of activity in some
part of the brain, after which
the subjectivity reports the solution. These
observations are seen as demonstrating not only that the brain solved
the puzzle (after all the observed electrical activity occurred in
time prior to the report of the solving of the puzzle), but also what
part of the brain was involved.
here isn't the observations being made by the investigating
scientist, but rather
with the interpretation of their meaning. Remember above
that we pointed out the tendency in brain studies to leave aside the
social agreement between the investigating subjectivity and the
subjectivity of the one whose brain is being studied. The physicist
knows he has to reinsert this into his appreciation of what happened in
his split-beam experiment, so lets do the
first thing that has happened is the social agreement by which the
self-consciousness of the scientist asked the self-consciousness of the
research subject to
engage is certain activity (solve the
puzzle in this case). Without that
with the indeterminacy problem for the physicist, there is no
brain activity to observe without the social agreement asking the
subjectivity of the one whose brain is being studied to engage in
self-conscious mental activity. The next thing
observed is the electrical discharges in the brain. Prior to this, however, the subject
has inwardly acted (which the subject certainly experiences, and the
scientist if he is honest about his own introspective knowledge of his
own mind also regularly experiences). The causal
train is: scientist asks > subject acts
inwardly > brain activity
is observed > then the
subject reports the solution to the puzzle. The actual
brain activity is surrounded by four self-conscious subjective acts, and it is only
our preconceived paradigm that makes us isolate the brain activity as
if it is causally independent. The fourth act
is the scientist's subjective act of interpretation of the meaning of
1) scientist asks
2) subject acts inwardly
3) brain activity is observed
4) subject reports a solution to the puzzle
interprets the meaning of the experiment
observed brain activity is caused by the inner activity of the
puzzle solving subject, and therefor
the observed brain activity is a consequence of, not the cause of, this inner
puzzle-solving act. What is
actually being observed, once we free
ourselves of the constraints of the paradigm, is a spiritual
act which needs a material brain to act in a material world.
subject can't hear the voice of the scientist asking for his
cooperation, without the
physical ear, nor can the
research subject report the solution to the puzzle without the material
apparatus of the voice box. If, for example, we wired the
scientists up as well, we would see
the whole sequence of events quite clearly. But every time
there was observable brain activity, there is prior
to that the spiritual activity (thinking) of the
participants in the experiment.
Yes, I know, there are lots
of brain activity going on without the self-conscious intervention of
the thinking subject, but all that
just goes to prove the observation of soul healers in the centuries
prior to the full materialization of scientific thinking, when Freud and
others re-discovered the existence of the sub-conscious and unconscious
elements of human inner life (something know to ancient mind sciences
for centuries). The
self-conscious subject has to be coaxed into sufficient self observation (talk therapy) in order to be
able to report, what has
otherwise been hidden from the I, or
process of self examination is aided by the modern mind sciences
rooted in deep inner disciplines, then it is
possible to go even further in the direction of needed discoveries that
can shed a great deal of light on the soul health of many. What the
Freudians etc. discovered was
just the surface of a plane of existence already well known to
Alchemists, and others, for centuries. The
sub-conscious and unconscious aspects of human inner life are already a
well explored territory.
understanding is then integrated with all the remarkable research
on brain physiology and chemistry, a whole
unknown world of soul healing can result, such that ECT
and overly powerful drugs then become completely unnecessary. The scientists
of the material world have done a great work, which is only
limited in its
application by the restrictions imposed by the no longer workable
paradigm of strict scientific materialism (all is matter, there is no
come at this once more, this time with
respect to depression, instead of
hearing voices. What do the
deep explorers of our shared human inwardness already know about
the basic phenomena of depression? It is a
paralysis of the will, and this a
varying degrees. The deeper the
mal-ease, the more
immobile the patient. Some would
take to their beds and never leave, if not
sciences of the Occident (as opposed to
those of the Orient - who are
differently oriented in terms of goals) have long
recognized what is to be called: the doctrine
of the temperaments (the choleric, the phlegmatic, the sanguine
and the melancholic). These are
quite apt objective observations of general human characteristics, and can be
quite useful in their application. Depending on
the temperament the course taken by depression will be different. A choleric
might ignore it until some crisis ensues, while the
melancholic will find self-satisfied glory in it, for it proves all his worst fears.
similar to all is the influence of the double or the shadow. There really
is no understanding of the human being without appreciating not only
soul and spirit, but also the
dark side - the shadow. One writer (see
Meditations on the Tarot, Arcanum XV The
Devil), speaks in
quite practical terms of the tempter, the prosecutor
and of egregores.
older (and wiser) terms for what
addicts know as “the monkey on my back”. I have taken
to abandoning that name (it is clearly
too archaic), and
substituting the idea of “wounds”. We bear wounds
in the soul (psyche), some of which
fester in such a way that they overwhelm our conscious will. I point out
the temperaments and the three-fold nature of the shadow simply to
suggest that this way of thinking is as equally complex and rich as is
the present day conventional view. Not only that, but what is
being offered here is meant to supplement, not replace
the conventional view.
mean to suggest that depression is complicated, and one has to
in any event carefully observe and examine whoever has such a problem
with attention to a lot of detail, for not only
is everyone quite individual, as all soul
healers appreciate, the situation
is delicate, and the
patient very vulnerable and unsure - they won't
know what facts to share, and may often
hide relevant phenomena for a variety of personal reasons.
is clear that the basic problem is a paralysis of the will, and a related
experience of “life is too much”, then we can be
fairly sure that the shadow, in the form of
the prosecutor is in play. In the soul, the ego (or spirit) is overwhelmed
by the dark.
aspect of the problem is that we tend to think that this is an
experience that should be eliminated - people, we often
believe, ought to not
suffer, but should be
happy. A choleric, who can more
easily ignore a deep case of the “blues”, will look down
upon a melancholic, who revels in
this mood. Since our
culture teaches no coherent inner disciplines (materialism
doesn't recognize their need), people do not
think that the ego can be taught how to manage their soul life out of
their own inner will. Thinking the
brain is the cause of all inner states, we don't
really following those lines of thought that would lead us to
appreciating other possibilities.
cultural age where some think the self-consciousness is an illusion, we will no
doubt never consider that this very self-consciousness can become the
master of its feeling
life. Of course, all kinds of
people engage in serious self-help or self-development disciplines, with success. Some people do
manage, through such
as the 12 Steps, to overcome
addiction and alcoholism, using a
discipline that sees the whole process as spiritual in nature. Our culture is
full of examples where the I masters something of the inner life, unless you get
in the mental health system, which isn't
permitted (in general) to apply any
other treatment modalities but medications.
found it the strangest kind of paradox, in the hospital where I
worked for ten years, to go from the adult unit to the substance abuse
unit, where two
entirely different paradigms were at work. What was even
stranger was to watch how those labeled dual-diagnosis were treated. A bi-polar
addict was a odd creature indeed (you just have
to read the treatment plans and the doctors intake interview, to see just
how weird this can be). For the addict
especially, the problem
was very acute, for what most
troubles them (their addiction) tends to
require that they take no drugs at all. But if they
are simultaneously described as bi-polar with an addiction, and mostly
depressive (those with mania aren't so bothered by their so-called mental disease) there is a big
you prescribe to an addict an upper to defeat their depression?
survey the field over the last 40 years, we will see
how just at this juncture the
profession itself created addictions to mood altering drugs. Have a mood disorder (that is have a
soul state the culture defines as deviant), why lets give
you a happy pill. Oh, sorry, you've become
an addict to Valium now? Gosh, you sure are a
wreck. (The system and the doctors are not responsible - right?)
healer who undertakes a
serious study of his own
inwardness, following a
modern mind science, will find
their ability to help people greatly increased with every step they
take in self knowledge and understanding.
be found in my books: the Way of the Fool; and, American Anthroposophy.
the forces opposed to the self-development
of the soul healer
acquire power, and their
leaders gain wealth and prestige. Pharmaceutical
corporations have a lot at stake in manufacturing drugs to “help” the mentally
Politicians like to be seen as “doing something”. People in
general don't want to be bothered by deviant behavior. Patients cry
out for aid.
people, the soul
healer is confronted with a house of mirrors of choices. He can swim
with the pack, or plot his
own course. One way is
easier, the other
harder. Which way does
Society need him to swim? If we
define Society by its power structures, those structures will certainly
need the soul healer to provide services that lets the powerful take
action. In the Soviet Union, hospitalization for a "mental"
illness was a political tool of a totalitarian State. Recently
during the Bush II administration, psychologists were used to oversee
torture and to help in its application.
pointed out above, the soul healer is in the center of a surrounding
set of forces, and this fact then reveals something else. While
we can urge that a whole society move in a certain direction, if we
understand the practicalities of how social change actually arises we
realize that such change occurs one individual at a time. It
can't happen by fiat from Washington, but only organically out of
individual free choices.
act locally. Only the soul healer can give us the
example and from there suggest what others can and ought to do.
The coming revolution is personal and biographical.
We do it from within our own lives. My novel America Phoenix begins with
the following discussion, which is entirely relevant here and a good
place to end (with a bit of Art):
"Synergy?" said Hex-man.
"Right, synergy" replied J.C. "Things happen together. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We tend to think that political and social change requires that we organize movements. Remember when we always talked about the "movement".
"Sort of, that was really before my time".
"Yea, right, okay. So anyway, synergy is about multiple things happening together to create something they can't accomplish alone. Its one of the main organizing principles living in the social organism. Just one, by the way, but for our purposes it will help to understand it.
"Yea, I get it. You and I, we do something together. Get better results than if we do it alone. Plus, other people, people we don't even know. They do stuff, and it interacts with our stuff synergistically. Is that a word?"
"I think so, but you get the basic idea. The thing is we can count on it. In fact we need to become highly aware of it. Think of us as trying to navigate the seas of history. In these seas are currents, and if we can ride some of the currents, stuff happens in a better way, than if we are trying to steer across them or against them. So we have to learn to make mental maps of the seas of social existence, and then find that place we want to work, and with whom - keeping in mind that we aren't alone and that others have similar goals and it all works together synergistically. "
"Okay, I get it I guess. But can you explain a little why this works, especially when people aren't really organized into mass movements?"
"Well, actually, mass movements are kind of dangerous. The more mass the less consciousness. We get mobs and violence. Small groups appreciating that each other exists do better. They concentrate more on what they really can do, and less on ideology. The phrase "think globally, act locally" understands this.
"Try it this way. Lots of people today want to decide for themselves what is true and what is right to do. Think of this impulse, a very common modern human impulse, as a kind of emerging social force in the evolution of human consciousness, or human nature as some might say. But everyone doesn't always agree about what is right, yes? Yet, what happens is that when a lot of people are struggling to do what is right, and not just hiding under the covers, you get a lot of right things being done in a lot of places. The way the social organism works, in its synergistic sense, is that all these right things add up to something more than the individuals can often imagine.
"Everyone has a place, the place right where they are. In that place they seek to do what Plato might have called the Good. This ideal of the Good is like a wonderful landscape, seen from many different directions. So each one of us, seeking to do the Good, helps bring this wonderful landscape more and more into real social existence. Each of us is like a kind of small sun, shining into the social organism our own striving for goodness."
"Okay, I can see that. But how do we know what the Good is?"
"Well, everyone has their own Way of course, but if I was to try to put the how of it into words, it has to do with when we think with our hearts and not just our heads. If we think just with our heads we get a kind of cold and calculating idea, generally one more selfish. But we need to think with our hearts, that is we need to think in a warmer way, more empathic, more caring of the other person, the thou. So we will the good and think with our hearts. Everyone can do that, don't you think. Or at least try."
"Yea, I get it. Don't need somebody to tell us what to do. We do our own thing, and if we will the good and think with our hearts, something happens all over the country or the world because of the synergy principle, something we can't imagine."
