The World in the Light of the Human "I am"
by Joel A. Wendt
This essay was offered to the Journal, Trans-Intelligence Internationalle, and was rightly rejected as being too oriented toward issues internal to the anthroposophical movement. Nevertheless, it remains a valid expression of a certain need that can be found within the modern world, and which ought to be answered by work out of the anthroposophical movement. That this need is not perceived and met, is a very deep tragedy.
The Journal, Trans-Intelligence Internationalle, is becoming a place for the publication of serious thinking, relating matters of moment within the anthroposophical movement to the conditions of the modern world. While I find these essays highly informative and challenging, something in my soul remains unsatisfied. There is a thirst and a need yet unmet by these works. With this short essay it is my hope to illuminate this condition, and make suggestions for its future resolution.
Let us begin by stepping back from the immediate situation, and attempt to form a more all encompassing picture.
The world in which humanity finds its current existence is a complicated place. Among the billions of individuals, there are a large variety of ideas and understandings of what it means to be a human being, how it came to be that human beings really originated, and what might be our common (or individual) ultimate destiny.
The world view generally shared among anthroposophists is not a view shared by more than a small part of the whole. But let us take as a given that this view is a) basically true; and, b) that it would be a deep goodness were more people to become aware of it.
In the light of these simple facts, it might easily be assumed that part of the anthroposophical mission in the world is to make known the truths of this world view, through the usual means. If people fail to take in what is offered, how can we be blamed if wrong decisions are made and the future goes in directions that many would not have desired if they had been more awake in their own thinking.
Yet, it is my wish that in describing the situation in this very stark way, that the reader will begin to have questions about whether it is really so easy after all. Certainly the world is more complicated, and merely offering the truths coming out of the new mysteries may not actually be adequate. Is it not possible that the Good is not in the Truth itself, but is rather in the Service which that truth renders?
Let us now complexify the situation somewhat and reconsider it.
The human being is born into a culture and a language. No one who thinks about this would doubt that these early life experiences strongly influence how and what a person later comes to think. The matrix of culture and language in which one is born is like a rich ethereal ecology that not only forms and nourishes, but one from which the "I" is unlikely to distinguish itself. Few people would consider themselves individual human beings first (at once the more particular and the more general class) and members of a culture or a race second (the more specific class). Being "black", or Chinese, or Islamic is often more central to most individuals, than being just a human being, and having an "I".
Now the anthroposophical world view does speak of such phenomena, when it speaks of the transition from the intellectual soul to the consciousness soul, and the emergence of individuality from out of group soul dynamics. Even so, let us leave these spiritual-social-technical terms aside for the moment, and try to remain within the more simple observations.
Into this general situation of modern society, with its perception of the individual "I am" as secondary to larger classes of identity, comes the anthroposophical movement, with its view of the centrality of the "I am". This movement has had almost a century in which to find some sort of foothold as a viable part of human culture, and not everyone can agree whether this has been even a partial success, if not just a complete and abject failure.
I would like to suggest that what has happened, as regards the interrelationship between the anthroposophical movement and the wider culture, is being misperceived, in large part because of the tendency to evaluate the series of events. When the mind makes a judgment about whether something, that has occurred in the social world, is viable or otherwise successful, the mind has brought to the situation a theoretical frame of reference. Instead of seeing the "what is" - the phenomena, the mind is looking to see whether the situation conforms to what it presumes should or should not be. This mental habit is flawed. Rather we need to hold back these tendencies to evaluate, and just observe what has in fact happened. In such a case then, everything begins to shift and take on new form.
One way we could look at this situation is to realize that the world is now "salted" with anthroposophically related ideas and impulses, many of which have arrived from other sources (for example, the New Age movement represents a non-anthroposophical impulse recognizing reincarnation and karma). These ideas and impulses live in individuals, many of whom do not even know the word anthroposophy. In fact, in those places, where the term anthroposophy is known, many of these individuals and communities often tend to greater isolation from the whole. It is as if the more these Steiner influenced "I am"s identify with anthroposophy, the more they tend to submerge themselves within this as a new form of "group". Of course, this is not everywhere true, but it is nevertheless quite true in many instances.
