Waking the Sleeping Giant:
- the mission of Anthroposophy in America -
Joel A. Wendt
Caveat: this essay was written in 1995, and for that reason some of the contemporary events described may be unknown or forgotten (for example the bombing at Oklahoma City). The reader should feel free to substitute 9/11 in their thinking for that event, for many of the same general social observations still apply. In point of fact, the effort to substitute 9/11 for Oklahoma City, in the imagination of the reader, will itself be very fruitful. This essay is, after all, an early attempt by me seeking a goetheanistic social science (the full fruit is in the book The Art of God: and actual theory of Everything, published in 2010).introduction
"If we want to change the materialistic America into a new America, we must know the old one, in all of its outer appearances, thoroughly, and then we must discover the deeper ideas within its essential being. Then out of a combination of the two, as a free human deed, we must discover the "modus" of how to change the present America into the new America." Carl Stegmann, The Third Call: Apocalyptic Destiny and the Future of America in the Light of Anthroposophy.
("modus" is a creative deed, possible only for man, which changes old earthly facts into something higher; c.f. Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom)
It is the purpose of this essay not only to suggest a particular "modus" for the transformation of America, but to show how it is the destiny of Anthroposophy to play a leading role. In order to establish this possibility it is necessary first to describe in some detail certain fundamental dynamics of the Middle Sphere of the Threefold Social Organism (parts 1 and 2, of the essay), as it is these dynamics that are the essential context out of which other matters unfold. Following that, some of my researches into the Spiritual America will be developed (parts 3 and 4), after which the whole will be woven together (part 5).
I also wish at this time to express my gratitude to the many co-workers in the America Work, who over the years have been supportive of my research into the mystery of America: Michael Byrne, Michael Franz, Arthur Lish, Mary Rubach, and Stuart Weeks; but most especially to Carl Stegmann, whose deep love and devotion to the Spiritual America was a privilege to experience.
In community, Joel A. Wendt, St.John's Tide, 1995
- part one -
the State as a creation of the psychological (inner) environment of the individual, and the individual as a reflection of the ideal environment of the State; or, the wisdom hidden in the saying of Christ Jesus: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are Gods." (Matthew 22:21)
These words were the response of Christ Jesus when the Pharisees tried to trick Him with the question of whether the Jews should pay taxes to the Roman Emperor. While this could be narrowly interpreted as just meaning that money, being a thing of Caesar already, should be given to Caesar, my personal experience is that long and thoughtful consideration of the teachings of Christ Jesus will always be rewarded with depths of understanding that cannot be discovered in any other way.
As to this particular saying, I had thought of it off and on for many years, as I continued to struggle for the right understanding of man's social and political existence. Just like the scientist, who after years of living with a particular riddle finds himself suddenly filled with the answer to his question, so it was only after a long preparation that it finally dawned on me what wisdom lay hidden in this simple statement.
The State (that is any type of government) has no existence but what the humans, who conceive it and act it out, make it to be. Unlike sense perceptible objects, the State is a social form entirely, built up out of man's ideation and deeds. This principle remains the same, even though in many instances (e.g. fascism or communism) a limited number of individuals or groups are able to form the State according to their particular individual vision and actions. From this point of view, the being of the State, in such instances, includes oppressors and the oppressed, each a component of the totality. The State lives (has its only being) in the minds and wills of its members.
The point of view being expressed here is in a very narrow sense value neutral. We may justifiably find certain forms of government to be egregious and unconscionable, but our sense of justice does not change the fact that the being of the State, even a totalitarian state, is the summation of the deeds and ideas of its members.
This is a rather complicated relation involving both individual and group action. We normally put the question: What ought the State to be? Thus we have the various theories of government from Plato and Aristotle to Machiavelli and More to Nozick and Rawls. The thinking which asks the question, what ought the State to be, occasionally makes a contribution to the ideas a People hold of the nature of government, but I am trying here to direct our attention not to our theory of government, but to the actual conceptions held by a People of what their particular State is, and how that is then reflected in the actual nature (being) of the State in fact.
These conceptions vary from person to person, and as well change over the course of any individual life. Nor are these ideas likely to be the result of any particular political philosophic effort, but rather will tend to be the consequences of a combination of schooling, the types of groups one has associated with, and the practical experience of government acquired in the course of one's life. Thus will arise an odd mixture of cliche, prejudice and truth.