"Right, you got it Hex-man. Oh, one other thing. Ever see the movie Six Degrees of Separation?"
"No, what's it about?"
"Well, the story is kind of funny, but it has this idea behind the title. The idea is that between ourselves and any other person there are only six relationships. You know someone, and they know someone else, and so on for six relationships, until each of us is connected to any other person in the world by only six such relationships, or six degrees of separation."
"Crap. Can't be true. You think between me and the President are only six people separated? Shit, no way."
"I don't know, its just the idea. Maybe some math people invented the idea. But there is some truth. We are connected in ways we don't see. You know me. I was in Vietnam, and I knew this CIA guy. Maybe now he works in Washington and his boss knows a Senator, and the Senator knows the President."
"Christ, that is weird."
"Yea, I know. But think about it in a different way, along the lines of what we have been doing with the synergy idea. These connections are real. We influence each other. You need something from me, or I need something from you, then these relationships become important. Things spread like splashes on a pond. Who knows what energy flows along the connections. "
Transcendentalism Comes of Age*
- the transcendentalist impulse, heretical
and American Anthroposophy -
follows the trail blazed by Owen Barfield's book of essays called: Romanticism
which sought to show how the romantics were a preview in time of the
impulses connected to European Anthroposophy. Here we
do the same thing, only this time seeking to show the same essential
connection between the transcendentalists and American Anthroposophy
Some readers of this will have no idea
what “Anthroposophy” is.
Rudolf Steiner, its scientific discoverer,
defined it as follows: “Anthroposophy
a path of cognition from the spirit in man to the Spirit in the
will help to appreciate what I mean by “scientific discoverer”.
Anthroposophy is a name given by Steiner
to a universal human capacity. This potential is developed naturally in some cases, and only by hard work in
some individuals there is a mixture of both.
Details can be found in my book American
This development involves the awakening
of the will in human thinking (cognition), such
this will is able to bring about the metamorphosis of human
thinking from its present state to the new (previously potential) state.
Thinking then becomes able, following this
human consciousness to the Spirit, or Universal Consciousness (Emerson's Over-Soul). Emerson developed this capacity more self-consciously (through hard work and instinct) and Thoreau was was able to
do it more naturally (instinctively). We know, for example, the degree to which Thoreau was able to be awake within the true thoughts
of the natural world.
Emerson described this condition (from one point of view) in this way, in his essay Nature, written
age 33 in 1836: Nature is a thought incarnate and turns to thought once
again as ice becomes water and then gas. The World is mind
precipitated, and the volatile essence is
forever escaping into the state of free thought. Rudolf Steiner, at age 25, 50 years later in 1886, wrote this in his book A Theory
of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception: Thought is the last of a
series of processes by which Nature is formed.
For our modern conscious, we might describe the
situation this way: The assumption of natural science is that thought is disconnected from
the world (a kind
of naive dualism). Further, under the remnants of the
once popular doctrine of logical positivism, such as analytic philosophy and various philosophies of
believed to really only be available to be observed and analyzed when
it enters language in sentences (this is justified by our naive experience of thinking in
its discursive form, as if we were inwardly speaking to ourselves).
For both Emerson and Steiner, thought could be
appreciated best right where it appeared before us in our own
like Thoreau, didn't
so much think about this, but rather did it. That is, he thought, and wrote down, or spoke, what he thought.
Steiner, in particular, described his book The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity as: some results of introspection following the methods of
One was to think about thinking - to cogitate about cogitation, using as much as possible the methods of natural science: objective observation and
experimentation. We are to seek an empirical knowledge of thought and
thinking, as appears directly
within our own consciousness. Why?
Because in that most intimate sphere of
our experience all the secrets of thought and the world as a co-joined
unity (not a
dualism, but a
monism) can be
The 19th Century was the full flowering of natural science. Parallel to that
and the Transcendentalists offered an alternative to the
materialism (all is
is no spirit) then coming to dominate the
thinking of the educated Western world. In America, the transcendentalists appeared at the beginning of the 19th
Century most strongly in Concord, but by the end (the 1880's) the power of that impulse
wained, and by 1890 the Concord School of
Philosophy had closed.
Research by Steve Burman, presented recently at the
Concord Convocation (directed
local Concordian Stuart Weeks), showed
even though the Concord School ended, it ended with the knowledge that something was about to
be born in Central Europe out of German Idealism (Hegel, Schilling, Goethe etc.) This assessment was
simultaneously to this waining (for a time) of the Concord School in America, in Europe Rudolf Steiner (as a young man) was bringing in the culmination of the work of German
Idealism and marrying it to the scientific impulse (to the practical application of this work
he later gave the name Anthroposophy).
In the early 20th Century the idea (but not its practical
European Anthroposophy became known in America.
Unfortunately, this took the course of too much study of things Steiner
wrote and said, and
enough practice of inward disciplines.
This confusion of practice and study is
where the transcendentalist impulse becomes related to heretical
Traditional Christianity has become
dominated by systems of belief (rooted in an excess of biblical study), and few people actually bother to suffer the trials of
practicing fully what is taught in the Gospels.
Heretical Christianity has always
emphasized practice over dogma, which is why the Roman Church so often declared these
folks heretics and tortured them and then killed them.
The Gospels themselves always hinted at
the fundamental problem, by identifying two groups at the Birth: the shepherds and the
kings were related to the old pagan mysteries, which sacrificed their prior eminence (symbolized by the gifts of
gold etc.), so that the Way of the
Shepherds could begin to live into the world.
This new Way of Faith was rooted in the
social form of Pastor and Flock. The stream of kings' wisdom (the more ancient Way of Gnosis)
did not leave completely, but remained active
wherever some kind of direct experience of the Divine Mystery was cultivated
and taught. The
taught that the individual human being did not need a pastor, and that all individuals
were able themselves to be priests.
This stream of kings' wisdom, such as the Essenses, Gnostics, Manicheans, Pagans, Alchemists, Rosicrucians, some early natural
etc., was more
interested in the truth than in an official
institutional point of view. By the time
transcendentalism appeared in Concord, for example, the power of traditional Christianity to severely punish
heretical thinking had been lost, although the capacity of traditional Christian
authorities to studiously ignore contrary ideas remained.
Such was the fate of European
Anthroposophy as it slowly emerged in 20th Century Central Europe - the traditional Churches ignored it. In a similar fashion, Stuart Weeks' effort, through the four years
here in Concord of the annual Concord Convocation, seeking to unite
transcendentalist thought and Anthroposophy, is basically ignored by local Concord Churches. Most lovers of the work
of the transcendentalists here in Concord look to the past - to Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, and so forth, and not to the present, or the future. Even the Convocation
didn't quite know what to do with itself, for like most of the Anthroposophical Movement worldwide, the Convocation was
unable to maintain the scientific discipline which Steiner modeled and
Enter American Anthroposophy, or Transcendentalism
Comes of Age. What
it mean: Comes
This could be answered in several
different ways. I write that last sentence (thought) so one doesn't assume that the next sentences tell the
We all know that time is rushing by at an
almost breakneck speed. Change forces us toward ends we hardly seem ready to see, much less master. Both Anthroposophy and
Transcendentalism need to be American - that is practical and pragmatic.
We are far past a time when mere good
thoughts and idealism are to be of much use.
Americans are doers of deeds. We create and invent and accomplish.
American Anthroposophy, if it actually is
Age, must be useful to our present social crisis. What then is American* Anthroposophy as a practice, rather than a dogma or a
one do with it?
[Steiner recognized there would come to
be an American Anthroposophy, see my book for details.]
Interesting enough, Steiner described Americans as natural
anthroposophists, and being English speakers, they were also instinctively in what he called the
Consciousness Soul in their life of rights (their public life of law and politics).
This last means that we Americans, in spite of our human flaws, are also at the leading
edge of social transformation. We insist, for example, that politics be moral. We get confused (obviously) by what that means in practice, but we need our public life to be more than just a vanity
of the power hungry - the sharks, wolves and pirates. The Republic was founded on such a need and view, and if American
Anthroposophy can't help with that, then sorry, but come back later when we have the time to be “philosophical” (in the sense of
contemplating our collective navels).
If what was hinted at above about the
difference between the naive dualism of natural science (thought is disconnect from the
world), and if Emerson and
Steiner's appreciation of the fact that thought and world are a unity (a monism) were better known, we could then begin to
see something practical. The instinctive wisdom of think globally, act locally can become a science.
Our personal thoughts are not
disconnected from life, but rather represent a perception of the living inside of
fact, we often
are conflicted because so much of modern life suggests we can't
personally know, but have to rely on experts and scientists. Everywhere this is
rebelled against, in small ways and large. As the world continues its movement toward increasing
social chaos (an
intermediate stage of an ongoing metamorphosis toward a new civilization - that is, Western Civilization is
in the process of dying into a new becoming), we
more and more being thrust on our own powers of observation, judgment and thought.
We live the immediacy of our
guy in Washington, or some academic in an Ivory Tower. We have to deal with the
effects of each other's increasing stress driven craziness, and it will be our own
thinking and judgment that pulls us through.
Emerson could not have put it more
succinctly: In self trust all virtues are
Yet, we are wise to be cautious.
We know we often make mistakes, and that frequently our
thoughts turn out to not be true. Science wants to tell us that we are just material brains, whose impulses were
mapped out millions of years ago by a blind chance evolution. That's a reasonable (but false) idea, with the existential
problem coming when we face what to do when there is no food and water
in our house, while
neighbor appears to have plenty. Survivalist and militia groups are getting ready to treat
this as if we still lived in caves. What was once called Social Darwinism is not pretty in
many of us expect more of ourselves. The age of paternalism (dominion over) is giving way to a rebirth of maternalism (communion with).
As this time of less and less material
wealth descends upon Americans (joining us to social conditions already common among the
majority of the rest of the world), we
face difficult choices. Is Emerson's seeming idealism of self trust and self
reliance a fiction?
American Anthroposophy is about how to think. Not what, but how. It is practice not
theory. It is
a science of thinking that gains for the individual all the confidence
they need in their own capacity for sound judgment in a time of seeming
social madness. The lessons of Katrina are to be multiplied. We can't expect the
government to save us, but must learn to rely on ourselves and each other. As a consequence this new how of thinking has both an
individual and a community component (when necessary, such as when faced with a personal moral choice, we do it ourselves - we can also do this new how
of thinking together, through conversation).
While many will want a kind of simple
Mac-version of this new how of thinking, its deeper reality is not to be gained like service in a
fast food place. All the same a brief sketch of this new thinking can be
Properly called: Living Thinking (In The Acts of the Apostles this is called the experience
of holy breath), this transcendental
of cognitive activity involves four
stages of development. These may be identified as thinking about, thinking with, thinking within and thinking as. Each stage morphs out of the prior condition through an
inwardly willed sacrifice (renunciation), coupled
an intention to love more and more selflessly the object of
To continue briefly: Ordinary consciousness is
basically thinking about. We generally think about other people, for example. When we try to see the
world from their point of view, we are moving from thinking about to thinking with. This act, however, requires the conscious or
instinctive renunciation of our natural inclination to re-actively like
or dislike another person. If we like them too much (an excess of sympathy), we
not see them truly (a
kind of love that is blind). If we dislike them too much (an excess of antipathy) we also will not see them truly
- which lesson is described in the Gospels
in the Sermon on the Mount as the problem of the mote and the beam. To think truly with another, we have to renounce these
reactive feelings, and consciously (willfully) make new (redeemed) mental pictures that seek to know them from their point
of view - to think with them.
The transition from thinking with to thinking within is more difficult. The mind must learn to
empty itself entirely of its given thought content as regards the
object of thinking. In the Sermon on the Mount this is expressed in the
Beatitude: blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. To be poor in spirit means to not have a thought content
to which we are attached. We have surrendered our personal and individual point of
view - renounced
consciousness is empty of its old coagulated thought, the duality discussed
above is overcome, and the first stages of a true new and living monism
is no longer separate from the inside of sense experience, but within the inside of sense
we have an inside of which we are deeply self aware, so does everyone else, including Nature. Remember: “Nature
a thought incarnate,...” wrote Emerson.