At the same time, where anthroposophy is not known as a name, but where the consciousness soul impulse emerges on its own (that is where the individual "I am" more and more identifies itself with the eternal - with truth and goodness - see Steiner's Theosophy), in these instances the same two tendencies are present. We see this often in what is now called Civil Society, where the individual "I am" is more and more insistent upon the realization within human society of some form of moral idealism. Within Civil Society some people will stand out as individuals, and recognize themselves as such, while others will seek to become "part" of something - become a "green" or some such.
With these basic ideas in mind, let us spiral around again and return to the matters outlined in the very beginning - concerning what is happening within the birthing and incarnation processes of the Journal, Trans-Intelligence Internationalle.
A powerful impulse, arising within anthroposophy, concerns bringing to the fore the truth as regards human nature and the reality of the spirit. In addition, among anthroposophists (and many others in the world) is a definite striving toward reunification with the eternal itself. Certainly this is one of the impulses of the "I am" - to reconnect with its consciously (and/or unconsciously) remembered origins.
But another dominate impulse is to bring the eternal alive in the social world ("Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven."). Thus we come to Civil Society - a moral/cultural social change movement.
Spread throughout, both Civil Society (the instinctive anthroposophical movement) and the self conscious anthroposophical movement, is another moral gesture, which concerns the rights and freedoms of the other, the thou. The "I am" knows instinctively that anything it insists upon for itself, it must also grant its companions. The conscious striving for spiritual freedom, which is one of the driving impulses of the anthroposophical movement, is met by the recognition that this same freedom belongs, as well, to the thou.
This moral imperative has an effect upon the work of the anthroposophical movement, in that it may or may not seek to influence other individuals in particular and human culture in general. The treasures we have found, we rightly are inclined to share, but this impulse runs right into a natural limit, in that we cannot impose our views without violating the spiritual freedom of the thou. From this understanding comes a clear perception of the need that means and ends cannot be separated. What is true and right and good is only part of the problem. The other part is how do we get from the given social condition to the desired social condition, without violating the spiritual freedom of the thou.
I mean to suggest by this, that in the self conscious anthroposophical movement, the how to communicate the truth needs as much thought given to it, as an object of study and consciousness itself, as is given to the pursuit of the truth. The Journal, Trans-Intelligence Internationalle cannot just speak of the true and the good. It must also be the true and the good in how it conducts itself.
For example, in my view, one thing that often confuses the neophyte is the image of Rudolf Steiner. When an anthroposophist makes reference to Steiner, this is always done with certain unstated assumptions in the background. These unstated assumptions are often felt by the reader or listener, and may, in fact, not be consciously an aspect of the ideals of the writer or speaker. Look at it this way.
When our own "I am" speaks of the truth by referencing it to the "I am" of Steiner, whether we wish it or not, a certain kind of relationship between ourselves and Steiner is implied. This relationship exists not so much in what we say, as how we say it. It lives in the deed of our writings, but is seldom brought out clearly in the actual content itself. The recent article by Markus Osterrieder, on Electricity and Human Consciousness, is a case in point.
Osterrieder considers Steiner an authority on very deep matters of the invisible world. Certainly he is free to do so, but why should anyone else? Moreover, will this reference to Steiner actually accomplish the goal that Osterrieder apparently has - namely to awaken in the reader certain questions regarding electricity and human consciousness? How much was Osterrieder able to awaken in himself some sense of the thou to whom he wished to communicate? Not only that, but is the style of the essay (somewhat academic, with many quotes and citations), the style most likely to reach the apparent goal?
None of these should be considered as criticism of Osterrieder's essay. Rather it represents that hunger and thirst I spoke of at the beginning. My "I am" wanted a great deal more in order to bring alive within me a real connection to the problem the essay attempts to address. Easily a thousand questions crossed my mind while I read this essay.
Let us step back once more, and take a breath before spiraling around again.
For starters I would like us to consider finding some new terminology. To me the word "anthroposophy" is an already archaic usage; and one which is also, when we define it based upon its roots, a way of speaking not at all calculated to appeal to the naive consciousness that might well very much want to relate to the underlying impulse. I find its use disrespectful of the needs of the thou. If we can't find a way of expression, within the most common aspects of human languages, with which to describe our movement and its activity, then we already consent to anthroposophical concerns being properly socially marginalized and irrelevant. We often seem to cling to it like some kind a magic talisman, such that if we were to let go of it we would lose some kind of spiritual power. That is superstitious and hardly scientific in a spiritual sense.
What is unconscious tradition is hardened and without life. We might as well put the term anthroposophy on the head stone of our movement and just bury the whole thing.