That we have names and words for these ideas (such as liberal, conservative, rightist, leftist, democrat, republican, freedom, capitalist, communism, and so forth) is also not related to the point I am trying to make. Especially today, when so few have really given any thought at all to these matters, most of us use such words with so little precision that we very often use the same word to mean quite different things, in spite of perhaps belonging to the same political party and espousing the same positions.
Nevertheless, each individual citizen will hold some idea of the State, and will act according to this idea. Some will believe in freedom, but not for certain other classes of citizens. Some will believe in law abiding-ness, but at the same time cheat on their taxes. Some will form groups to demand that laws follow their ideas of what is right. Some will court such group's favor in order to get elected, only to do something else later. Some will do nothing, convinced that government is an oppressor, best to be avoided, and certainly not relevant to the real problems of life: getting a job, raising a family, struggling in a difficult relationship, and so forth. Some will be completely lawless, believing only in their own code, or desires, acting on impulse and taking whatever they want.
Wherever a single human being stands, having some kind of idea of the State and acting out some kind of behavior in which this idea is more or less central or irrelevant, in this place the State in miniature exists. Finally then, out of the totality of these miniature 'States' comes into being the State as a whole, a mixture of an enormous variety of ideas and deeds, acting in a complex arrangement as the various collective associations dance together in their struggle to dominate.
The point of this is to recognize that the being of the State is created by these ideas and deeds, by what is "rendered" it by its People.
Now because certain common themes will live in the ideas and deeds of a particular People, each characteristic People has an individual historic and characteristic State. America, for example, has a kind of State which is given dominate thematic character by the ideas embodied in the Constitution, and the experiences which are derived from the land. Because we all live in the same land and because we are to a somewhat similar degree educated in the ideas of the Constitution, there tends to be a kind of order and consistency in the nature of the State throughout our history.
The State, as a social form, is not unlike a wave form created in a stream by the existence of a rock just beneath the surface. As the water flows past the rock a wave form rises up, and remains present. Even though water continually flows through it, the general "shape" of the form remains. If we now turn our imaginations to the creation of a social form, in this case the State, the flowing water is the People moving through time, who come into being, live out their lives, and pass away. The rock is the reality of the spirit, which in this instance is active in the commonly held ideas related to the Constitution, and the characteristics induced in the soul by the common experience of the land. The social form - the State - arises out of the interaction between the two - the lives of the People and the presence of the relevant spiritual and soul elements, and maintains a certain continuous nature and quality, just as the wave form in the flowing stream remains the same, although the water itself (the People) continually moves through it.
At the core of this process, which is a kind of psychological process, lies that element of our inner life - in our soul life - which might be called our feeling for what is right. This feeling for what is right exists in all Peoples, but varies in its content somewhat from People to People, and time to time. We should be noticing today, for example, that in Eastern Europe, as the domination of the Marxist-Leninist "rendering" of the idea of the State recedes, that what these Peoples make most important will not be the same as what we would conceive as most significant. In fact, if we observe closely enough we will see a struggle to accept the democratic ideal, but reject the materialism, and the consumerism. While there are depths here we cannot in this place go into, the point must be understood that what a People "render" the State reflects certain cultural and ethnic characteristics of no little importance
The principle, that the State is what it is through what is "rendered" it, has been known intuitively to our wiser political leaders. Our constitution begins: "We the People...". Lincoln said: "...a nation of the People, by the People, and for the People...". And Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
While this may all seem too simple, it is not, and really understanding it will make other things much clearer later on. For example, we have in recent years been more interested in this country in our rights as individuals, without any thought to there being any correlative duties. We don't like conscription (the draft), paying taxes, thinking much at all about government unless we can get something from it, or it is taking something from us. Yet, the two go hand in hand. There are no rights without duties. There is no State from which to receive rights without someone having "rendered" it certain duties. A great deal we take for granted was first won by blood.
When we lament today the sorry condition of our political life we need to reflect that its initial being was created out of the passionate deeds of our ancestors, whose sacrifice left behind a kind of political wealth upon which we live; until, as today, we begin to exhaust it by taking without giving (all rights and no duties). The sorry condition of our modern political life is due to the gradual depletion of its being through the absence of sufficient "rendering" to keep it vital and alive.