After learning to let “it
in me”, which is the way Steiner
puts it, or by
learning to “think on our knees”, which is the way the author of Meditations
the Tarot: a journey
into Christian Hermeticism puts it - by stepping so strongly
away from our own point of view, we are now on the threshold of learning to think as, not just within.
This final struggle involves renouncing
the centrality of our own self. We think fully of
the other, as if the self didn't exist.
Now this process of learning to think about, then with, then within and finally as is circle and spiral-like in
does not disappear, but the will in thinking is strengthened. Moreover, something already possessed by
ordinary consciousness becomes raised out of
instinct and into full self-consciousness.
When, for example, a mother selflessly thinks for and about the needs of her
instinctively can intuit what she needs to do that is the good, or that moral action
called for by the circumstances she faces.
When our consciousness is focused on other-need, to the exclusion of what is for our own benefit, we become knowing doers (Steiner's phrasing). We find, by this selflessness, those thoughts which the situation calls forth. We know the inside of the circumstances of
Natural science, for example, stops at thinking about
scientist keeps his own consciousness and nature apart (having assumed already a
disconnect). He doesn't even conceive
that Nature could have consciousness. Not looking for it, he cannot find it. Were he decide to look for it, the door to the inside of Nature is through his own
don't approach any kind of real intimate relationship with another
human being by focusing solely on their surfaces - what we see through our
know them, we
have to learn of their inside, which we call: getting to know each other. The same process is required with regard to Nature.
We know today the moral emptiness of thinking of another human being as a thing - as an object without an inwardness or its own meaning. We have mostly overcome making slaves of other human beings. We have not yet overcome making a slave of Nature. We are working Nature to death, and because we are interdependent with Nature, we are in effect murdering ourselves and our posterity. As Einstein pointed out: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
This then is Living Thinking (holy breath), which
precisely what is needed to deal with the crises of our time. We have to learn to not
just think about
the elements of existence (the living people, the living social processes), but with, within and as these elements. Existence has an inside, just
does each human being we meet. That inside can be known.
With the above thoughts we can now
appreciate more deeply something hidden in the instinctive wisdom: think globally, act locally. To think globally means not just to think and try to
understand the whole world, but to think holistically - to
with thinking the whole situation, including its inside. To think globally means to go beyond the stark tendency
of natural science to concentrate solely on analysis, but instead to
consciously practice synthesis.
In fact, science doesn't know at all what to do with the social
crisis of the world, for it never asks the relevant questions. Religions doesn't do all
that well in this realm either, tending to believe they have a monopoly on spiritual
their tradition of social good works and service accomplishes much) .
Government, as Katrina taught us, is also mostly useless. We are on our own. What will we choose to do?
In point of fact, the movement from a dead and dying paternalism (dominion over) toward a new and living
social maternalism (communion
with) includes a
movement away from I toward Thou. What I can or cannot do alone is far outweighed by what
we can do together.
Thinking, which frequently has to be individual (in order to be truly moral), when it is applied to the needs of several has to acquire
another quality. We have to think-together, to take council together. I-thinking acquires morality through selflessness, but at the same time we-thinking requires not just
capacity to weave the thoughts of many into a whole. In our we-thinking conversations we
have to unite the separate thoughts into a unity. An individual trying to
dominate the conversation does not serve the whole, but only himself as an
raises his thought above the potential of the unity of all present thoughts.
We know too that this isn't easy. There are whole
disciplines connected to how to achieve what some call consensus. First Nations
communities would often discuss for days at a time serious issues which
were to affect the whole. No individual was expected to sacrifice their individual
judgment and freedom to the whole - everyone was still free to go their own way. But whatever community
there was, that
to find some level of shared agreement through social processes of communion with.
A lot of common place sayings are
relevant here. The whole is greater than the
sum of its parts, for example. Many hands make light work is another. The 12 Steps of AA are fully rooted in community practices. So is the social process
look at the social commons (the social below, which is more and more separate from the influence of the
dying hierarchical organizations), group
processes are coming to the fore precisely because they are more
The core of this working is conversation. True conversation at
this level is a skill, perhaps even an art (some call it the Royal Art). This was the heart of the transcendentalist impulse - the circle of friends. Community (shared) problems need to be solved
by that particular community itself, through the conversation of social equals. What is being suggested
here is that in this practice of the Royal Art of Conversation, we together find the true
inside (thoughts) of the social immediacy we
only its truth, but
kind of truth which is co-creative. We (together) participate in this socially
creative art, by
which the many crises of the coming times are solved in ways never
before thinkable, because we didn't yet need to think them. Another common place
saying comes to mind: necessity is the mother of
This then is Transcendentalism Comes of
the needed true thoughts through those conversations as are made
necessary by our shared trials of life, in each circle of friends of which we are a member.
The Arcanum of the Loom
Joel A. Wendt
Something from a distant and masked future lays its seed in our present. Is it Beast or Angel? How will we raise it, educate it, nurture it? Will we be in charge of it, or will It be in charge of us?
How can we know what lives in this erupting electronic entity? The number of people on-line has been doubling every 6 months, more or less. Web pages are growing at a similar rate. Is it a cancer? Or an intervention divine?
When America was being born in revolution, electricity was almost a magician's art. Some felt that in discovering this energenic power, they had finally found the soul!
Many are writing about this unusual phenomena, which is to accompany us on our journey into the third millennium. In the pages that follow is just one more picture, perhaps ...
Lets start by just trying to hold in our imaginations a picture of these events from a certain point of view.
Picture the Earth, a blue-white sphere in space, the human habitat, embedded in a field of stars. Now form a close-up of this surface, using the inner camera of your imagination pan inward, until you see just a part of the globe, the details of the clouds, and a mere slice of starlight darkness off to one side. Next paint on this part of the sphere millions of tiny tiny light points, places where individual human beings sit before a computer screen. Next, draw very thin lines joining these light points, a seeming image of the physical bindings, the wires and other transmission links, joining these computers together.
From this view, the blue-white Earth is interwoven with a very thin weaving of light, bringing countless humans into contact with each other.
Now picture the human beings, sitting before the screens. What is outer physical is only partially relevant. More significant is what is invisible, the mind, the spirit and soul, sitting before the screen. From this inner landscape comes thoughts, feelings, activity. Two aspects of this product, this generative consequence of the inner human, are very important.
The first is this. The material structure, the computers, the links, the software, all that which exists as tool was first imagined, then created by the human being. So when I sit before my computer, this tool which I am using, owes its origin to human creative deeds, to imagination, thought, heart, will, labor, stress - all that humans have done, so that computers exist and are joined together in this weaving of light. Human consciousness has extruded from its own nature certain possibilities onto the physical world. Much like a plastics factory takes liquid plastic and molds it, so human consciousness has taken the physical world and molded this tool.
The second aspect is this. When these woven joinings are used, that is when I "surf the web", "explore the loom", send e-mail, download software, play games, buy products - all that is done via the Internet, does not involve the physical, except as tool. It is my inside, my mind, my soul and spirit, which "surfs the web" and so forth.
Now consider two human beings, joined by the woven light. The physical is irrelevant. Only the soul and spiritual, the mind, the inner life, is involved. Someone sends e-mail. The next reads it. A very special process happens in these most simple acts. When I compose e-mail, before my fingers type, my inner voice speaks, and my feelings and will are involved. When I read e-mail, again my inner voice speaks, and my feelings and will are involved. The most significant acts are all invisible to the eye. The only trace left in the physical is the image-symbols, the letters, mere lines of dark on light. The meaning attributed to these symbols is all an internal act. If I mis-speak, or if I mis-read, this is my responsibility.
Not easy to communicate, one mind to the other, on the loom of woven light. Understanding the word*, both in its inner and outer manifestations, is crucial, if true communication, community and communion is sought for.
Truth can be ignored. False statements are commonplace. Abuse is not unknown. The use that is made of the loom of woven light is a moral act. The loom itself is neutral; it is simply a tool.
Imagine now the content on the loom. Web pages, websites, home-pages, commercial sites, game rooms, chat rooms, talk (most written), content, pictures, information. How does it get there? Why is it there?
Certainly that which is done for the purposes of commerce is fairly clear. But much that is on the loom, comes to be there because of love, even that which is on commercial sites. Love? Yes, love.
Go take a look. Ask about orchids, for example. Do a search for orchids. Many sites, beautiful pictures. Why is this there? Because someone loves orchids and wants to share that love with others. Much that is on the loom is there because of time and effort which is completely unpaid. No money is earned, yet the "information" is there, free, for the asking.
Suppose you thought you might have adult onset diabetes. You hear that diet can manage this disorder. You go to the loom, and behold, site after site. Information on diet, food, advice, doctors, medicines and more. Commercial sites, some, but mostly just ordinary people who have faced this problem themselves, and who, out of love, place this information, that they have won through hard labor and suffering, on the loom so that others can find it.
Now, let us imagine again our picture. The blue-white globe, nested in the field of stars, covered over with individual stars of its own, individuals, fallen stars, living on the Earth, joined by weavings of light, singing to each other, sharing, offering, giving ...
*For more insight into the moral use of the word, see Speech ; and, pragmatic moral psychology .
Rub your feet or shoes or socks across a carpet, and touch another person to see a spark. Heat and light and sound appear, a miniature lightning flows from our finger to leap the gap between that and another object, person, wall, whatever.
On a desk, bigger than a breadbox, a computer sits. Subdued, channeled, perhaps mastered, that spark runs effortlessly, faster than thought itself, performing a million tasks a second, often in a space not much larger then a postage stamp.
What is that spark? What is electricity? One very deep thinker calls electricity "fallen light". Let us for the moment assume this is true. What is this person trying to say to us?
Lucifer is called a fallen Angel. Prideful, independent, disobedient, Lucifer could no longer face God, and fell, from Grace, from heaven. So if electricity is "fallen", or graceless and prideful and disobedient, separated from the Divine, what was its original state? What is unfallen light?
In Goethe's Farbenlehre (Theory of Color), he speaks of the "deeds and sufferings of light". What kind of physics is this which sees "light" as Being? "Fiat Lux!" spoke God, in the Creation: "Let there be Light!".
Would you like to experience this light personally?
We only think we see light, when in fact true light is invisible, and we only see color. Think on this. Look around for yourself. Look! At night, while the moon is full. During the day, when the shadows move. Yes, I know what your physics book says, but, there is a revolution coming, and it is coming right at science, and its name is: magic. (See also: Catching the Light: the entwined history of light and mind, Arthur Zanjonc)
Stand in a narrow doorway, facing into the room. Move your arms out until the backs of your hands rest against the side of the doorway. Now begin to press outward with your arms. Press hard, it needs to hurt some. Hold this pressing tension with all your strength for at least a full 60 seconds. Then quickly step into the room and completely relax your arms. Place no will in these limbs at all. If you've done this correctly, your arms will rise of their own accord, then fall, then rise again, but not quite as high as before, then fall, then rise again. Usually at least three risings.
In this way you can experience for yourself a force called levity, which is the counter pole of the gravity force. This levity force works from the cosmic periphery in toward the center as a drawing or suctional force. The rising of the sap in all plant life comes from the action of this force. However, this force is not light itself. In the science of the future, which already is appearing in this century, this force is also called the ethereal formative force, in its biological ramifications. It is the force which takes the plastic malleable nature of the biological organism and gives it form. Its existence is a by-product of the existence of light. It is our will which impels the levity force into our limb muscles, so that when we relax, the excessive levity is strong enough to overcome gravity, until it is used up. It is our will that is of the light.