The living reality is within us. With what words would we describe that?
By the way, I am not going to suggest a term. On the contrary, I want us to throw out the old term and then in each and every instance where we might use such words as - anthroposophy, anthroposophical, etc. - we write instead out of ourselves what we mean in the given context. From practice I know that in the beginning this will not be easy, yet experience has taught that by actually having to face such a question, we bring something alive, and in to our consciousness, that must come there in an awake fashion. The traditional terms allow a kind of mental laziness, as if this short hand way of expression communicates anything at all. Recall, if you will, what Steiner has said about the "empty phrase".
This kind of discipline, in writing and communicating, is essential for building a bridge from our individual "I am" consciousness to the the consciousness of the thou "I am".
The question that needs to be before us when writing, is this: What does the "I am" I am writing to need in order to understand what I am attempting to communicate? Beneath this are other relevant questions, such as: Does what I am attempting to communicate, as a content, actually represent something the thou "I am" wants to know? Is it possible I have substituted some antipathetically driven picture of the world, for a real perception, such that I am expressing myself only on what I personally want to see changed, and not at all on what is a real need of the thou? With this last question we reach into a very special area that needs our concentrated concern.
The world is as it is. As it is, it is not something unchanging, but is rather in constant ferment. Clearly a dead-end materialistic view dominates the consciousness of much of humanity. It is easy to find evidence, however, within many peoples and individuals, of a movement to go beyond a non spiritual world view. Within the self-conscious "I am" community, a pathway to such an understanding has been brought carefully to near incarnation. But full incarnation of this pathway requires that it enter into the social stream of the whole civilization. In self-contained communities, this pathway is sterile, irrelevant and egotistic.
The pathway through cognition, to the reunification with the eternal, of the self conscious "I am" community, is only socially fruitful as a component of an act of service to the wider circles of humanity.
This pathway has a beginning, many intermediate stages, and many complicated ending conditions. In the beginning the central text of instruction is the own inner life. Everything essential is to be found there. There is a tendency within the self conscious "I am" community to view this path as bi-polar, something implied by the term "initiation". The "non initiate" is presumed to find their goal in "initiation". This is a huge error in thought.
The pathway is, in fact, clearly tri-polaric being a movement from a form of consciousness dominated by an instinctive thinking that is quantitative, moving to a more conscious kind of thinking which is qualitative and characterizing (goetheanism), then leading to a final stage which is fundamentally moral thinking (spiritual science). The proper view is "non initiate", "goetheanist" and then "initiate", realizing that this is a flowing continuum, not a hard division into separate categories.
The process of incarnation of this pathway began by having to have been first spoken of in a cultural environment dominated by the patterns of thinking belonging to an earlier stage in the evolution of consciousness - what is called the intellectual soul age. This soul condition (intellectual soul, or mind soul - the soul that is served by thought) is in the process of passing away within the individual, but the outward cultural constructs (language forms and systems of education etc.) still contains much that belongs to the prior condition. This means that the pathway itself (anthroposophy), and the surrounding culture (central Europe), were not in harmony, but rather formed a naturally antagonistic relationship. In such a circumstance, a full incarnation into the social was impossible.
Thus, the culture of the soul served by thought, and the individual soul that begins to identify itself with the eternal, cannot be made compatible. Those individuals permeated with the soul served by thought conditions cannot see easily the possibility of the soul identified with the eternal. The pathway through cognition to reunification with the Eternal was first spoken of in the Old World, amidst the last days of Western Civilization, and at the beginning of the last century before the dawn of the new millennium.
In the New World, the coming place of birth of a New Civilization, the struggles to separate from the Old World have created different cultural conditions. The soul served by thought is not established tradition in the culture of the New World, and for this reason the soul seeking to identify with the eternal is more easily able to come to the fore. It is this soul soil - the cultural ground of the New World - that is the true place for the social incarnation of the pathway of the self conscious "I am".
It would not harm one to see the processes over the last one hundred years as being a movement from caterpillar, to cocoon, to a final emergence of the butterfly at the beginning of the new millennium. The pathway of the self conscious "I am" does not occur in the horizontal, does not move from Central Europe westward carried by individuals, but instead occurs only in the vertical - in gestures within the soul looking both upward and downward. One does not learn the new pathway to the mysteries from other individuals, whether they have achieved initiation or not. Such lives can convince one such a pathway exists, but the pathway itself is only found through the basic book of the own inner life.