This being has a quite definite qualitative nature; that is, it is not so much what it is because so many people give it so many hours, or years (quantities of time), but because of the ideal and moral element of what they "render". It is the higher or lower qualities of our human nature which become aspects of the being of the State. When a voter votes only his prejudices, not having troubled himself to really understand the needs of the whole People, and when the politician encourages through advertising and speeches the People's expression of their baser instincts, then the being of the State can only reflect such qualities. When the corporations and unions lobby only so that their self interest is gratified, then the being of the State reveals no higher qualities. Did the rich get richer and the poor get poorer under recent administrations? Without a doubt, but what else did the most powerful elites "render"? The phrase of the computer programmers is quite apt: "garbage in, garbage out".
This brings us, of course, to the other pole of Christ Jesus' saying, because the crux of the problem is the need for the State to receive into its being the higher elements of our nature. What then does it mean to "render unto God" and how do the two statements relate to each other as a whole?
While the being of the State can be seen to be dependent in its nature for what is "rendered" it, this cannot be said to be true of the being of God. It is not the being of God which becomes what is rendered it, but the being of man. The human being who "renders unto God the things that are Gods" is himself transformed by the act of devotion. Those who would doubt such a proposition simply have to look closely at history. The Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, these and many more political figures, whose stature and importance to the being of our Government is unquestionable, have been able to contribute what they have in large part because of the moral nature of their character. Just as the State becomes what is rendered it. so we humans become according to whether we act so as to unfold our individual higher nature. -
No one doubts today the validity of making an effort to maintain, care for and develop the physical body. Yet, the development of virtue is as much ignored as physical well being is advocated. No amount of physical fitness, however, will change the character of what is rendered the State. Only moral development, only transformation of the soul and spiritual nature of the human being can enhance the qualitative characteristics of what is rendered the State.
The statement we have been examining, the wisdom out of the Gospels of Christ Jesus, has two meanings, dependent upon which principle we emphasize. These meanings are not contradictory, but rather are complimentary. One: The State is what it is out of what is rendered it in their ideation and their deeds by its People...and...the qualitative nature of what is rendered, is higher or lower according to the development of virtue as that has proceeded in the individual.
Simultaneously (Two): Only through devotion to God does the human being develop in himself those characteristics which flow from such an act...and...as a devote of God, one needs to recognize one yet remains a member of human society, which will only have as necessary characteristics what one gives to it.
As a last point we must again notice that Christ Jesus says to render unto Caesar and unto God. Man must direct his activity both toward heaven and toward earth, in order to unfold his essential being, his "I"ness. Both the State and man need to become. It is a reciprocal relationship. If the State does not become, then man's potential development is limited. If man does not become then his capacity to render unto the State, and the being of the State, is likewise limited.
As this essay concerns itself with an opportunity that Divine Circumstance presently offers to members of the anthroposophical movement in America, a peculiar problem needs to be faced. At the time of the Christmas Foundation, Rudolf Steiner stated clearly, speaking of the newly founded Society: "Politics, it does not consider its mission."
Certainly it would have been, and still would be inappropriate for the Society to organize itself in such a way that it establishes a political agenda, and lobbies, or otherwise "politics" for these issues. Nevertheless, all the members and friends remain participants in human society, contributors to the Threefold Social Organism, which for its future development depends upon fully conscious and enlightened deeds from its members. Much has been set in motion regarding the threefold social organism (as we shall see in the next part) due to the activities of the hierarchies, but the ultimate fruition of that work requires the cooperation of human kind, the will forces of human beings.
In terms of the preceding then, these questions need be kept in mind as we go forward: What do anthroposophists "render" unto the State? What do we give that flows from the inner development, the soul and spiritual changes Spiritual Science provides? At the center of our cosmology stands the Christ. What can we say to Him, regarding our contributions to the political life of modern humanity?
- part two -
At the threshold of this part of our considerations we need to notice a confusion which sometimes appears when the threefold social organism is discussed in anthroposophical circles. It is not infrequent to hear or read what seems to assume that human society does not yet exhibit the characteristics outlined by Steiner, and that somehow there is a threefold social "order" by which human society ought to be organized. Steiner was clear, however, that the threefold idea was not a utopia, but was, in fact, a descriptive morphology of human social existence. Nevertheless, in accord with the temper of the time (post WWI), and the soul life of his listeners/readers (who lived first in the ideal, before incarnating the ideal into the real), Steiner presented the threefold social idea as an ideal, in its most abstract and pure (healthy) formulation. It would have been possible to do the opposite, to draw out of the phenomena of social existence its threefold nature, although this would of course involve one in all the malformations as those exist in the contemporary conditions of the social organism.
