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New Wine

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 devotion (p.6)

The Idea of Mind: a Christian meditation practitioner considers the problem of consciousness  (p. 8)

The Quiet Suffering of Nature:  humanity 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. 76)

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)

the Natural Christian: the world is full of people whose heart is Christian through and through, but who cannot, with good justification, grant themselves this name, for that name has been stolen by others (p;115)

Healing the Insanity of Psychiatric Medicines and Practice: what common sense and a return to the knowledge of soul and spirit might mean for our mental health system and care (p. 163)

Transcendentalism Comes of Age* - the transcendentalist impulse, heretical Christianity and American Anthroposophy - (p. 182)

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

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

religious impulse, and a religious scientific impulse

The Meaning of Earth Existence in the Age of the Consciousness Soul

In Joyous Celebration of the Soul Art and Music of Discipleship


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 Mystery.

This last needs some more explanation.  The Divine Mystery is living ( 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.


New Wine:

- 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 modern age.

"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 2008)

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 it.

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 synthesis.

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 Mind

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 processes.

"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, Boston 1988).

For a more modern statement of the problem, this from an article on the World Science website, in 2008:

Trying to 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: " 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 material causes.

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 that tradition).

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 through mind.

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 consciousness?

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 entity God?

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 Invisible, apparent.

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 Littlefield, 1956:

"...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: " 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 these ideas.

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 existence.

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 condition ourselves.

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 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: " 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 process.

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 unconscious.

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 ideas. "Blessed 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 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 experiences.

This does not mean that morality is subjective, or that it is relative and changeable. The problem is more subtle and more complicated. The conscience 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 Christianity.

Certain implications flow from this idea of mind. We might ask the question: where is the "there" where the "already 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 scientific age.

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 idea.

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 is 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 think.

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 on 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 are right.

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 understood.

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 each other.

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 does Nature want? And no human being has the right to impose their personal point of view over that of Nature Herself.

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 well.

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 be testable.

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, by 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 were necessary.

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 wrong.

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:  This 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 tells us.

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 be so.

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 yourself.

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." (emphasis added).

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". Even 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, Olive 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 of knowledge.

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 a 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 science.

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 moral concepts.".

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 objective "ethics".)

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 Becoming.

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 Becoming.

The purpose of this essay has been to introduce a question into the environmental movement (What does 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 basis.


 A Matter of Death

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 on 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, this 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 consciousness appear.

There are two other generally reported phenomena, which, while anomalous and anecdotal, conform to this arrangement.

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, remains.

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 known facts.

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. This 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 particular conclusions.

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 contentment.

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 and euthanasia.

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

in Concord, Massachusetts

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 Science.

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.

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 ordinarily finds.

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 could.

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 - as truth.

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 Eternal nature.

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 becoming.".

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, " 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 message.


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 pain.

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 Ego.

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 Eightfold Path.

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.

Same problem.

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."

And this 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 problems.

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 objective fashion.

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 on the Tarot: a Journey into Christian Hermeticism, author anonymous.


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 spiritual qualities.

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 unwarranted self-judgment.

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 finally returns.

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 nothing: "But 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 pass.

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 consequences.

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 saying.

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 commentary.

"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 light.

Two acts, only one our own. Something comes to meet us and does not bring weight, but rather eases our burdens.

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 society.

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 judgment.

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 conscience.

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 the concept.

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

in the conceptions of the nature of parallax and redshift -

- introduction -

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 unfolds.

- 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 thinking.]

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 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) can do.

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 surface lessens.

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 dimensionless point.

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 Geometry: 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 Matter: 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 geometric constant.

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 the field.

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 constant.

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 is correct.

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, the process 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 form.

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 resolved.  

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 analogy.

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 do not.

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 physical laws?

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 of 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 and substance?

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 of disappearance.

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?

In the 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 world....*

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 New 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 called: original 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.  Projective 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 Pacific Ocean.

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 are we?


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.[1] 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.” (

            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

this name, 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 for.

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, Carmelites etc.).

*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 understand?

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 me.

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).   Not 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 different question.

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 characteristics: 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 alternating rhythm.

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 of parts.

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...


part one

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 greatest confusion.

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 remarkably instructive.