Take a magnifying glass and look closely at the palms of your hands. The lines there are produced by the streaming in and out of your body, through the hands, of the ethereal formative forces. The Beings who create these forces are what the aboriginal Americans honored in their Ceremonies connected to the Four Directions.
Form an image in your imagination. Try to hold this image, not letting it slip away, or dissolve. Not at all easy to use the light, is it?
Modern materialistic science posits a completely consciousless and being-less universe. This science is only able to do this by systematically excluding data from its experiments, so that at each new stage the knowledge produced is more and more about less and less. Science can't find soul and spirit, consciousness and essence, at the basis of the universe, because at each turn of its examination it has eliminated and reduced the facts it would admit for consideration. Having excluding all that was difficult to control and count, of course it could only find a universe that was controllable and countable. Science didn't find the truth of the world, it just invented a new myth. To see the history of this, get and read: Man or Matter, by Ernst Lehrs.
Sit quietly in a chair, upright, relaxed, yet alert. Imagine that you are breathing through all the pores in your body. Don't control or alter in any way the natural semiconscious rhythm of your breathing, just form the imagination that as you inhale, light is also drawn into your body through the pores, then out again when you exhale. With some practice, you will learn to breath in and out of your body, the light. See Step II, Initiation into Hermetics, Franz Bardon.
This is unfallen light. What then is fallen light, or electricity?
Matter arises from the condensation of the elements. This condensation has occurred over time in rhythmic pulses. The elements in this case are the magical-classical ones: fire, air, water and earth. This rhythmic condensation produces in its wake an organism of a variety of types of matter, ordered according to the elemental gravity-levity balance therein - gravity and levity being by-products of the activity of the elements during this condensation. This produces the well recognized table of chemical elements. See in this regard: Radiant matter: decay and consecration, by Georg Blattmann, and The Nature of Substance, by Rudolf Hauschka.
The elements are the product of the activity of beings - invisible cosmic beings. In the human being, the seed of these cosmic powers is found in will (fire), intellect (air), feeling (water) and consciousness (earth).
Matter then is magically enchanted Being. Gurdjieff describes this in All and Everything, as the sacrifice of a group of beings who forever then accepted complete passivity. Woven into this arrangement is another class of beings, who joined in the rebellion against heaven lead by Lucifer. It is their nature which appears then in matter as cohesion. That matter has the quality that it coheres is due to the presence of these fallen light beings, as their part of that great sacrifice from which the acceptance of eternal passivity creates solidity out of pure spirit. That I have a physical body and can't put my fist through the wall next to me is due to this sacrifice.
Our technological civilization - our electrified civilization - is made possible by the unconscious breaking of this enchantment, and the freeing of this fallen light from its true and natural place and placing it instead into seemingly man made devices, so as to perform services for us. Lest you think this is completely crazy, just recall for a moment some comic book magic grimore you have seen with its strange style of writing, the symbolism of incantation and spell weaving, and then look at an electrical diagram, or wiring diagram, and realize that without the acts and symbolic thinking that has gone with this development, electricity would have remained an obscure and misunderstood element of science.
Faraday perceived the polaric and reciprocal arrangements of the energies of electricity, but his concepts regarding ponderable and imponderable natures was discarded as those who followed preferred a more spiritless set of conceptions. Clerk Maxwell's equations are not possible without Faraday's laws. Thus, the understood (by Faraday) spiritual nature of what he was working with disappears, and mankind gains some apparent mastery of electricity, but no true understanding of its nature.
Perhaps, you who are reading this, are sitting in front of a computer, and you have had some experience of what in electrical circles are called "glitches". Electricity does not always behave, and we do not always understand when it does not, because when it misbehaves it acts contrary to our assumptions about its nature. We dismiss these acts and ignore them because they do not fit the pattern we assume is true. But anomalous electrical phenomena abounds, and there are deep mysteries for those who are willing to be open to them. Keely, Russel, and Tesla, created works difficult to reproduce, which yet inspire others to follow into many places outside the mainstream thinking of modern physics (which has trapped itself in the repeating loop of the quantum assumption).
We use a tool we do not understand, and about which we hold tragic illusions. In our minds lives a false idea, a ghost, a shadow of the truth, and if we are to master the next phase of the electrification of our civilization, the so-called information revolution (a big misconception by the way) we have to begin by understanding the nature of electricity first.
A computer is a dark servant, just waiting to be even more freed from its bindings. A copper wire is not a hollow tube through which little bubbles of electricity dance. The word "current" is a misconception. Electricity does not flow. When electricity is present in an object, such as a copper wire, the deep nature of that wire is altered. The matter (the copper) exists in a different condition then it does when electricity is not present. This is why "superconductivity" is aided by extreme temperatures of cold. Consider:
We are told cooling lowers the electrical "resistance" of the matter cooled. The truth is not so difficult. Water freezes and becomes ice, that is it "crystallizes". Which means that the deep structure (what we imagine as "atomic", and "molecular", that is as very small bodies, are in fact not material bodies at all, but "points of intersection" of forces - forces being the passive will of enchanted beings) of super cooled matter is pushed in the same "direction", i.e. toward the crystalline - that is the tension in the matter between the tendencies toward chaos and the tendencies toward order is overbalanced in the direction of order. In matter so overbalanced, so placed in an "unnatural" state, "fallen light" has more freedom.
The brain has electricity in it. Our nervous system exhibits some qualities similar to electrical systems. Are our thoughts the movement of these electrical impulses? Are our thoughts some form of fallen light?
No. Our thoughts are of another nature entirely. As a by-product of that activity which produces thinking, the material apparatus of the brain (which doesn't think by the way) displays the release of "fallen light", which is also in the matter of our bodies. Our material bodies also have "coherence", and when thinking occurs, the matter ages, loses some small part of its coherence, and "electricity" appears.
The brain is an organ which mediates between the spiritual and the material. One of the ways thinking is thought about today, uses the computer as a model. Our brains are seen as similar to a computer, hardwired systems, with software built in. There is some value to this image, as long as we are careful not to make too much of it.
Consider this: A computer consists, apparently, of hardware and software - material apparatus and programs that run on that apparatus. The mind, in the view of some, is similar, just that instead of inorganic matter, it is organic (whatever that is). This view is in error, but the analogy might work if a missing parts were not left out.
Someone made the computer, thought it up, created it, and wrote the software. In addition someone uses all this in order to accomplish something, to express something. So, if this analogy is to mean anything, we have to keep the whole thing, and not believe the computer and the software evolved through blind chance, or that it operates itself purely on the basis of its internally determined structures.
So the human being has aspects which are given. He/she has other aspects which are self determined. You doubt this, you think the human being is a bio-chemically determined thing? Elsewhere on this site are materials, which if followed, will show the individual the true nature of their inner (spiritual) freedom.
Thinking is a transcendent act, not a material one. As an aid to the discover of this I refer again to The Quiet Suffering of Nature , especially the aspects concerning the study of projective geometry. Consider this:
Many years ago, Abraham Lincoln is said to have studied Euclid's Elements of Geometry, an early classical geometry text, in order to discipline his mind. Now and in the future we might study Olive Whicher's Projective Geometry: Creative Polarities in Time and Space, seeking by this study to bring a whole other level of discipline to the mind. This is the key to so many things, which are not possible without it.
Everyone understands the need for physical exercise. The mind needs exercise as well, both in terms of "stretching", such as the study of the above geometry, and "discipline", which is to tame its (the mind's) excesses with true moral understanding (see again, pragmatic moral psychology , this site).
When this stretching and discipline become common practice, then mind transcends ordinary thinking, and the idea of mind as an electro-chemical physical organ disappears (see also: The Idea of Mind: a Christian meditator considers the problem of consciousness , this site). There is no other way of it but to walk the path and discover matters through one's own experience. To argue about what has been written above is deny discourse and scientific method, which requires reproducible experiments and protocols. To acquire the stretching and discipline refereed to above is to accomplish all that.
Which comes first the chicken or the egg? Which comes first the big bang and evolution, or our ideas that these should or could be? Can mind arise spontaneously by accident? Or must mind come to be born of something of like nature? Can anything exist, which was not first conceived? Consider this:
Nothing a human being has created (which is not real creation anyway, just a re-arrangement of the already given) was not first thought. That is, all material re-arranging flows from a prior invisible act. In this, is it not possible that an echo exists of something which has preceded it.? Does not our process of creation - even just in re-re-arranging - mirror our own creation? It is said that before we became, we were first thoughts in the mind of God. For the purposes of this, the third and last iteration, let us consider this an axiom.
In another place of this part of the loom (my cyber-home) can be found a description of God's "splitting", the initial process of creation (see Earth Ranger 2323 , this site). Creation in this sense has more to do with music then with things "blowing up".
Music has themes, melodies, counterpoints, changes of rhythm and texture. In that God has split Himself in the Creation, the music has now more that one Instrument. Some Instruments never leave the Realm of the Invisible to live and learn in the realm of the visible. Some of God's children, the human beings, do. But as Instruments, these children are incomplete. Other Instruments are more complete - but in thinking this we must not conceive of these instruments as material. Earthly music is only a poor echo of the Music of the Spheres, and the instruments with which we make earthly music are only poor imitations of the real Instruments, the cosmic spirits, the hierarchies, angels, archangels, archi, and on, all the way to the sublime Cherubim and Seraphim.
The given world, the material world, is the Creation out of the Deeds of the Instruments - an Echo, as it were. In a way, we can look at the material world, the world of the senses, and recognize that it reveals something hidden. Just like the pattern in the iron filings given by the field of the magnet unveils that invisible field, so does the material world (at a much greater level of complexity) unveil the invisible within the visible. Evolution, in that as an idea it attempts to portray creation as a kind of accidental combining and re-combining, looks but does not see. The Natural world expresses, in material form, the Music of the Spheres, and it is no wonder at all why nature is so beautiful, endlessly fresh, rhythmic, melodious, and full of all the mirth and drama we find so astounding in the great symphonic works of classical music. Moreover, we, as the children, are essential and central to the scheme of things.
Of what point music without an audience? A sunset without a human being to see it has no meaning. We also are a theme, expressed from out of Cosmic Music. Not only that, but only within us, within our own invisibleness is the symphony completed. Outer nature is but a part of something which is not whole unless the human being forms the thoughts, gives the names, utters the inner word, without which meaning would not exist. And in that we give meaning, we but echo that larger Word from which Meaning comes.
So what part of the Music is the computer? What has the human being expressed in his mastery of the re-combining of the given material world in creating a machine that uses fallen light to perform so many calculations a second that it stands on the threshold of becoming able to mimic the human mind?
Consider what is missing in this image. Unfallen light is missing. Life is missing. Real intelligence is missing. The work of the human being is incomplete. Can we give a machine a conscience? Do we dare, or must we finish the work begun, and learn first to understand light and life and intelligence and conscience, before we attempt to truly echo the Creation?
Perhaps, the final arcanum of the loom is a question mark.
Look at the symbol carefully. Start at the upper left, where we start when we write this symbol. A small sphere, a symbol of wholeness, leaps into movement and then descends, disappearing into a point, before leaping a gap and ending in a second sphere. The first gesture disappears, sacrifices itself, before recreating another image of its basic form. Consider: "God said, "Let us make mankind in our image and likeness;..." Genisis 1:26
Next are two essays which I include in many of my books,
as they are of special import for reasons that will be obvious
to those that read and understand them.
The Meaning of Earth Existence in the
Age of the Consciousness Soul
essay was abstracted from my book, the Way of
the Fool, in
order to submit it to the Newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society in
America in the winter-spring of 2006, where, as is typical of my
offerings there, it was ignored. For this book it has been
carefully rewritten, with entirely new material added in certain
places. By the way, the Way of
the Fool is, at
its core, the beginning of a courtship between that reality referred to
by the terms esoteric and exoteric Christianity - between Gnosis and
Faith (Kings and Shepherds), and this essay is the final
thought-picture in the main body of that book.