A peculiar tragedy of the efforts to bring forth the self conscious "I am" pathway in the Old World has been the loss of the sense of the necessary intermediate stage - goetheanism. Little, by example, of this stage has arisen there. Yet, when we consider the impulse to incarnate this pathway into the social, especially as a deed of service, it is this intermediate stage (think about what always lives in the middle) that is most accessible and most needed by the instinctively (semiconsciously) self conscious "I am" community (Civil Society). What the fully self conscious "I am" community, as an aspect of the ongoing development of the soul striving to identify with the eternal, can do, is to bring forth the capacity to see the social world phenomenologically - that is in clear characterizing picture thoughts, without theoretical judgments (evaluations).
Thus, to bring this down into concrete reality in the context of the further development of the Journal, Trans-Intelligence Internationalle, what is needed is the practice of a writing style which not only knows the truth, but works to discover how to present these facts in the most accessible fashion to the semi-conscious "I am" community - Civil Society. Social Goetheanism is the flight of the butterfly of the evolving self conscious "I am" pathway, that can be given as a service to world (which itself hungers to learn how to perceive its own dynamics free of the terrible antipathies and sympathies which so dominate human social and political discourse today). For the truth is that the striving of the "I am" to identify with the eternal - with the true and the good - is to be balanced with the own forces of that "I am" in the terms of its own expression of these matters in the creative use of the word - i.e. by consciously combining the true and the good into the beautiful.
Let us once more dance in spiral form around the central sun of our questions.
* * *
Writing is much more than an art. In once sense, it is a quite revolutionary process by which ideas are freed from the various prisons which they inhabit.
We, as members of the self conscious "I am" pathway community, understand in theory the principle that cultural life flows from complete spiritual freedom. Yet, as members of the institutional social form of this community we have allowed to arise forms of publication, habits of communal discourse (meetings, conferences etc.), wherein small groups decide who gets published, and who speaks (lectures). These institutional structures are dead social habits from the prior intellectual soul culture, and become, in the time of the soul expressing the eternal, prisons of the impulse of true spiritual freedom. We have in our communities far too much order, and the inflow from the world of inspiration chokes on this breathless social habit.
The world of ideas is a reality. But access to its riches is not limited to institutional leaders and popular writers. When only certain singers sing, then only certain songs are heard. This is the institutional or structural prison for ideas. There is another prison - one created by our own limiting assumptions as to what is possible.
The thoughts expressed in Osterrider's essay concerning the relationship between electricity and evil are no doubt true. But if one enters the world of ideas in the right way (with the moral intention to be of service to the needs of the thou), then the context in which that truth begins to clothe itself becomes quite rich and varied. It does not need either Steiner or anthroposophy in order to come alive in the mind of the reader. On the contrary, this truth, about to be born in service to the thou, would annihilate such unnecessarily attendant ideas, because they are not part of that which this idea needs in order to exist for the needs of the thou. The living goodness of the ideal sun breathes most easily without the limiting structural debris which our habits of mind tend to throw into the flow.
It is a gross presumption to assume that what is important to us must also be important to the thou. The difficulty comes from, in most instances, not having cleansed the soul deeply enough of its antipathies and sympathies. These conditions, internal to our own soul, form a darkness over our vision of the world and of the thou. We see not the what is, but rather our own prejudices. But the thou lives in reality, which is masked by our assumptions.
Yet, by making clear our own mirror - by learning to reflect only the what is (the phenomena) - this then enables the sun of the ideal world to shine into our minds as we seek those thoughts which are to be of truest service to the thou. Moreover, once we appreciate this truth and its related goodness, we also discover the joy that goes with realizing how much our own "I am" is called upon in order to express the what is in the form of the beautiful. It is we who call forth the truth in service to the thou from the ideal world. Without our activity this does not happen. The pathway of cognition, for the reunification with the eternal, of the self conscious "I am" community, as it passes through the middle stage (social goetheanism) incarnates in the social as a deed of service. The thou "I am", in their semi-conscious condition, hungers for this song - thirsts for the spirit creative work with the word to unveil the secrets of existence, as those secrets pertain to the present social conditions of humanity. It is this thou-soul, driving the Civil Society impulse in the age of the consciousness of the identity of the "I am" with the eternal, which needs to understand the world in picture thoughts.
Will the community, of the pathway of cognition of the self conscious "I am", render this service?
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