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 normal way.

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 which we 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.  Or, still 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 own I.

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 Lehrer).

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." The Unvarnished Gospels, by Andy Gaus. [emphasis added]

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.


part two

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 (no spirit).

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 self-consciousness).

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 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, 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 him.

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 study himself.

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.


part three

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 adulthood).

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 operation here.

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.


part four

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 it.

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 that?

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.


part five

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 within.

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 them all.

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.

12. Having 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 our affairs.

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.

part six

the relationship of Natural Science

to Thinking

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.

part seven

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 friends spouse.

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 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 social reality.

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.  Hello, how 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 my sister

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 different.

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 introspective. 

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 ways 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.

part eight

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.  Everyone 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 animal.

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 teachings.

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 [] that 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.

part nine

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 the Creation.

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, there 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.  (Love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your spirit, and love 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.

           But there was a difference. Although it was not a difference as infrequent as we might imagine.

           And 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.

           After a time the girl stopped weeping, and the two simply looked at each other for a while.

           Finally the 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.

           This was the girl's answer.

           "It 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 home."

           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.

           After a while she stopped, looked at the Angel and asked: "Why?" and, then began weeping some more.

           Now 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.

           This is how the Angel answered the girl.

           "Are you ever bad?" asked the Angel.

           "Yes", she said, a bit hesitantly.

           "Are you ever bad on purpose, knowing you are being bad?"

           "Yes", she said, almost whispering now.

           "Are you ever bad by accident, not having thought about what might happen?"

           "Yes", she said, a little more confident.

           "Do bad things ever sometimes happen even though you were trying as hard as possible to do something good?"

           "Yes", she said, back to herself finally.

           Then they sat together for a while. She was thinking and the Angel just was.

           "O.K.", she eventually said. "Mother and father aren't trying to hurt me, and I didn't do something wrong."

           "Right", said the Angel.

           "But", she said, having just reinvented philosophy, "Why is the world such a terrible place?"

           After a very long pause the Angel said, "It's because of the bicycles."

           Now 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 patient joy.

           Even 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.

           "What 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.

           "Well", said 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.

           "Everyday people 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.

           "Soon all the bicycles are in great disrepair. Some with flat tires, some with crooked wheels, and some without even handlebars to steer by.

           "It 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."

           Then the Angel was quiet again and so was the girl.

           After 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?"

           "Hmmm." said the Angel

           Now 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.

           "Do you ever talk to God?" asked the Angel.

           "I think so," said the girl, tentative again, and rightly so.

           "You 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."

           Then the Angel asked another question.

           "Do you ever get angry at God?"

           "What!" exclaimed the girl. "Get angry at God !?!"

           "Of 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 matter."

           "O.K." said 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."

           'Didn't need 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..."

           "O.K.. I get it." she said, interrupting the Angel, who didn't mind at all. Then she paused and thought a little.

           "All 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?"

           "Right." said the Angel.

           "O.K." said the girl, after a very deep sigh, "Just one more question."

           "Granted God is the best listener in the world, always available and never critical. But how come he never answers me?"

           This 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.

           Again the Angel waited for a while, as silent and beautiful as a starry winter night.

           "How 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.

           "Do 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?"

           Again there was a harmony of silence between the two of them. Then the girl smiled and looked mischievously at the Angel.

           "Do 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 control.

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.

*[Diagnostic 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 sorts.  Great 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 announcing another breakthrough, in either pure knowledge or in some practical art.

In agriculture the plant had been studied in the laboratory very carefully, and 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 processed, manufactured and 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 insects, and 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 agriculture, as a way of life, changed radically.

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 itself, which 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 something, these could 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 in error.

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 facts, with 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 more 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 required 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 choices.  Somehow we are to be able to overcome corporate and  government power, and the influence of advertising, while at the same time raising the children and creating through our work all the wealth.

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 millions.

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 experience, that psychiatrists working at the hospital were basically poorly supervised experimenters.  I seldom 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 undesirable, and then 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 environment.  Obviously there 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 reductionism; ecology of mind; and 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 talent.

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 etc.).

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 issues.  All 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 tested, and 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 crisis, but were admitted solely for the study.  Because the study was a double-blind study, some would get a placebo, instead of the experimental drug.

