From my book: Manure for the Garden of Anthroposophy:
A discussion of the Prokofieff/von Halle conflicts,
in the light of Peter Tradowsky’s book:
The Stigmata: destiny as a question of knowledge.
I hesitate to repeat myself endlessly, but as this point is so crucial I will once again refer to Steiner (just keep in mind that thoughtful observation of the Society, coupled with knowledge of what he means here, fully confirms his prediction):
"Steiner lamented in Awakening to Community (lecture three, Feb. 6th, 1923), on the consequences of failing (which has happened) to properly take up The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (or Freedom): “The way it should be read is with attention to the fact that it brings one to a wholly different way of thinking and willing and looking at things....The trouble is that The Philosophy of Freedom has not been read in the different way I have been describing. That is the point, and a point that must be sharply stressed if the development of the Anthroposophical Society is not to fall far behind that of anthroposophy itself. If it does fall behind, anthroposophy’s conveyance through the Society will result in its being completely misunderstood, and its only fruit will be endless conflict!”“
Above, in Bitter Medicine, I pointed out that both the idea of the evolution of consciousness, and the basic idea of Steiner’s book The Philosophy of Freedom, presuppose that the human being, as regards his own mind, begins in an unfree state. If this was not the case, everything would be fine and no development necessary. So ... lets not pretend otherwise - the reader of this needs to confess that in all probability they do not know how to control their thoughts very well or how to master their feelings - that is they have not succeeded in the fundamental goals of the Six Basic Exercises.
This is not a wrongness, but rather it is karma of the deepest kind. Nor does this mean we are incapable of knowing the good and true as an aspect of living in the Age of the Consciousness Soul. It just means that Rudolf Steiner, following the inherent obligations of his own development, had to place before us the highest possible ideal goals. There are still opportunities to follow him.
All the same, one result of this situation is that people mostly sleep through the inner processes by which they formulate their own conceptual life. For example, we have been taught that our will is generally not accessible to the consciousness of our I. This is true to a degree, but not true in the sense of what lies potential within us that can be called: the will-in-thinking. This will manifests in that we can determine what objects about which we will think (theattention), and what reasons we will chose to have regarding how and why we think (the intention). In my Living Thinking in Action (which essays are also throughout most of my major books), I discuss this problem very carefully and exactly. The more consciously we apply the intention and the attention, the more accurately will we think in the new Way.
The intention is the essential aspect of the will-in-thinking. We must learn to face, with humility and honesty, why we are thinking about what we are thinking about. Steiner’s The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity begins with the problem of desire: can we want what we want? Or, are we prisoners of our appetites, ambitions, hungers and needs for love and recognition? What drives our thinking? What goals does it really seek? In The Philosophy, right from the beginning, Steiner reveals the essential secret: We learn to place a freely chosen moral ideal in the front of the desire, and we learn how with that moral idea we can move all feelings and thoughts in the service of others.
Do not believe this to be easy, by the way. If it was there would be no problems, and everyone would have already mastered the problem of knowledge as solved by The Philosophy. Below I will go into details.
In my most recent book, The Art of God: an actual Theory of Everything, I discuss various modes of thinking and various moods of feeling as these relate to how concepts are produced. Modes of thinking include (but are not limited to) figuration, theorizing, reflection (Barfield), comparative, associative, hot, cold, organic, pure, about, with, within and as. Moods include (but again are not limited to) antipathy and sympathy, desires rooted in pleasure and pain, various semi-conscious wants and desires, and, at a higher level, cultivated (intended) moods such as awe, reverence and the like.
To be able to manifest these moods and modes by choice (mastery of feelings and control of thoughts) is to achieve the goals of GA 2, 3, and 4 (A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception; Truth and Knowledge - Steiner dissertation; and, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity), that is: to become spiritually and inwardly free.
The absence of success here is what then manifests in the confusion arising in the General Anthroposophy Society that leads to partisanship and conflict - just as Steiner predicted in the above quote from Awakening to Community on the results of failing to realize in practice the changes in consciousness (in will and in thinking) connected to learning to properly read his The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity in the right way.
What is the proper way to read this book?
Each sentence, where possible, must be used to direct the thinking observation (introspective activity) of our own I at the phenomena of our own mind. We read this text, but to understand and appreciate it we have to more or less simultaneously look at our own mind. The text is map, the mind is the actual territory. Through this observational process we then become a scientist of our own mind. Nor do we practice scientific introspection just when reading the book - but rather we learn to be reflectively introspective all of the time - that is awake from moment to moment to those inner processes regarding the relationships between the will-in-thinking and feelings and thoughts themselves. We still have a sense life, we are just more and more awake to how our thinking and feeling effect our understanding and knowledge of what we experience, both inwardly and outwardly.