The Meaning of Earth Existence
in the Age of the Consciousness Soul
*[John 16: 12-15 "I have much more to say to
you, but you can't bear it just yet. But when the other comes,
the breath of truth, he will guide you in the ways of all truth,
because he will not speak on his own, but will speak what he hears and
announce to you what's coming. He will glorify me, because he
will take of what is mine and announce it to you. Everything the
Father has is mine: that's why I said he will take of what is mine and
announce it to you."]
book: the Way of the Fool:
There yet remains a small effort to make
a synthesis this work - to make a whole out of seemingly disparate
parts. I will try to be brief.
A principle aspect of the great Mystery
of our Time is the Mystery of Evil, both outwardly in the structural
backdrop to the shared social world of humanity, and inwardly in the
depths of our own souls. I have tried above to point out how it
is that the essential matter is not the outer social world, but the
inner soul world, and the trials and education of the i-AM,
the biography. The context, which we need to call the maya
of history and current events, and which is receptively
held everywhere from below by the Dark
Mystery of the Divine Mother, all passes away, and only what is
Eternal, that is what becomes an aspect of the developing i-AM,
and, this inner realm (the whole Inwardness of the Creation,
which includes human souls and spirits) only exists because of the Heavenly Mystery of the penetrating
thoughts of the Father, while the whole (the
outer social maya and the eternal inner mind) is created, loved, overseen and
mediated (wherever two are more are
gathered...), in all its Grace filled and
Artistic interrelationships, by the Earthly [new Sun] Mystery of the sacrifices of the Son.
We (humanity) now begin to move out of
our spiritual childhood, and in making our way through the Rite of
Passage that is Life as it leads us toward our spiritual maturity we
need to take hold of the complex of the doubles and the karma of
wounds, as these thrive within our souls, and which encourage human
evil through temptation and inner prosecution. Even so, this task
of meeting the Mystery of Evil within the soul is not as heavy as we
think, for through the Shepherd's Tale [Charles
King's Tale [Rudolf Steiner], the Healers' Tale [the community-created Twelve-Steps] and the Sermon on the Mount, we have all the practical instructions that we need.
In seeking to understand in ourselves
these three: moral
freedom and love [each of these is
elaborated in great detail in the book], we set before ourselves what
is required to be learned in this Age and it is with these three
naturally unfolding capacities that we are Graced and strengthened so
as to be able to meet with courage the Mystery of Evil. If we do
dare this path, and seek for the deepest instruction in Christ's Sermon
on the Mount, then will come to us a change in the nature of our
biography, such that it more and more takes on the pattern, described
in the John Gospel, as the Seven Stages of the Passion of Christ (the washing of the feet; the
scourging; the crowning with thorns; the carrying of the cross; the
crucifixion; the entombment and the resurrection) (for a careful exposition of these Seven Stages, see
Valentin Tomberg's [anthroposophical] book: Inner
Whereas Christ lived this in an
apparently mostly physical way, those, who truly follow In His
Steps [the name of Sheldon's book,
as well as a critical phrase** in Ben-Aharon's The
Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century - a profound Imagination of
the True Second Coming], will in the main
feel these trials in their souls, as aspects of the joy and suffering
in the human biography.
**["Now when they identified
themselves with the situation of earthly humanity, the souls who
remained true to [Archangel] Michael prefigured, in their
planetary Earthly-Sun life, the great Sacrifice of Christ. They
walked again in His
steps [emphasis added] as they did in former
earthly lives, only now the order of following was reversed. They
went before Him, showing Him the way, acting out of free and
self-conscious human decision, and He followed in
steps [emphasis added] only after they fully united themselves with the divided
karma of Earth and humanity. Only then could He offer His
sacrifice as the answer to the new, future question of human existence:
the question concerning the mission and fate of evil." Jesaiah Ben-Aharon, The
Spiritual Event of the Twentieth Century.]
These trials may seem difficult, but the
truth is they are merely human. It was Christ becoming human that
went to the Cross, for how could He place an example before us we could
not do out of our own humanity (just as Sheldon wrote in In His
Steps). [something written by a Shepherd (a
pastor) in America, at the same time Steiner (a King) was writing his The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (Freedom)]
It is the human in Christ that asks in the Garden of Gethsemane
that the cup be taken from him, but if not, He accepts the Father's
will. While later it is the even deeper human in Christ that says on
the Cross: "My
God, my God, why did you abandon me?".
Who among us, in the trials and sufferings of life, has not
uttered these same thoughts? [That Steiner teaches an esoteric meaning
for the end of life statements of Christ, in no way contradicts their
exoteric meanings, which are also true.]
It is here that Christ's teachings
strongly diverge from the Wisdom of the Buddha, for the Buddha would
have had us overcome suffering by learning not to know it (one version
of the third Noble Truth of the Buddha reads as follows: " ...concerning the Cessation
of Suffering; verily,it is passionless, cessation without remainder of
this very craving; the laying aside of, the giving up, the being free
from, the harboring no longer of, this craving.",
Christ asks us to embrace our human pain so that we can pass
through the Narrow Gate of suffering to then know our deepest self, the
true i-AM, and then through this burning trial of knowledge of the
true-self, ultimately come to Him. If we would follow In His
Steps then we too must take on ourselves the
errors (sins)*** of the world, and the tasks of forgiveness and love,
for every love
engendered free act of moral grace takes up a
small part of Christ's suffering, so that we too participate in the
deepest creative acts of the Seventh Day of Creation - the transformation of evil
into love. [This is for
anthroposophists the teaching attributed to Mani, but the reason such a
personality even knows this is because the transformation of evil
into love is modeled for us in the deepest
felt actions of the Divine Mother and the Son. When we know
intimately these actions of the Divine Mystery, we know the true
spiritual meaning of the Mystery of Evil, and that this Mystery is
Itself the real source of the earthly doctrine connected to it that is
sometimes called Manichaeism.]
***[The word sin does not appear in the
original Greek, from which the Gospels were translated into the other
languages. The Greek word hamartia, misused to indicate sin, actually means "missing the mark" (it is a term from archery). See in this
regard the Unvarnished
Gospels by Andy Gaus.]
Is this foolish? Of course, but we
need not fear this Way of the Fool, for our Faith
in Christ's Promises will always be fulfilled, as we ourselves can
learn to become the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Yes,
this Way is full of trials, but whoever has lived life, and reflected
upon their experience, knows that in the meeting of our biography's
trials with courage we discover what it truly means to be human: to struggle, to fall, to get
up and to learn - and, through this process, gently and humbly, begin
to take up along side and with Him, Christ's kind and light, Yoke of
Having said all this, it becomes
necessary to make one last picture for the reader, for clearly, in that
we read the news and hear of the horrors of man's continuing inhumanity
to man, we ourselves face a terrible trial. How are we to
understand a world seemingly so filled with Evil?
Picture, for a moment, the surface of the
Earth. Below dense matter and fiery substance, while above,
airless space. Humanity lives out its Earth Existence only in
this narrow spherical band of Life, whose diameter is just under 8,000
miles (and whose height is just three to four miles, because above
15,000 feet above sea level, the atmosphere starts to not contain
enough oxygen to support our breathing). The total surface area
of the Earth is 196 million square miles, and the habitable land area
43 million square miles Six billion plus human beings must
find all that they physically need, which when we consider actual
available arable land (land that could be cultivated for food, and
other necessary resources), means that each individual only has a
square 161 feet on a side from which to grow what they need. This
then is the
physical spacial aspect
of the social organism of the whole world.
Yet, we know that this spherical space is
itself often unwisely distributed, for human social arrangements,
whether rooted in dominance and selfishness (dominion over) or generosity and sharing (communion with), these social arrangements seem to determine this
social order. This stream of moral gestures (choices), of good
and/or of evil, moves out of and through human beings, organizing the
As to this moral aspect
of the social organism of the whole world, it has reached in this Time a kind of climax of development,
and it will be important to appreciate the true nature of the logos order in which Christ has set modern human existence, through
His creative powers as the Artist (Lord) of Karma (the precise and love
based placement of individual biographies in relationship to each
other). Here is something Natural Science cannot do, for
the meaning of
existence is beyond the weaknesses of their
yet fanciful and spirit-empty images. This will also help us to
understand why so many (falsely, but with some degree of reason)
believe we live in the End Times.
In the Twentieth Century the world was
woven together into a single social organism, not just via the
globalization of economic matters, or the personal interconnections
offered by the Internet, but most centrally by the Media. At the beginning of the 20th Century, few knew
what went on elsewhere the world, in any detail or with any immediacy.
At the end of the 20th Century, at the same time that the
returned Kings' were unfolding the New Revelations of Christ [the
story of the 20th Century involves a return of the meaning-essence of
the Three Kings of the Gospels - that is a return of the knowledge of
Gnosis, hungering to be woven again into a single whole with true Faith
- an event which clearly had to accompany the True Second Coming], the
world itself was woven into a whole in the sense that no macro social
event was not to be almost immediately known everywhere the same day
(if not the same hour) that it happened.
We live in a time when has arisen a
Culture of Media - a kind of knowledge commons, in which vast resources
are used to create for us pictures of the meaning of the world and of
events. The more developed the country, the greater our daily
experience can be saturated with the messages coming from this Culture
Moreover, great effort and expense is
gone into by those who would force us to believe what they want us to
believe. Between advertising, political propaganda, outright
lies, weak or lame reporting, and other similar failures to reach the
truth, this saturation of the soul by the Culture of Media would seem
to fail to offer us any service at all. What is not appreciated is that
the Christ is far wiser than even the deepest believers imagine.
Every evil is eventually turned to good, and next we will explore
the prime example for our time.
Recall what has been pointed out many
times now, that the
individual biography is the central reality of life on the Earth. What happens inside us as we experience life is
much more important and enduring than the outer events which surround
us. That Stage Setting (all the world's a stage....) is
but epiphenomena to the reality of the life of the soul. To help
us appreciate this then, let us explore these matters from the point of
view of the individual biography.
In this time, there are over six billion
plus of these biographies woven into the tapestry of the social
organism of the whole world. Six billion lives held delicately
and exactly within the Love and Divine Justice of the Mystery.
Within these biographies, all the individual i-AMs
experience that precise and personal instruction that hopes to lead
them to the realization of their own divinity and immortality of
spirit. [The epoch (rite of passage) of the Consciousness Soul is 2100
years long, going from the time of the beginning of the on-looker
separation (and the creation of Natural Philosophy - Science) in the
1400's, until the years around 3500 AD.]
To understand this we need to think it
from the inside out, and not from the outside in. The Culture of
Media only provides context, never essence. True, life is hard,
even harsh, even terrible. The naive consciousness wants to turn
away from this suffering, and cannot understand how God (the Divine
Mystery) could allow such things as torture, child abuse and the
genocidal acts which are dumbed down by the terms: ethnic cleansing.
The reality is that what the Divine
Mystery does is to allow for freedom. This most precious gift is
essential to the immortal spirit during its Rites of Passage we are
calling: Earth Existence. Moreover, the Mystery also makes
certain there is a true Justice through the post-death passages of
kamaloka and lower and higher devachan, in a manner no human social
structure can provide. Christ has told us this in the Sermon on
the Mount: "to what sentence you sentence others, you will be
sentenced". All this should be kept in mind as we proceed.
As a single ego, I wake in the morning.
From the night I bring the remainder of yesterday, perhaps worked
over. Surrounding me, as I live the day, are the lives of those
with whom I have a karma of wounds - with whom I have a debt of meaning
to creatively work over. This we carry together, each bearing a
part, each bearing their own wounds. These are wounds from
the past, from the present and from the future.
To observe the world of today, as we walk
the walk of our lives, is to observe trials of fire and suffering -
rites of wounding and being wounded. But not just this, for also there
is healing. Where we let love thrive, wounds become healed.