As it will be fruitful, let us continue our examination of the Middle Sphere in this other way, as an exercise in the description of social phenomena after the methods first developed by Goethe. Because of the need to proceed briskly, we will first make very general observations, before descending to those more detailed and specific (see part three), which will in turn be of a limited number, again due to the need for brevity.
The Middle Sphere - the political-legal life - first began to appear on the stage of history at the beginning of the fourth post-atlantean cultural epoch, the beginning of "Western" civilization as that developed in Greece and Rome. This Sphere then appeared as a separation of the idea of the State from the being of the hierarchy (such as the Pharaoh). Thus began a slow emancipation of the civil authority from the purely religious authority. Accompanying this change came the idea of the citizen, the individual member of the State. In the earlier theocracies (the Originating Sphere of the social organism - the cultural life) the individual was simply a member of a characteristic people, and his place in society largely determined by the rules established through the temples, the mysteries.
Thus, at the founding of Western civilization a kind of functional split takes place, with the cultural life no longer carrying the whole burden of providing social order.
It is important to appreciate certain nuances connected with this change. On the one hand cultural life is able to direct itself more inwardly, having less need to concern itself with those functions that the civic element is now organizing. In the Greek civilization cultural life (science, art and religion) experiences a great unfolding, as if forces once devoted to other concerns are now available for purely cultural development. Just as with the development of the human being, once a certain level has been obtained, forces devoted to one activity are now free to serve additional purposes.
On the other hand, the civic form appears at first in a two-fold way; there is the organization of the State at one pole, and the corresponding rights of the citizen at the other. This polarity bears a direct relationship to the reality expressed in part one, above, namely that the being of the State and the inner life of the individual have a interweaving and reciprocal mutual dynamic. Here we see this dynamic interplay active as a formative force in the unfolding of the social organism.
The separation of the cultural and spiritual life from the civic element is not complete in the beginning. In the idea of the divine right of kings, the theocratic principle lives on. Even in the late middle ages, with the co-existence of both ecclesiastical and civil courts, the two Spheres remain somewhat intertwined.
This is a crucial picture, to imagine the political-legal life as taking the whole of the period of Western civilization (up to the 17th century) to complete its separation from the cultural sphere. In this we can have a sense of the threefold social organism appearing in human civilization in a dynamic and living way, as a process of unfolding and development. Moreover, this process as it completes itself first creates two poles, the State on the one side, and the People (citizens) on the other.
Those familiar with polaric processes in Nature will realize that whenever two poles arise in an organism there necessarily follows the creation of a third, middle, element. Just as the threefold social organism exists as a triparte structure arising from the needs of the threefold soul, that is with two poles and a middle element, so do each of the three individual spheres of the social organism possess tendencies which bring about their own inward threefolding. (See in this regard W. Schad's Man and Mammals, where the ninefold organization of the human being is described. As a preliminary aide, picture the human head, the upper pole, the nerve-sense pole of the human organism. It is itself threefold, with the eyes representing a purely nerve-sense function, the nose - open to the lungs, brings the rhythmic element into play, and the mouth - the initial organ of digestion - introduces the metabolic function.)
We can, as well, recall that the cultural life, during the long period of its development has produced three functionally related elements, science, art and religion. A more careful, but brief, look at these will aid our further investigations.
In the late 1950's, the English scientist/novelist C.P.Snow gave a lecture wherein he described the existence of two cultures, a scientific culture and a literary culture, which seemed to suffer from "mutual incomprehension", "hostility and dislike" and "a curious distorted image of each other". His observations were accurate, but incomplete. To science and art he would need to add religion. These three sub-spheres of the cultural-spiritual life of the social organism have over the period of Western civilization become estranged from each other. Rare is the individual who can unite in his soul life the three human capacities whose impulses underlie this division. Here clearly is one task of anthroposophical spiritual science, to help the individual weave together the capacities of reason (science), imagination (art) and devotion (religion). And, certainly human social existence is severely distorted and malformed when its individual members are thus lamed by this division within the soul.