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 cigarettes.  His behavior was erratic, and his speech pressured (speedy and incoherent).  He pestered staff and other patients constantly.   Fortunately he was not violent, just a 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 system, such 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 justify anything.

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 are 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 plants” because 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 cool 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 arrogance).

We are aware today of all those allergies that comes with the proliferation of these products throughout human society.  Cigarettes are 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 world.  That's 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 elaboration.  I 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 and mental health workers) who treat them as human beings - with sympathy 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 Drucker) put forward something called “the Peter principle”, which stated that: in a hierarchy people naturally rise to level of their incompetence.

A truism for sure, but certainly not always true.  Sometimes people 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 not 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 law-makers) fool 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 itself.

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 consideration ...

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 the 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 brains, he often studied ones with problems - that is ill or dysfunctional brains (such as people with the split brain problem).

If we do a survey of psychological literature, we 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 modification, knowledge and 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 apparent.

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 repress the unusual personality through powerful and intrusive artificial (not living) chemical forces, simply 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 minority (the 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 an 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 -

When Freud's 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).

Modern scientific 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]

This process 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.

Into this 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 Books, shows 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.

To appreciate 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.

This last 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.

In a 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).

Now the 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 continue.

These limits 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.

Over in 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 interconnected.

This is 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 arises.

The physicist 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 fact.

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?

Clearly to 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.

Where this leads us then is to this:

Since the 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?

To make 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 ECT?

The easy 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 torments, but 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 acceptable norm.

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.


Is it 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 treatable illness.

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 Schneider, Merrill Publishing Company, 1985)

Is there a way out?

Before trying 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?

Some examples:

Suppose you 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.

But the adults around you had, even prior to your arrival, already "conformed" to the social norms, and so they expected you to "conform" too.

In the 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 today.

When you 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.

Unless you  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 everyone else".

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.

We all 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.

Shouldn't be a problem, right?

Except for 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:



All that 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.

So for 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.

The spirited 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).

What this 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 the "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 social issues.]

Then later, when the stressed individual acts "mental", or "criminal", we treat this problem with those social systems, which are even more authoritative 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).

From this 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 return to the question of what might be done...

The point 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 physical conceptions.

Some even 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 consciousness.

At the 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.

We understand 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.

Today more 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.

Pressures then 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

The soul 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.

Some practical suggestions:

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).

The soul 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.

What becomes 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 time.

This following also needs to be said to the soul healer:

Immediately you 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?

The main 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.

Eddington called 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 crucially socially.

For the 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.

Part of the problem is the  pursuit by the soul healer of pure objectivity, following the lead (in a 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".

Unperceived emotional 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.

Those who 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. 

Feelings are 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 perception.

Why does this work in the realm of soul healing?

Because what 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.

That is 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.

The social order itself put on a mask.  The whole advertising  industry 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 prohibited.

What happens when we do this

Consider now two common problems: hearing voices and serious depression. 

From the 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 the problem.

This is 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.

If the voices are real, what, possibly, is the patient hearing?

To say 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).

Our culture 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).

This turns 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.

Nor does 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.

Just to 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.

Of 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. 

Our self-conscious 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 senses.

It would 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.

The problem 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 same here.

Causally 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 request, nothing happens.

Just as 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 the experiment.

1) scientist asks

2) subject acts inwardly

3) brain activity is observed

4) subject reports a solution to the puzzle

5) scientist interprets the meaning of the experiment

Clearly the 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.

The research 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 self-consciousness.

If this 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.

If this 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 spirit).

Let us 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 depression?

What is 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 otherwise treated. 

The mind 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.

What is 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.

Egregores are 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.  

I also 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.

If it 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.

A major 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.

At a 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.

I always 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 problem.

How to you prescribe to an addict an upper to defeat their depression?

If we 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?)

To summarize:

The soul  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.

Details can be found in my books: the Way of the Fool; and, American Anthroposophy.

the forces opposed to the self-development

of the soul healer

Social institutions acquire power, and their leaders gain wealth and prestige.  Pharmaceutical corporations have a lot at stake in manufacturing drugs to “help” the mentally ill.  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.

Like many 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 adminis