What happens when we fail to learn these lessons?
Our thinking becomes the victim of semi-conscious impulses often related to moods of feeling that are not mastered, such that the Opponents, via the doubles, are able to turn our own thoughts away from the good and the true. Because this unfree condition is “normal” (revisit Kuhlewind’s From Normal to Healthy), and common (we all share these tendencies), no one notices that just here conflict is produced because we don’t know how to find, collectively - in community, the good and the true.
We believe we seek these, and I don’t doubt for a moment the sincerity of Tradowsky, Prokofieff and von Halle. The problem is that without a mastery of mood and control of thoughts, the thought content we will produce will be extensively infected with unredeemed impulses of antipathy and sympathy, and un-noticed non-logical trains of thought rooted in semi-conscious thinking mostly determined by the thinking modes: comparative and associative thinking, which are themselves generally driven (when semi-conscious) from antipathy (comparative) and sympathy (associative).
For example, antipathy leads us to compare that this object of thought (such as a person toward whom we might have a lot of sympathy) is better than that differing object of thought (such as a person we don’t favor). So Tradowsky’s book is littered with sentences that prefer von Halle over Prokofieff, via the sub-consciousness moods (feelings), something toward which we would find more truth were we less asleep and less possessed by our unredeemed antipathy. (This is all laid out in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, especially such as Chapter 7 in Matthew on: judge not least ye be judged.)
An example of semi-conscious associative (sympathetic) thinking is found right from the beginning when Tradowsky starts to write of von Halle as having “received” the stigmata. He uses this term “received” everywhere after, borrowing it (apparently) from the usages made of this term in the discussion of their Saints by the Catholic Church. We can understand why the Church used this terminology (for its beneficial - spiritual bragging rights - view of the phenomena). Yet, in the fields of disciplined logic and reason (that is when we bother to be scientific) we would say that this usage - “received” - begs the question, for it is precisely the missing fact of the cause of the stigmata that we seek/need to know.
Once we characterize it as “received” we have jumped to and implied the idea that positive spiritual beings have given this as a gift*, and the question Prokofieff seeks to pursue (in a very lame way apparently - I have not read his book and only know of it through Tradowsky’s references to it) is not really clearly asked. A conscious thinker, familiar with organic and pure thinking, would never use such a term as: received, precisely because it assumes an answer to the underlying question.
*[Consider for a moment, the idea that the stigmata is a “gift”. Would a God of Love give as a “gift” suffering? The person with the stigmata is also not free. They are not given a choice. The wounds appear without apparently being asked for. In a somewhat overly done horror movie called Stigmata, a young woman, who believes herself to be an atheist, asks the Priest who tries to help her with her stigmata, whether she can give this gift back (which the Church believes to be precious). Again, would the God of Love give suffering to someone without their conscious consent?]
In phenomenology (organic thinking, or Goetheanism) we simple describe what is/was observed, such that we could say that on such and such a day von Halle’s body appeared to have wounds on it, in accord with the traditions connected to the idea of the stigmata. It is very important to acknowledge the existence of that idea, by the way. That the appearance of the wounds (the experience), and the idea (the thought or meaning) arise at the same time is part of the phenomena. Keep in mind what I’ve quoted from Steiner many times above: One must be able to confront an idea and experience it, otherwise one will fall into its bondage.
We are not to leap to any conclusion, especially “received”. While Tradowsky refers to Goethe’s dictum that the senses don’t deceive, only the judgment, Tradowsky doesn’t know how to apply it to this event. Seeing the wounds is one thing, deciding the cause is a matter for the thinking judgment and that is where we can fall into error.
Now I am not taking a position here on the cause of this aspect of von Halle’s life destiny, by the way. I am just suggesting that, if we are to follow Steiner’s example in thinking, we must proceed very carefully.
The rest of Tradowsky’s book is a kind of argument between him and his observations of the structure of Prokofieff’s book. Both individuals seem to endless quote Steiner, which is in itself a complete misuse of what Steiner taught. This use of Steiner as an authority, as if in Steiner we can find a justification for our sympathy (Tradowsky) regarding von Halle, or our antipathy (Prokofieff) regarding von Halle, is unworthy of all true students of Rudolf Steiner.
Steiner himself was very explicit: don’t use me as an authority!