So far we have observed that the differentiated spheres of the social organism have different epochs of birth and development. As well, we have noted that the Originating Sphere - the cultural-spiritual life - has under the influence of modern conditions become disordered to the point of a kind of cultural schizophrenia. Although this is the oldest and most mature, it at present is not a source of health for the whole social organism.
The Middle Sphere is younger, and only now is expressing its threefold nature (we will come to this next). We ought to keep in mind that in Steiner's lectures to doctors, Spiritual Science and Medicine, strengthening the middle system of the human organism is always an essential toward renewal, recovery and health. What I am suggesting by this is that, by analogy, strengthening the Middle Sphere of the social organism will be a general aid to the health of the whole system.
The Third Sphere - the economic life - is, of course, newly born, having emerged at the beginning of the fifth cultural epoch, appearing first in the impulses to colonialism and trading empires, and then overriding all the other forces of the social organism through the industrial revolution. The significance of this will be examined next, in parallel to our observations concerning the threefolding of the Middle Sphere.
The 14th to 17th centuries represent unique moments in the life and development of the social organism. It is in the 14th century that the change of consciousness begins which Owen Barfield (in Saving the Appearances) characterizes as the leaving behind of "original participation" (being within nature, cosmos and each other to some degree) and the birth of "onlooker consciousness" (I am a self over here, nature, cosmos and others, they are outside, over there). This "onlooker separation" leads to modern science on the one hand and the deep alienation of modern life on the other. It is this change of consciousness which is ultimately so destructive of the social order. As Western civilization begins to die of this process, its remaining life forces flower (the renaissance), fruit (the enlightenment) and seed (the contraction of the accumulated political wisdom of Western civilization into the forming of the U.S.Constitution).
As an element of these powerful dynamic processes, which flowed out of this change of consciousness, a certain invention occurs which begins to introduce profound changes. This is the invention of the printing press. Previously, communication (fructifying social intercourse) for most people had to be oral; now it could be written. While this represents a solidification of the word, a crystallization, it also is a necessary process in order that those members of a culture (or polity) who cannot have direct oral communication, may nevertheless come to a shared understanding of the world and of each other. At the same time as people are becoming more alienated, a counter-pole arises which enables people to find a unity in the shared world view.
We have here multiple simultaneous processes. One occurring in the outer social fabric, and being a process of disintegration. Another occurring in the soul life and being a process of individuation. These two processes are mutually supportive.
Prior to the arrival of the "onlooker" consciousness morality was inculcated in humanity from the outside, for the most part, by the coercive effect of the vital social structure. But community, family, and church, the traditional social forms, now begin to dissolve as a result of the social consequences of the industrial revolution and the change in world view introduced by the arrival of scientific materialism. As a result, the ability of community, family and church to inspire man's morality diminishes. Simultaneously, the soul life acquires new capacities as man gains more self conscious individuality, ultimately to lead to an ability to form independent moral judgments. In a truly miraculous way the death of tradition, of civilization, is also the birth of moral freedom.
Accompanying this miracle is a further development of the middle of the social organism. In between the State at one pole, and the People at the other, arises a mediating functional organ - media. Media first appears as a clear aspect of the political-legal life during the founding days of the American State. Every town has a least one printer, and thus at least one new sheet. Without these new sheets it is simply not possible for the citizens of the newly forming nation to come to a common view, to equalize (balance and mediate) their individual perspectives. (The Federalist Papers are a futile act if there is no press to publicize them.)
In this way we can come to a functional understanding of Media. It is the knowledge commons (to borrow from Ivan Illich), the place where the dynamic properties of the word enable a polity to form mutual comprehension.
This is how then the dynamics of the polarity, State-People, come to form the needed middle element. Now Media, in the sense conceived here, is not a static thing, but rather an evolving and developing process. The technological achievement of the printing press is just the beginning of a whole series of inventions which ultimately produce radio, television, cable, vcr's, fax machines, computers and so forth. The series is not finished. The interconnecting of home computers via the Internet reveals that the knowledge commons is about to become an electronic commons (Illich's initial formulation).
Consider this picture. The coming into being of print media constitutes a kind of rigidification of the dynamic qualities of the word as those facilitate mutual understanding. As Media further develops, it passes from print form to image form, i.e. television. Television, in that it provides our consciousness with images, puts to sleep that part of our cognitive processes which fills out the word with our own imaginations. This further weakens political life (continuing the social dynamics leading to the death of Western civilization), by disabling our thinking faculty at the moment it is most needed to be awake in order to "render" its civic responsibilities.
