- the Death, and the Resurrection,
of Modern Civilization -
do-re consciousness in movement toward the Mystery, "I am the true vine"
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 supprise 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 dialogue); 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 one's 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 beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest 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 unwarrented 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 bother'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 sayest 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 cliché. 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 dialogue 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 labour 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.
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 dialogue (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.
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