For example, Tradowsky goes into a lengthy discussion of the differing interpretations of a ancient word, one by Steiner and the other by von Halle as well as many scholars (the specific word is not relevant here). Both Tradowsky and von Halle treat Steiner’s reports as to this word’s meaning as not to be doubted. This is not justified to a real scientific thinking, even though Tradowsky concludes that since Steiner read it in the so-called Akashic Record, that it must be true.
Again, this problem is a clear result of the Society in general not learning to read The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity in the right way.
Both Tradowsky and Prokofieff, and most of the rest of the members and friends, treat the writings and lectures of Steiner as if in reading them we gain knowledge of spiritual realities. Tradowsky uses that term - knowledge - in reference to something he is quoting from Steiner several times in fact. No one, who has succeeded in mastering their feelings and controlling their thoughts, in accord with the goals of GA 2, 3, and 4, would ever use Steiner as an authority for knowledge of the spiritual world. Why?
Steiner was a very precise and careful thinker. As a consequence, in the introductions to both Theosophy and Occult Science he explicitly uses over and over again the term understanding*, but never knowledge. The term knowledge is almost exclusively used only in GA 2, 3, and 4. (He does use it in Knowledge of Higher Worlds and How to Attain It, but if we think about that use it is clear - the book is about how to get spiritual knowledge through direct experience, not how to find knowledge through reading a book. One studies as a preparation, but study only gets the soul ready for its supersensible experiences.)
*[See Appendix Two below on the nature of spiritual research for a deeper discussion of this issue of the significance of the term understanding.]
Let us see if we can shed some more practical light on this problem of how thinking-cognition needs to relate to experience in order for knowledge to arise.
In A Theory ... (which Barfield calls “the least read most important book Steiner ever wrote”), Steiner begins with making clear distinctions between experience and thought, although he also calls thought (after a while): a higher experience within experience. In The Philosophy..., Steiner makes a distinction between percept and concept (or experience again and its idea - that its thought). Once more, ... it is not so much a matter of understanding the books (the maps), but of learning to look carefully at the territory of the own inwardness.
Knowledge, we learn through practice, requires the union of thought and experience, or percept and concept. Reading a book, while itself an experience (a percept of a book), the concepts expressed by the words in the book are absent their related and necessary experience or perceptual groundedness. I can read and read all manner of things about Christ, via Steiner’s reports on his spiritual research, but the direct experience of Christ is something so completely different from what I read, that this direct experience dwarfs entirely my Steiner-derived ideas (understandings) about Christ.
Even von Halle’s apparent memory* pictures of Christ, cannot be the same as Steiner’s Intuition experiences (a few of which I have had) where we are united and within Christ in the present moment - we don’t know in this way His past, but rather we know (as in participate in) His Eternal Present.
*[Above I wrote of the problem related to Steiner’s advice to keep the Society and the Christian Community separate, given that the Rite of Consecration of Man, through the descent of spiritual memories into those present, creates social harmony and warmth. If the Society is not to lose the hunger for such harmony and warmth in its Branch and Group gatherings, there needs to be not only this separation of the Society and the Christian Community, but a counter-Rite: the Reverse Cultus.
Yet, was it as a member of the Christian Community that what is essentially an involuntary mystical** experience happened to von Halle? Or are many of her “fans" members of the Christian Community? The record (at least what can be found via the Internet) on that question is not clear. All the same this should give us sufficient reason itself to look carefully at the totality of the personal and social effects of the whole phenomena - not just at von Halle, but at her surrounding companions as well.]
**[Steiner indicates that true supersensible experience does not enter into earthly memory, such that we have to go back to the source again and again in order to gain deeper insight. My own experiences confirm this. In the light of this caution, how are we to understand that von Halle has “memories” of the events at Golgatha. Again, I am not drawing conclusions, but I am insisting that we think very carefully about what this all means, especially as regards advancing or inhibiting the future development of the Anthroposophical Society. Also keep in mind that von Halle describes her experience of “traveling back in time” as involuntary. Steiner’s spiritual research was not involuntary.]
When Tradowsky tries to write of Steiner’s visits to the so-called Akashic record, Tradowsky has no actual knowledge of what that experience is like, but rather he “believes and understands" only the way he interpreted what he read - the ideas and concepts his mind has created while reading. Such an “idea” is best described as a perceptless concept - a concept or idea disconnected from the actual and necessarily-related experience. Tradowsky has never visited himself the experience Steiner called: the Akashic record.