But the technical evolution of Media is not over. Close observation reveals that advertising dominated television is losing its grip, and being replaced with cable services and the possibility of self chosen viewing, the vcr. Parallel to this is the weaving of the Web, the interconnecting of individuals via the computer networks. Electronic media is being less image oriented, and is now interactive; i.e. the word is again becoming significant.
(It is essential during these descriptions not to confuse what we might wish or believe things ought to be, with what they are in fact. Following Goethe's example, we need not fear the facts. Our task rather is to raise them into pictures, and in this manner find our way into the inner dynamics of the threefold social organism.)
In California recently, an electronic Commons (network) was created to allow people to comment on local council meetings. It became enormously popular. So popular that "There would be a near-revolution if we thought about taking it down." (comment of the city manager)
This idea of the importance of Media is nothing new (although few know it as the central element in the threefolding of the social organism). What else have politicians, terrorists, single interest groups, businesses etc. been fighting to control and manipulate? What do the revolutionaries first take over, but the TV stations and the newspapers. Within Media the People come to common self knowledge and mutual understanding. Within Media the idea of the State and of the rights and duties of citizenship comes to common form. However we turn our thinking, if we remain pictorially descriptive of the dynamics of social life as these actually play themselves out in the political-legal sphere we will come to the perception of the threefoldness of State-Media-People.
We are dealing here with dynamic processes which are occurring at multiple levels within the social organism. We have on one level the gradual incarnation of the threefold organism, a process of unfolding and development involving many epochs of human history. At another level we have observed what appears to be a dissolving process, the end of the influence of tradition on social life, a kind of death process of civilization. In particular, if we observe the conditions of social life in the so-called inner city, we find almost no traditional social order at all. Family, community, church, school, the individual is hardly affected at all by the normal sources of tradition and continuity. We are quite justified in describing this situation as a condition of social chaos.
The observation of social chaos will prove very helpful for later considerations. For the moment, however, we only need to note two particular facts. First, almost all modern human institutions exhibit phenomena reflecting the absence of the usual organizing forces of tradition, for example the Catholic Church (c.f. Malachi Martin's remarkable, The Jesuits: the Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church).
The second fact is more personal, and needs to be stated in the form of a question. Given that the social temper of the times mostly consists of dissolving and chaos producing forces, why does the anthroposophical movement/society seem immune? Or is it?
- part three -
We have so far established three major "pictures" regarding the threefold social organism. One describes that reciprocal relationship, between the individual's process of development and the process of development of the State, as pointed toward by the saying of Christ Jesus, to render unto Caesar and unto God. The second picture concerns the birth of a middle element within the Middle Sphere of the social organism, a natural process producing over time the functional organ media, which, though young, will become the heart of the heart of the social organism. The third picture concerns the observation of a process which seems to be leading to the death of civilization, the gradual destruction of social order and tradition connected to family, community, church and school, producing conditions of social chaos. This last is a particularly unusual process in that with the termination of the binding ties of social tradition, as those tend to form moral impulses, this has made, not only easier, but to some degree necessary, the unfolding of the faculty of a free conscience within the human being.
One additional idea needs to be brought forward. In Nature, when the caterpillar spins its cocoon, the formative forces withdraw to the extent that the form caterpillar disappears, and in its place arises a homogeneous cell mass, no form, no differentiated cells, a kind of barely alive, barely functional organic chaos. Only after this stage has been reached do the formative forces again become active and create the butterfly. This process of metamorphosis is the organic mirror of the Archetypal Deed, the Death and the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, what Goethe observed in the developmental life of plants, as the process of dying and becoming. There is every reason to expect that the generation of social chaos, observable everywhere in human society in these days of the turn of the millennium, is another mirror image of this archetypal process, a social dying and becoming.
This fact leads naturally to many questions. A few of which are: What new social forms will arise? From what sources will they come? What role can those who are awake to these facts play, so that the new civilization will be more amenable to human freedom?
With these pictures we now have a more penetrating understanding of the general social context of the time, so that it is now possible to enter more deeply into the mystery of America, its real present condition, and its "apocalyptic destiny and future".