Thus flow all our days, often too fast to
even notice the beauty and wonder of the sea of personal relationships
and shared trials. Yes, there is misfortune, and evil deeds.
But do we really imagine Christ and the Divine Mother lets this
evil happen without recourse or justice? We may not know this
directly through Gnosis, but we also can have Faith.
Gnosis without Faith
is empty of Life; and, Faith without Gnosis is empty of the Truth. Only when we join
them together, do we get: the Way (the Mystery of living the Good), the Truth (the Mystery of knowing the Good) and the Life (the Mystery of union with the Good).
This then is the wonder of the outer and
inner biography, for often the wounds are not visible. Yes,
sometimes the wounds are visible to our eye or ear for we see people
too fat, too thin, too lamed in body, too poor, too physically or
mentally deficient. Often, however, so many of us suffer in silence that we really do not know the nature and personal
meaning of their wounds - only our own are visible to the eye of our
heart, unless we first learn to exercise and unfold certain powers of
soul and spirit.
Amidst all this visible and silent
suffering, we find ourselves woven into the Culture of Media.
Images and sounds flow around us, pictures of a world on the
verge of chaos and madness. Yes, we have the intimacy of our
personal biography, but through the Culture of Media we are drawn into
the painted backdrop of the whole world - a backdrop we all share.
War in Iraq. Global warming. Governments out of
control. Pandemics waiting in the wings. Local economic
recession, and even world-wide depression.
What lives in this painted backdrop - in
this Stage Setting - in the wise relationship of the Culture of Media
to the unfolding of our personal biographies?
The answer is this: the mirror of our own inner darkness
Inside us the double-complex - our
feelings of judgment, our temptations, our addictions and our sense of
failure. Inside us the darkness that belongs personally to us, and
outside us, carried to us by the Culture of Media, the mirror of that
darkness. But also inside us the Good that we would author.
Think on it. Do we not experience
the images and sounds brought to us by the Culture of Media as
something that is filled with what we like and we dislike? We
live our biographies and the Culture of Media confounds our souls with
pictures of dark and light to which we all respond individually.
The great masses of humanity do not make the News. The
great masses of humanity experience the News.
What is News? News is exactly what
the reporters and television personalities call it: stories. The Culture of Media provides us stories (tales)
of the world, which are often presented as if these stories are true,
something most of us have come to know they are not. News stories
reflect all kinds of bias, and in some cases the bias is deliberate.
Moreover, news stories reflect conditions of commerce living in
the agency reporting them.
For example, it is well understood that
in the last third of the 20th Century in American television the news
divisions of the major networks disappeared, and the entertainment
divisions took over the responsibility for the news. The
opportunity to inform and educate the receivers of news stories became
secondary to the need to keep them interested so as to be able to sell
commercial time and make a profit. In addition, the stories are
mostly about dire and tragic events, and little is investigated or
reported that is about the positive and the creative.
We are right then to wonder sometimes
about the News, about its harsh nature and artless excessive attention
to the dark deeds of many. Humanity in general bears within it
the beam that is not seen, while the mote
is exaggerated. But the world itself is not this beam, is not
this darkness. The greater part of darkness is inside us - in our
own souls, and from there projected onto the world. The Culture
of Media exaggerates this darkness further, at the same time it gives
us much that also arouses our own unredeemed antipathies and sympathies.
Once more for emphasis...
The world in its reality is not this
Media generated excess of darkness (so out of balance with the light
that is also everywhere present), which we all project from within the soul - the beam. Yet, in
the Culture of Media this whole processes of dark projection is
exaggerated so that the mirroring nature of the social
world itself begins to bother us. This logos order of the social world is complex and rich, and worth a
Pictures of a distorted and untrue
meaning of the world abound, and while we share these pictures, we make
personal and individual our reactions. Just as the intimate
events of our biographies have a personal meaning, so does the shared
stage setting have a personal meaning. In a more general sense,
for example, many Christians today are confronted, via the Culture of
Media, with pictures of individuals whose actions as self-proclaimed
Christians either inspire us to imitation or cause us to turn away in
shame. The same is true in Islam. The terrorist who frightens us
in the West, also causes many ordinary Muslims to turn away in horror.
Everywhere fundamentalism rises, to continue the example, the
great mass of humanity, that are not so tied to such arid rigidity,
shrink away in antipathy. Do we not assert quietly, inwardly to
is not me, I am not that - I will not be that!
In our biographies then, we are
confronted in the intimacy of our personal relationships with what are
sympathetic and antipathetic reactions to that which we would choose to
admire and imitate, and that which we would shun and refuse to be like.
Via the Culture of Media, we are met with that which approaches
us in the same way, yet on a larger scale. Just as we as
individuals have a Shadow (a double-complex), so nations, religions and
peoples have a Shadow, and the Culture of Media puts in our faces these
pictures and meanings with which we can identify or from which we can
turn away, often in shame.
Christ has arranged, in this particular
moment in time (the cusp of the 20th to 21st Centuries, which is also
the Dawn of the Third Millennium) to place in the dying away
hierarchical social forms of humanity, those biographies which do two
main forming gestures within that history. This is all connected
to a process in which social chaos arises in order to cause these old
hierarchical [third cultural age] social structures to let go their no
longer valid hold, and in many instances be eventually replaced with
new social form arising out of the social commons [fifth cultural age].
In the first instance, these biographies
living in the decadent social hierarchies (such as government,
corporate and church organizations) portray strong images, via the
Culture of Media, to which we react equally strongly out of our likes
and dislikes. For example, one of America's wise women, Doris (Granny D) Haddoch, has said that we should be grateful for such
as George W. Bush, because he causes us to awake from our sleep as
citizens. As a consequence, in our individual biographies we
react to the extremes of these dominant religious, business, cultural
and political personalities, and this brings about in us as individuals
certain inner judgments and calls to action.
The second effect of those biographies
unfolding in the now decadent institutional social hierarchies is to
drive the social order further into a needed condition of chaos,
something all 6 billion plus biographies require in order to birth the
moral dilemmas necessary for the Age of the Consciousness Soul.
This social chaos sweeps traditional moral authority aside,
and forces us as individuals into situations where we must rely on the
own I in order to properly face the moral crisis. In that human
beings are incarnating in massive karmic communities in order to have
these sometimes shattering moral experiences, this causes the present
world social organism to have the strong tendency to completely
dissolve into a condition of near total social conflagration [thus my
website: Shapes in the Fire].
of the logos ordered social organism of the world requires crisis in order for the individual biographies to live, not just intellectually, but fully
and dynamically and existentially into dilemmas of moral choice.
Only true moral choice can awaken in us what is offered in this
Age to the development of the Consciousness Soul.
Nothing in the world is not touched by
the Art of Christ, who as Lord of Karma - Lord of the Satisfaction of
Moral Debt and healer of karmic wounds, arranges in majestic harmony all the biographies so that even from the smallest detail to
the grandest historical event, meaning is put to the service of our development - the leaving
behind of our spiritual childhood followed by our birth into spiritual
The world historical crises of this time
are a complex and rich Stage Setting, against which 6 billion plus
souls live out the dramas of their individual biographies.
Thus, in this birth from spiritual
childhood to spiritual adulthood, the Time - the Age of the
Consciousness Soul - is a Rite of Mystery, a Baptismal Mass for all of
humanity, just as was told to us by John the Baptist. [in Matthew 3:11]
bathe you in the water to change hearts, but the one coming after me is
stronger than me: I'm not big enough to carry his shoes. He
bathe you in holy breath and fire."
Consider now more closely what happens inside
us as we experience the intimacy of our
biographies, and the shared pictures that come via the Culture of Media.
Choice confronts us. Do I be
like that, or like this? From what place inside do I choose?
In a time so filled with chaos that rules no longer apply, I
discover that I can rely only on myself. Out of myself I must
author the Good in response to the world of meaning that surrounds and
confronts me. So powerful, in its personal immediacy, are these
experiences, images and meanings, that we cannot turn away from them.
It is as if the World itself is on Fire, wanting to burn and burn
and burn until we run from it in terror, or stand up to it and give the fullest of our participation
to its moderation and its healing.
Yet by Grace, I contain the means to know
the Good that my biography and membership in the shared fate of
humanity draws out of me. What I source becomes a part of the
world, and I know that this is so. I know my freedom to
enact the moral grace that my heart comprehends in its deepest places.
Deep inside my soul my very own heart hungers to sing: Love will I give. Love
will I create. Love will I author.
So now we think away the physical - the maya
of the sense world, and let our picture thinking gaze only upon this
inner, invisible to the physical eye, moral act. An act more and
more emerging everywhere, for while in America, and the Cultural West,
the Consciousness Soul is first widely appearing, it will and
must appear everywhere that human beings let the world touch their
wounds, while they seek to share with others the trials by fire of
Invited by the Love and Art of Divine
Circumstance to look within and to reach into the depths of our own
being in order to source and author that Good which we know to be
right, we touch something spiritual and are Touched by something
Spiritual. In this time of the True Second Coming, in the
inwardness of our souls and invisible to all outer seeing, a Second
Eucharist is being enacted - the Good offers Itself - Its own Being - to us (Moral Grace). For the
Good we know is not just known in the soul as what we tend to think of
as a mere thought, but if we attend most carefully, it is true Spirit,
just as the John Gospel writer told us that Christ spoke: [John 3:6-8] "What's born of the flesh is
flesh, and what's born of the breath is breath. Don't be amazed
because I told you you have to be born again. The wind blows
where it will and you hear the sound of it, but you don't know where it
comes from or where it goes; its the same with everyone born of the
[The existence of a Second Eucharist, to
accompany the True Second Coming, in no way means to diminish or change
the Original Eucharist. On the contrary, we will find that via
the Second Eucharist our understanding of the meaning of
the Original Eucharist (the transubstantiation of matter) will deepen.
See in this regard, the small pamphlet: Radiant
matter: Decay and Consecration, by Georg
Blattmann. From the transubstantiation of matter we are being led
onward to learning how to participate also in a transubstantiation of
Thus we are being truly and continuously
born again today (each act of moral grace is another Second Ethereal
Eucharist and birth), from out of our spiritual childhood and into our
spiritual adulthood, baptized outwardly by the fires of the times in
our biographies, and by holy breath within - a Second Eucharist where
Christ gives of His own Substance that biblical knowing of the Good -
His own Being. For us to truly know the Good, requires we join
our own soul to the Good. Our yearning to author the Good out of
ourselves is how we participate in the Baptism of being truly born again, and how we participate in the sacrament of
the Second Eucharist. Christ also participates by giving to us,
out of Himself, this very Good - this Moral Grace. When having
received within ourselves this sacrament of the Second Eucharist, an
act that only arises because we seek it and form its actual
application, we remain free - we create moral law - we author the
fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Given to us within by
Christ as a capacity, we then author its incarnate nature and pass it
on to the world of our biographies, - from out of us thence into the
outer world (or into the inner world), do we then ourselves author this
engendered free moral grace.
But how does Christ do this? Is
this Good offered to us in this Second Sacrament as if it was a thing,
passed by hand from one to another?
No. Christ as holy breath breathes
upon the slumbering burning embers of our own good nature, just as we
breath upon a tiny fire in order to increase its power. He
sacrifices His Being into this breath, which gives Life to the tiny
ember-like fire of our moral heart. The holy breath becomes
within the soul of each human being who asks, seeks and knocks a gift
of Living Warmth that enlivens our own free fire of moral will.
The Narrow Gate opens both ways, making
possible thereby the intimate dialog and conversation of moral deeds
and thoughts that is woven between the i-AM,
Thou and the Christ (wherever two or more are gathered...),
intimate conversation leads ultimately to the consecration - the character development - of the soul.