Most of what people write, based on the reading of a Steiner text, is a collection of far to frequently ungrounded perceptless concepts. These can easily become mere beliefs in the soul, such that we create a kind of religious-like philosophy of the world of spirit. Because Steiner was so rigorous in his research efforts and in the deliberate nature through which he expressed himself (his careful choices of words and terms), we can receive through reading anunderstanding (that is, we can acquire more than a mere belief).
When Steiner described the reports of his research as related to the work of natural scientists, he was referring to this creation of understanding. When a physicist tells his tales of his experiments and what he thinks they mean, he is transmitting his understanding, but not his actual direct experience. The same with Steiner. To him his experience is knowledge because it has both percept (experience) and concept (thought), but he knows that to us the best that can happen is he helps us understand the spiritual world and the spiritual history of our world. He also hoped, through his books and lecturing, to inspire us to pursue our own direct knowledge of the Divine Mysteries. Given that he didn’t expect the influence of Anthroposophy on Civilization to arrive in less than 400 years, we can see that we do have time to understand our errors, and perhaps understand how to proceed into the future - the object of most of my anthroposophical writings.
As to the question of what it means that von Halle’s body shows the wounds and as well that she has stopped needing to eat (which seemed to happen before the wounds - again the record one can obtain via the Internet is weak and I apologize for any mistakes or unwarranted assumptions), - these phenomena are not even barely or adequately developed* in Tradowsky’s book, which simply becomes a polemic by a partisan in an unfortunate dispute between Prokofieff and von Halle that is rooted completely in the failure of the culture of the Anthroposophical Society to take up the right way to read Steiner’s The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.
*[Mostly Tradowsky’s thinking in this book is overridden by his understandable assumptions already present once he characterizes the stigmata as “received”. In the discipline of a true science of the mind, fostered by Steiner’s works on real thinking, this is called a pre-thought thought. The effect of an assumption or pre-thought thought is to color over the experience and essentially then not see it at all.]
Missing so far from the dialog on these issues, is the lecture cycle of Steiner’s called: Pastoral Medicine, where he brought together priests and doctors to give them indications regarding the treatment of specific kinds of problems where a physician was needed for the physical problems and a priest needed for the spiritual problems. In these lectures he describes how the subtle bodies can become grossly disharmonious in their relationships (such as the astral too far embedded in the physical), and that these extreme conditions tend to produce madmen on the one hand and saints on the other.
Steiner also speaks there of suffering as related to spiritual experiences. To have a certain supersensible experience will bring with it, for the human being having the vision, suffering. The problem, as it were, is to not lose sight of what it means that we bring the impulses of natural science into our cognitive activity regarding our spiritual experiences.
Am I suggesting that something is wrong with von Halle by this statement? Of course not. I am suggesting, however, that the Stigmata might disappear if the right kinds of therapy (both physical and spiritual) were applied simultaneously, and that through such a process we might gain insight into the causal element, rather than assume she “received” something - that is assume she is being “blessed by the divine”. She could become a “better” spiritual scientist if there was more discretion applied to reporting the results of her experiences (recall that Steiner waited 17 years before sharing with the wider world, in The Riddles of the Soul, his discoveries regarding the threefold nature of the human being).
I also think we should ask: why upon the appearance of the Stigmata did von Halle not retire to private meditative life, instead of becoming a public personality, sharing her visionary experiences in books and lectures, implying that it constitutes a kind of trust worthy spiritual research? I know from my own experiences the temptation offered by being surrounded by adoration and affection, and I can well picture von Halle’s dilemma - do I step into the limelight of this adoration, or do I retire and seek thereby to deepen what has arisen (semi-retirement being a path previously common to most all other mystically inclined stigmatics).
From my own biography (see Biographical Necessity) it is clear that certain kinds of experiences are temptations for the I. We could realize that for both Prokofieff and von Halle personally, this situation can easily magnify their own egotism, especially considering the fact that they both have acquired “fans”. People think of such personalities as special (for Prokofieff for his intense and voluminous “scholarship”, and for von Halle for her stigmata and visions), and gather around not only to worship them, but to often to surrender their own thinking to the pronouncements of such types of personalities. This surrender of the own thinking of the I is the antithesis of what Steiner taught - and I have in other contexts gone so far as to call it the presence of an anti-Steiner spirit.