As a preliminary focus, as well as a bridge from the previous discussions, I would like us to examine certain details of events which occurred in America, both for their general significance for the deeper understanding of America, as well as examples confirming the pictures of the various dynamic social processes pointed out above. Everyone is aware of the unusual social events called "the Sixties". In America, this time of social upheaval only arose after certain other developments prepared the way.
Everything first of all occurred in the context of a general change of consciousness, arising especially in the young, due to the arrival of the atomic age, the cold war, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. The young men and women, who were to become the center of the happenings in the sixties, were first exposed as children to a mental environment which, while threatening the annihilation of the physical world, effectively annihilated the normal dreams the young have of the future.
Many can still remember, as I do, learning to "duck and cover", to hide under the desks in school, when the civil warning system, a great wailing siren that could be heard all over town, announced the possibility of attack. In the same context, we were shown movies about civil defense at least once a year if not more often, which included pictures of buildings torn to shreds by the enormous winds and power of the atomic blast. Everywhere outside and frequently in buildings were little signs advising that here was a shelter should one be out in the open when the bombs came. Since we needed to be prepared, our communities, our national leaders, all made certain that we understood the dangers and accepted the sacrifices the cold war effort required.
The effect of this was to cast a shadow into the soul life of whole generations, a giant shadow where there ought to be a heart filled with hope and a lively and expectant interest in the future. Unfortunately for many, it was not a question of if there would be a war, but only of when.
In the middle of the 1950's, as this shadow was laid in the consciousness of far too many, three unique American personalities began their work: Hugh Hefner, Elvis Presley, and Dr. Martin Luther King. With Hefner and the publishing of Playboy magazine, began what was to be called the "sexual revolution". With Elvis, the erotic rhythms of Black American blues was integrated with the stream of love songs which dominated white popular music; and not only did rock and roll come into being (and begin its world wide destiny as a solvent of traditional family ties), a total change in social dancing arose, drawing the consciousness of the young into the lower impulses of the limb organization. With Dr. King, a balancing higher moral element entered in, making possible the exposure, and (perhaps) resolution, of explosive social issues in a manner that was powerful, effective, and ultimately less likely to rip the social fabric.
This is not to say that these personalities caused these streams of activity, but rather they were the forerunners, the "lightening rods", the seed crystals, necessary for a whole set of social changes. Up to that point America had, in this century, experienced at one remove two great wars, and more directly the great depression. The fifties were a breathing space, an interval of rest. Then in one great social spasm, the young were set free from the social and political inhibitions of the near past. The normal forces which communities applied to the behavior and morals of the young were shattered, and millions had to face questions of deep personal moral difficulty on their own.
So powerful were these changes, that they reached beyond the young, infecting many of the older generations as well. It is as if someone had taken a meat cleaver and cut the last third of the century completely free of the first two thirds. The decades following the Sixties are mainly after effects. Seemingly excessive liberalism leading to seemingly excessive conservatism. But this is the effect only on the surface. Our real question needs to be what is the condition of the soul? Has a real moral freedom, a self conscious/consciousness soul development, arisen?
This is a difficult question to answer purely from an observation of social phenomena. I read as a clue to this question the popularity of a certain type of television drama, the leading examples of which are: MASH, St Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, and Picket Fences. Here the artistic genius, working in the most popular dramatic forum, has invented and developed a form of drama (leavened with comedy), in which the actors (generally in ensemble form, rather then just one or two "stars") struggle with constant individual moral ambiguity, in a context without traditional or easy answers. I believe we have here a valid mirror of the modern soul life of many Americans, as revealed both by the popular nature of these dramas and as well the critical acclaim which they justly receive.
I need to suggest here two matters of caution. I would not do this had not many private conversations with those acquainted with Anthroposophy induced me to believe that this is necessary. The first is that in examining social phenomena it is crucial to carefully separate fact from interpretation in that one comes to knowledge of things through contemporary media. While media has a special potential, it has hardly realized it, and basically tends to form very limited, and unnecessarily dark, pictures of the world that are of little use if one wants to seek beneath the surface symptoms. What is received through media needs to be carefully worked over, so that general trends of contemporary thought, which are often erroneous and misleading, are first removed, and the real facts obtained.