In this way our thinking can now behold the Meaning of Earth
Existence in the Age of the Consciousness Soul:
macro-cosmic Rite, a Second Ethereal Eucharist, in which we give
birth out of ourselves in the most intimate way possible, knowledge of
the Good, not as mere thought, but as Life filled moral will, breathed
into greater power by the sacrifice of the true ethereal substance of
Christ's Being in the form of holy breath.
The outer world is but a seeming, and
what is brought by the Culture of Media mere pictures of the Stage
Setting for the World Temple that is home to our biographies.
When we think away this outer seeming - this logos formed and
maya based sense world, and concentrate only on the Idea
of the moral grace (Life filled holy breath) we receive and then enact
out of the wind warmed fire of individual moral will - as individual
law givers, as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets - we create this Meaning of Earth Existence. Every act of moral grace, given greater Life
within in the deepest intimacy of our life of soul, is an ethereal
communion with Christ, even though we may only experience it as what to
us is a mere thought of what is the Good at some moment of need in the
Christ gives us this Gift, by Grace,
freely out of Love, and with no need that we see Him as its Author.
We hunger inwardly to know what the right thing to do is, and
when this hungering is authentic, we receive Christ's Holy Breath.
This does not come so much as a thought-picture of the Good in
response to our questing spirit, but rather as the contentless breathing substance of Christ's Being. We are
touched (inspired) by Love, and at this touch we shape
that Breath into the thought that we then know. The nature of its
application and form in which we incarnate this thought is entirely our
own. We shape the thought completely out of our own freedom - our
own moral fire of will, for only we can apply it accurately in the
individual circumstances of our lives.
As the Age of the Consciousness Soul
unfolds accompanied by this Second Eucharist, the Social World of human
relationships begins to light and warm from within. For each free
act of moral grace rests upon this Gift of Christ's Being to us - an
ethereal substance received in the communion within the Temple of the
own Soul, freely given in Love whenever we genuinely: ask, seek and knock during
our search for the Good. Our
participation in this Rite, this trial by Fire leavened by Holy Breath,
leads us to the co-creation of new light and new warmth - the delicate
budding and growing point of co-participated moral deeds out of which
the New Jerusalem is slowly being born.
This co-creation is entirely inward, a
slowly dawning Sun within the macro Invisible World of Spirit.
Moreover, we do it collectively (as humanity). While each
of us contributes our part, it is our collective conscious celebration
of the Second Ethereal Eucharist (creating the Good) that begins the
transubstantiation of the collective (presently materialized and
fallen) thought-world of humanity into the New Jerusalem.
Thought is real, and it is as equally
real as is matter. The Original Eucharist transforms the already
divinely given now-dying substance of earthly matter into Life-filled
Spirit through our ritual invitation of the active
Grace of the Divine Mystery; and, our participation in the Second Ethereal Eucharist transforms dead thought
into living ethereal Substance, through the mystery of our individual
spirit's active and embryonic grace, that becomes united into the
collective co-creation of humanity.
In the Invisible World of Spirit, we
co-participate, out of the own moral fire of will, in the Dawn of the
New Sun that is to become the New Jerusalem.
Let us now slow down here for a moment,
and take a deep breath, for these last thoughts above may seem almost too big - too idealistic - to be
easily contemplated. To ease our understanding and gently ground
it, let us consider this situation once again in it most ordinary
The world of our biographies places each
individual into the fires of experience.
These are remarkable gifts that lead us toward moral questions -
often deep and troubling. We yearn to know what to do, and in
this circumstance we may ask, seek and knock. What
has been called earlier in this book Moral Grace is available to us,
yet the mystery of this practice of inner activity is where we ourselves
create moral law - where we become the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
In the King's Tale, we saw that Rudolf
Steiner's book The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity showed how
to come to this knowledge through the practices of Gnosis - to knowledge - in the form of moral imagination, moral intuition and
moral technique. In the Healers' Tale, we saw how the 12 Steps
helped us to master the soul through the elevation of the spirit, and
in this way come to know God's Will as we understand it.
in the Shepherd's Tale we came to understand that by
Would Jesus Do out of Faith, we could also
come to the needed individual moral beliefs.
Three different paths (among perhaps many
more) all leading to those individual invisible depths that each of us
must uniquely experience, which we have now seen must be properly
Second Eucharist of Holy Breath. So we
come now to perceive the Time - this Age of the Consciousness Soul -
where, if we seek it, we have made ourselves available to be baptized
with Fire and
Holy Breath, just as John the Baptist us told
Christ would do, 2000 years ago.
Even so, we
still have to truly want to know the Good - to authentically ask, seek and knock.
Ideas such as
the above, and in the rest of the essays in this little book, need to
have behind them a rational
method, in order
to be in accord with the times and the scientific spirit. This
last essays outlines that problem,
in the language of Anthroposophy proper. Anthroposophy (a path of
spiritual development) and Christianity (a religion) are not the same
thing, although they both have an underlying relationship which may be
apparent to the readers of this last offering.
In Joyous Celebration of the Soul
Art and Music of Discipleship
- a moderately serious introductory sketch unveiling
American way of understanding the New Thinking -
first some necessary context
Recently in the News for Members of the
Anthroposophical Society in America (late 2005), was published a
wonderful lecture given by Dennis Klocek, elaborating the alchemical
foundations living in Rudolf Steiner's spiritual scientific work.
The essay below means to be something from just one voice out of
another of the streams that seeks to find its home within the
Anthroposophical Society and Movement - the stream of discipleship, of those who are karmically related to the original
Twelve and the direct participation in certain aspects of the Mystery
of Golgotha. [See the essay above (The Meaning...) for why I write in this way.]
In the essay that follows, it might help
the reader to understand that it is mostly written for, and out of, the
American Soul. About this Soul, Rudolf Steiner spoke in different
places and in the following ways, which I will paraphrase: The
American comes to Anthroposophy naturally. English speakers are
instinctively in the Consciousness Soul in their Life of Rights.
There is a hidden and unique form of Anthroposophy that is to
develop in America in the future, and one should look to Emerson and
his circle of friends to appreciate it.
The reader, of whatever Soul background
and gesture, who would seek inner stimulation from actively
engaging this essay, should understand that for the American Soul much
of what is described below is already instinctively present. This
instinctive relationship to the art and music of discipleship appears
first in the American Soul in the dominant tendency to be directed
outwardly toward the world, fully engaged in social reality, and
sometimes (often more frequently than appears on the Evening News)
seeking to heal the social world's wounds. Part of the hidden
mystery of this Soul is that it is possible to take what is so present
instinctively, and awaken it by gradual degrees into full
consciousness. This task may turn out to be far easier for the
American Soul, than has so far been imagined within Anthroposophical
To fully inaugurate this gradual
awakening, however, does require turning from the outer world and its
worries and wonders for a bit, and to look within - to practice
introspection. When looking within becomes a normal part of soul
life, American anthroposophists should not be surprised to find that
they already live instinctively in their wills in ways with
considerable kinship with the path of discipleship - the path of moral action in
the world through renunciation and love.
With the addition of this introspective looking within, we add to
the thinking we already do about the field of outer-world social moral
action, a complementary and much needed thinking about the soul-field
of inner moral action. Outer world thinking and action are
enhanced by everything we learn from the practice of looking, thinking
and acting within.
By the way, it is not the point of this
essay to encourage any divisive distinction, such as might be assumed
because of the emphasis on matters American. Nor is it being
suggested here, for example, that Americans are any better at
Anthroposophy in any way. On the contrary, we are just different. Each Soul gesture in the Threefold World has
unique gifts to offer, and this essay means to serve the potential
freeing of those yet untapped American gifts from a kind of child-like
imitation of things European. This tendency, to model our soul
practices on a kind of European anthroposophical idealism of the soul,
was a natural impulse connected to our admiration of the work of our
European brothers and sisters. It is time to grow past this
however, to discover our far more earthly and pragmatic way to the
Spirit. And, to do this not only for the benefit of the
American Soul Itself, but also for the benefit of the Anthroposophical
There are then two themes, which while
related are also quite separate. The relationship of the
Alchemical stream and the Discipleship stream is one theme, and the
relationship of the American Soul to the wider world is another.
The point of intersection, between the Discipleship stream and
the instinctive capacities of the American Soul, shows only that the
Rosicrucian and Manichean streams of the Old World, and their
connection to Initiation, does not quite have the same meaning for the
American Soul as does the natural Christ Impulse inspired in Americans,
and revealed by their relationship to the outer world of social need
(in part a consequence of the fact, that due to its rampant
individualism, the Consciousness Soul is developing faster here - See
Global Responsibility: individualism, initiation and threefolding").
The Alchemical stream is a stream of
studied spiritual knowledge and of initiation. It is more of the
Kings and of Gnosis than of the Shepherds and of Faith. The
Discipleship stream is more related to that moral work in life that
comes from following the Teachings of Christ, and thus is more of the
Shepherds than of the Kings. The disciples, who were meant to be
fishers and shepherds of human beings, were not (in general) of the old
mystery streams as were the Kings (St. Paul, remember, was not a
disciple, but began was an enemy of Christ prior to his initiation on
the road to Damascus). The Shepherds belong to what was being
newly created - to the future Mysteries that are to arise from the
social commons. These future Mysteries are not to flow out of the old,
now impotent and dysfunctional hierarchically organized Mystery
Centers, but from finely and homeopathically distributed Branches and
Discussion Groups - that is the New Mysteries are to be born out of and
in ordinary social life where groups of individuals draw together (wherever two or more are
At the same time, while the America Soul
is more naturally of the Shepherd stream, - of the discipleship stream,
because of its orientation to outer world moral action, it can by
turning inward and seeking a pragmatic introspective life, begin to
draw from the wisdom-well of renewed European spiritual life.
Rudolf Steiner, in his works on objective philosophical
introspection ("A Theory
of Knowledge Implicit In Goethe's World Conception"; "Truth and
Knowledge"; and "The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity") gives us a
quite useful generalized map to this introspectively investigated inner
territory - a territory that for the American Soul has many different
and unique characteristics. With Emerson, we get a similar map,
not as exact and scientifically rigorous, but one which nonetheless is
more in harmony with the actual landscape of the American Soul.
We can then read Steiner to initiate us
into our introspective soul voyages, in the most objective and
scientific fashion; and, read Emerson for that travelogue, which is
more attuned to the unique scenic beauty to be actually found there,
given that the American Soul, like the other soul-gestures of the
Threefold world, is differently oriented in its fundamental nature.
I have tried here to distinguish two
problems that ought not to be confused. This article is not
saying that the American Soul and the Discipleship stream are
identical, only that there is a definite kinship. What is also
being said is that for those in this discipleship stream (of which
there are no doubt many - Americans and otherwise - within the Society
and Movement, and for whom this article also aims to provide greater
self-understanding), they will tend to be less attracted to exercises
aimed at spiritual development, and more called to moral action in
life, which incidental to its true deeds, produces the after effect
"For every one step in spiritual development, there must be three steps in character development". Rudolf Steiner: "Knowledge of Higher Worlds and How to Attain It".
[Keep in mind, when thinking about
character development, this question: To what aspect of character
development do we relate a good sense of humor, laughter, foolishness
and dance? Please also note that at one time the word silly
meant to be possessed by the sacred.]
This is not to suggest that specific
spiritual developmental exercises are unimportant, but rather just to
point out that if the moral (character) development lags behind, it
more and more becomes a danger that spiritual experience will come
toward us in a one-sided way. Further, we need to understand that
true heart thinking is almost entirely a consequence of the extent to
to do the Good
(that is to be moral) is the foundation for all feeling and thinking
To make some of this a little more
concrete, we might notice that it would not be uncommon for those drawn
to the Discipleship stream to find that their biography involves a need
to encounter the 12 Steps of AA, or to have to undertake some similar
deep moral-Trial work. Challenges to character development
are common in biographies with a strong kinship with the discipleship
stream. Which thought then leads us to the essential point.