Tradowsky does quote Steiner to the effect (recall that this from Steiner is for our understanding and does not provide knowledge), that the “spiritual world”, is offering to us, with such figures as Kaspar Hauser, a kind of important lesson. This means, at the least, that we are right to pay attention to von Halle’s life destiny. However, and this is a very big however, we are not justified (again a questionable judgment - as pointed out by Goethe), in thinking that the spiritual world means by this to anoint as authoritative any concept which she seeks to express. This “spiritual world” certainly did not mean for us to treat Steiner that way (although we did and do), so perhaps part of von Halle’s gift to us is to remind us of just how important it is to think exactly and carefully and not to leap to conclusions based upon excesses of unredeemed sympathy or antipathy.
Tradowsky also writes a number of sentences which logically speaking he has no justification for writing, given that there is no possibility of him having the necessary experiences related to such thoughts. I’ll just give one example that comes during his long, and wandering, discussion of the fact that stigmatics generally stop eating - continuous fasting* (which von Halle has apparently done): “This process occurs as a creative act of will in the deepest subconscious of those concerned, and can neither be invoked nor affected by the conscious awareness; it manifests as a continuum of life.”
*[Fasting, by the way, does commonly induce mystical states (sometimes called “belly clairvoyance”), but this certainly cannot be a process for producing what Steiner meant when he used the terms: spiritual research (otherwise Steiner would have encouraged all of us to become religious ascetics).]
Keep in mind what we know about Steiner’s biography, and the fact that he spent a great deal of time on personal development, and did not just come to us “blessed” by the world of the spirit. We have to earn the ability to know spiritual matters in the Age of Science, otherwise we become just imprecise (unscientific) mystics, something Steiner urged us again and again to avoid.
Like much else that happens in this Age (see my work above on the meaning of the descending social chaos), the purpose of such events is to drive us toward being more awake through raising the temperature of conflict (certainly a consequence of the discord between Prokofieff and von Halle). If it was all peaceable and nice nice, we would just sleep.
In fact, to disagree (conflict) with Steiner (Wendt, how could you do that?!?!?), I find his constant usage of the term “spiritual world” (don’t know what the German is/was) to be misleading. Even using his works (as well as my own experience), I don’t find there is any unitary nature to the world of higher Beings that would justify our speaking of them/it as a coherent thing in itself, which acts upon us in a likewise coherent and purposeful or organized fashion.
The world of spirit is a complex of diversified communities, who among themselves often don’t particularly “cooperate”. Its not that they compete, as we do, its just that for us to assume this “world of spirit” is universally cohesive to the point of having a large common and shared specific and clear intention is just plain wrong. The evidence, once we ask the right questions, is otherwise. But that my friends, is a whole other level of discussion, although we can begin to end here by asking a few good questions:
What spiritual communities oversee the Christian Community? What spiritual communities oversee the Anthroposophical Society? Do they have the same agenda? Why didn’t Steiner “receive” the Stigmata? Why did not Emerson, or Goethe or Coleridge or Barfield or Kuhlewind or Ben-Aharon? Why von Halle and not these?
Perhaps the primary message from the Mystery is to von Halle herself, and not one that suggests she is “approved” the way an Oscar might be given to a movie star. On the contrary, in terms of the Christian-Rosicrucian Path, she is only now “crucified”, leaving two more stages yet to be endured. The Stigmata are not an end, but a sign of a phase. What happens next?
Next is the Entombment, which in the case of St. Francis, who “received” the Stigmata late in life, signified his coming death. Perhaps for von Halle the stigmata is a suggestion that if you want to achieve the highest, it is time not for more speaking, but for silence. It is not what she has done or is now doing that is important, but what she can become precisely through renouncing her public spiritual life.
The Jew who “received” the stigmata, Richard Pollak that Tradowsky mentions, kept his condition secret for years. All surprising acts of destiny in our biographies are two edged swords. In that they suggest we have arrived somewhere or become something spiritually important, only means we are to face powerful temptations to self-pride - it is the luciferic double that is brought forth. Inwardly in this state we receive in our thinking all manner of seemingly wise thought, but often hardly the truth.
That is why we experience Entombment and can by choice enter entombment (the silence). Only in this state can our thoughts and feelings “cook” in the right way, becoming thereby far more than they otherwise would be were we to immediately present them to the world. Again: Steiner waited 17 years before presenting the idea of the threefold man. In paths of sacred magic it is the virtue of silence that realizes the highest powers.
What von Halle does or does not do is only part of the problem. We who would love her have our own dilemmas (the other edge to the sword) to face, but that is another story entirely, given that it belongs to each of us individually to decide. In this “book report”, I have done what I could in this moment.