Moral or character development does not result from spiritual
exercises, but only from inner and outer actions in the biography, and
their related moral dilemmas. The practice of exercises builds capacities in the Soul, while moral actions, both inward and
outward, apply these capacities in life (which then purifies the Soul). Christ puts it this way: Blind Pharisee, wash out the
inside of the cup and saucer first, if you want the outside to end up
clean [for the whole theme, see Matthew 23:
Let us review a bit: From a certain
point of view, the Alchemical stream is very European, and thus has a
tendency to put forward the incarnation of an Ideal as a goal, leading
to the emphasis on spiritual exercises, knowledge and initiation.
Americans, on the other hand, tend to face the social as a
problem to be solved through moral action. This is very
pragmatic, for it is not the purity of an ideal that matters as much as
being able to do something to help others. In this sense, the
stream of Discipleship is more natural to Americans because, in harmony
with our engagement with and in the world, as social helpers,
discipleship is rooted in moral action - in doing the Good ("...and
crown thy Good, with Brotherhood...").
[Isn't this Brotherhood also partly
related to our ability to help each other experience the katharsis of
laughter, especially under dire circumstances. Conversation does
have a higher function than light, but then what about a well
encouraged giggle? The Shadow cannot abide humor, and runs away
when we make fun of it.]
In a sense, the idealism of the European
anthroposophist has blinded the American anthroposophist, first by
suggesting there is only one way to be anthroposophical (a European
soul idealism), and second by failing to appreciate that the American
Soul is considerably different. The result is that instead of
coming to true self knowledge, we (in America) have been pursuing what
is at best a temporary illusion (a goal we really can't achieve),
instead of our developing, more consciously, the earthly (including
humorous and joyous), socially oriented and pragmatic instinct that is
our given nature.
I hope the above has not been too confusing. Mostly I just wanted to point out certain contextual themes, and leave to the reader's own thinking precisely what to make of these ideas. In what comes next, where we get more deeply into the pragmatic and the concrete, I hope then that these contextual matters will, as we proceed, begin to make a more practical, and a less abstract, sense.
[a brief biographical note: My interest in introspection began around 35 years ago, in 1971, as a result of a kind of spontaneous awakening in my 31st year. I didn't call it introspection at that time, but I had become quite awake inwardly, and was only able to orient myself to these experiences using the Gospels. Seven years later, in 1978, I met the work of Rudolf Steiner, and gravitated to his writings on philosophy, particularly A Theory of Knowledge..., and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. I also became very interested in Goethean Science, projective geometry and all the Steiner material on the social problem, which was my own main outer-world interest. It was over 25 years later, in 1997, that I wrote my first effort at describing what I had learned about the moral nature of the Soul under these two influences: the Gospels and Steiner's writings on objective philosophical introspection. That essay was called "pragmatic moral psychology" and can be found on my website . At that time, however, I did not yet know enough about the Shadow, and only now, almost 10 years later, can I write the immediately below with some confidence in my appreciation of the intricacies of these problems in the light of an intimate experience of the threefold double-complex.]
substance, or better yet,
selling water by the river*
*[The river of the soul lies inward in
everyone. To teach, as it were, about the soul, is to sell water
by the river, to give to someone something that is already right in
front of their own true face. In spite of all that exists, for
example in our home libraries of Steiner texts etc., there are really
only two essential books for the study of the soul: the Book of Life,
and the Book of our Own Soul. Learn to read those, and you'll
know the core of what you need to know. A text, even this text,
can at best be a word-map describing a territory you'll only really
know by direct experience, however many other books you ever read.
of matters spiritual is, however, not found in reading, but only in
action. We can acquire a lot of
concepts by reading, but we need experience (the consequences
of action) more.]
We should keep in mind as we begin, that
what is described below is essentially very human and very ordinary.
It is one possible descriptive word-map, as it were, of the soul
engaged in the dynamics of inner awakening via the path of
discipleship. As a map, it will be somewhat abstract and defined.
The actual territory is something else altogether - human, messy,
inconstant, prone to emotional ups and downs - that is all the wonders
of ordinary consciousness. All a word-map tries to do is to point out
various significant features. Look out for these mountains,
notice those valleys. Here is a pure spring, there is a hard and
dangerous rock wall. It is my hope that the reader will find
below some guidelines which will help them to chart their own path
through the pristine forests and dark swamplands of the soul.
Keep in mind it takes courage to explore there, but at the same
time there is no other adventure quite like it.
Recall then what Dennis Klocek gave in
his lecture to the 2005 AGM, and then published shortly thereafter in
the News for Members (or if you didn't hear or read it, try
to find a copy as soon as you can): On the blackboard a mandala:
a circle, expressing a series of alchemical relationships: earth
(freedom); water (phenomenology); air (silent practice) and fire
(dialog). The circle form suggests a return to earth (freedom) at
some new or higher kind of level. But before considering that,
first some deep background.
If, from a certain point of view, we
think of the above four elements in Dennis Klocek's lecture as notes in
a rising scale, we could also find that in between each note is an interval. While the note is in itself more of a step
in spiritual development supported by spiritual exercises, the use
life (the interval) of the acquired spiritual skill/capacity is more of a
moral act - an aspect of the process of character development.
The soul is fallen - it is an out of tune instrument, yet we
hunger to return, to rise up and to experience reintegration, and to
give voice to the joy of coming Home, which the Story of the Return of the
Prodigal Son tells us leads to celebration
Because the spiritual development
exercises are so well known, and so completely covered elsewhere in
Steiner's basic books, as well as Dennis Klocek's books, I will not be
discussing them here. This essay assumes a general knowledge of
that work, and some practice in their use. Here we are looking at the
development of the Soul solely with regard to its struggles with the so
very messy, personal and human moral questions of the
In case there is some confusion here, in
Steiner's Knowledge of Higher Worlds, the
moral is approached mostly through a series of admonitions, encouraging
the student to orient him or her self in life in certain ideal ways.
Only in The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, with the
discussions of moral
moral intuition and moral technique, did
Steiner confront the moral problem directly and
The details that follow I have derived
from my own (naturally messy and human, stupid and silly, and when I
really get serious - pretentious) introspective investigations of the
moral dimensions of the soul, but it should be kept in mind that while
it is prudent to describe these phases and Trials as if separated in
time in the soul, they are much more likely to be layered over each
other - and often simultaneous in a variety of ways. It also
needs to be clear that what is to follow wishes only to add another
dimension - another view from a different direction - to what Dennis
Klocek gave, and not to contradict it in any way whatsoever.
It is particularly crucial to note here
that we are mostly discussing those moral acts that take place in the Soul, not those in the outer biography. There is a
relationship to be sure, but it will help to understand that we are
moral in both worlds: the outer world of our biographies, and the inner
world of Soul practice and art.
I emphasize the word Trial
to add another quality to our understanding. Moral development
takes place in the biography through Trials. These challenges to
the life of soul and spirit are meant to be difficult. We become
deeply engaged in our karma of wounds with others in
these Trials. Moreover, these are called Trials precisely because
there is great pain, suffering and effort (as well as not enough fun)
connected to them, and because the Shadow plays such an important and often decisive role.
Furthermore, various aspects of the Seven Stages of the Passion
of Christ (as described in the John Gospel)
are enacted in the Soul via these biographical Trials: the Washing of the Feet, the
Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, the
Crucifixion, the Entombment, and the Resurrection. There is nothing abstract about these difficult
processes of soul transformation, and this should be kept in mind
as we go forward, namely that: every time I use the word Trial I am
speaking of quite human, difficult and sometimes years long
There is, in this regard, something of a
kind of spiritual law involved. Just as the world of the senses
has its laws of gravity and color, so the soul world has its laws.
The ones to keep in mind here are the karma of wounds in the
outer biography, as well as the outer and inner moral Trials to be
faced there, which bear an exact and direct interrelationship. To
face a challenge in life, to face a Trial, means to engage in just that
personal teaching which belongs specifically to that baptism by
biographical fire* most needed for the development of our
*[see previous essay]
Consider a marriage for example, or the
children to be raised there. These relationships are not trivial
distractions to any spiritual development, but rather are precisely
those riddles and mysteries of life belonging particularly to our own
ego's character developmental needs. One can read all kinds of
spiritual books, practice all manner of spiritual exercises, and still
not advance because the biographical tasks are ignored. To begin
to awaken within, and to appreciate that we are surrounded in our
biography with just those moral tasks and Trials we individually need,
is to recognize just how precisely and miraculously has Christ, as the
Artist of our karma of wounds, woven us into the world of personal
relationships. So when Christ advises that unless we become again
as little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, He is, among
other matters, telling us precisely who our deepest spiritual teachers
in life often are.
This world of personal relationships, and their corresponding moral Trials, whether of family or work, or even wider world challenges, is also very elastic in a sense. We are quite free in it, and it has a quality that can respond rather exactly to only those tasks which we choose to take up. Part of true Faith is to accept what comes to us as challenges, yet at the same time to recognize that our freedom also allows us to choose at every juncture, which way to turn, what burden to carry and when to laugh at ourselves.
For example, the interval from earth
(freedom) to water (phenomenology) involves the skill: thinking about.
skill we receive as a natural aspect of living in this age,
in that we are inwardly free to decide what to think; and, in accord
with the Age of the Consciousness Soul, we are also becoming more and
more able to form individual free moral ideas as well.
The Consciousness Soul really just means
that if we inwardly wish to know the Good, in any particular moment of
moral demand, crisis or need, we can in fact know what the Good is.
Yet, in order to have this knowledge, we first have to ask, seek and knock. We have to inwardly form the question, and
struggle there to let ourselves answer from the higher nature of our
ego. The Good is what we make it to be, and as this essay
proceeds, we will get deeper and deeper into this Mystery. This
is why my book (found for free on line at
http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/twotf.html or which can be purchased at
www.lulu.com) "the Way of
the Fool" calls this capacity to know the
Good: Moral Grace.
[As an aside, for those more familiar
with Steiner's terminology, you should keep in mind that by necessity
he was required to cognitively form his research and understanding into
the language of the Intellectual Soul, as that was the condition of his
audiences. In this book we are writing out of the language of the
Consciousness Soul itself (something toward which American's are
instinctively gifted). So, for example, when in the opening
lecture of the book The
Challenge of the Times Steiner speaks of the
need for people to work out of an experience of the threshold, he is
using Intellectual Soul terminology. In the essay above, where I
have elaborated carefully on the Second Ethereal Eucharist experience,
this has been a quite concrete and exact picture of human intercourse
across the threshold in the language of the Consciousness Soul. I
also mean to suggest here that it is quite possible to take many of
Steiner's works and translate them from
Intellectual Soul language into Consciousness Soul language.
The attentive reader of this text, who takes to heart the
suggested practices, will in fact eventually find themselves able to do
this translation process themselves. Once able to do this, the
reader will be able to confirm not only their own experience, but all
that is written here in Steiner themselves, for nothing here is
contrary to what Steiner offered.]
Now in this thinking about
there is the object of our interest, in relationship to which we are
the subject. As subject, we think about
this object. This thinking is also essentially (and initially)
discursive to our inner experience. We appear to inwardly
talk to ourselves. Our spirit seems to inwardly speak that
which our soul then hears.
It is with the skill thinking about
that we first enter on the problem of the Water Trial of phenomenology.
Thinking about naturally contains something of the shadow forces of the
soul, in that our feeling life is, in the beginning, dominated by
antipathies and sympathies*. These natural likes and dislikes of
our individualized soul color all that we think about.
them what we think about
acquires an individualized (non-objective) meaning for the spirit - the
i-AM, in the soul.
*[see R.S. lecture 4, Social and Anti-social Instincts, in The Challenge of the Times, where you will find the following discussion approached indirectly through the language of the Intellectual Soul.]
[The use of this form of the term "i-AM", is meant to lessen the emphasis on the being nature of the ego - its noun-like aspect, and to place mo