The second caution has to do with types of knowledge that those acquainted with Anthroposophy are likely to come upon, such as the affects of television and film on the etheric body, or on human consciousness. Even though these "anthroposophical" facts are true, and might lead one to believe that certain experiences are unhealthy, we need to recognize what is actually happening in social life, namely that the majority live lives dominated by the experiences of television and film - to continue the example - and that these actual happenings are the facts from which our symptoms need be drawn.
In the preceding, concerning the Sixties, we saw more intimately into those dynamic social processes connected to the death of tradition and its consequences, the creation of social chaos and the resulting necessity of individual moral choice. Next I would like to develop further our understanding of media and its central place in the threefold social organism. In this regard let us consider the recent events connected to the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City.
Hardly anyone needs to be told the facts. This in itself is an aspect we need not to overlook. What occurred did not just occur to those most immediately affected, those who caused it, those who died or were injured, and their families, but due to the nature of media we all experienced it. It became a collective experience, it became part of, and reflected in its own way, the American Soul.
In this way Oklahoma City is a true media event. We need to distinguish this from the staged media event, such as makes up most of contemporary political campaigning, and as well from the media circus, which for a better example we need look no further then the O.J Simpson trial. Without the existence of media, as a dynamic social process, none of these events, the bombing, as well as the campaigns and circuses, have the same significance in the life of a People.
With a true media event, the central phenomena are the effects on the whole people. The purveyors of media almost play no role at all; they don't have to hype the event, or interpret it. They just show it; the event speaks for itself. Media makes it possible for large groups to have a shared experience of the event. We have to be careful not to lose sight of the fact that in such an instance it is not the event itself at all, but the shared experience which is the critical social phenomenon.
The Oklahoma City bombing is not isolated from its consequences in the general psyche of a nation. Consider these facts. Immediately following the bombing, large numbers of experts, invited by the media to comment, assumed that the bomb was the work of middle-east terrorists. All of a sudden a mood of suspicion was woven into the American Soul, suspicion of the foreigner, particularly the middle-east type, the Arab and his strange religion, Islam. In workplaces and neighborhoods, one can only guess at the strained feelings and fitful looks that must have passed between Arab and non-Arab neighbors and co-workers. Then, in an oddly beautiful and ironic moment, the tension and suspicion is dissolved.
We can only imagine the consequences. In some cases individuals were pushed further apart, the tension and suspicion only reinforced natural ignorance and prejudice. But in others, an opportunity arose, an opportunity to step across the boundary of otherness, to meet each other at a higher level. What happened actually? Who can say precisely? Even so, we can be certain a dynamic social tension arose and was released, and one consequence of the bombing was that individuals had an opportunity to see each other in a new light, perhaps to share the moment, to express the common tragedy and sympathy, to weave a few new treads of brotherhood.
A second consequence of the bombing was to raise public awareness of something only a few knew about, the existence of the militant anti-government militias. Here was a festering sore in the social body of the People. Now, exposed to the light of day, its ideas, its theology could be examined. A kind of cleansing occurred as the militias themselves acted so as to rid themselves of their more extreme and unstable elements.
We should also not overlook the most obvious fact, which is that because media exists, the act not only injured those in Oklahoma City, but it injured the national psyche. How could we do this to ourselves? How could Americans do this to their own children?
There is a relationship between these three consequences, between the arising of social tension and its release concerning otherness, and the exposure to light and cleansing concerning the militias, and the self examination, regret and remorse connected to the fact that Americans did this to Americans. A kind of public conscience was evoked. Not a private conscience, or even a process whereby the rights and wrongs were debated, but a mood of soul in which the community, joined together by the existence of media processes, examined itself and acted on the basis of that examination.
In forming this picture, in truly penetrating to what is happening here, it is essential to realize that the media infrastructure, the equipment, the personalities, the corporations, all this merely served as the material apparatus, by which an essentially invisible social organ functioned. Media, in the sense suggested here, is a social form, a process in the body politic. It is an organ of community feeling, an organ moderating and mediating in a public (i.e. semi-conscious, dreamlike) way the heart values of the community.
In trying to come to this understanding it will help to avoid imagining the single individual's experience, our own for example. Rather we need to try to picture the whole. For days, for weeks, the body politic goes about its ordinary business, while at the same time on most everyone's mind, in most everyone's soul life, the events penetrate and are digested. People, who might in normal circumstances say very little to each other, discuss what happened, express their feelings, share their thoughts.
There is a feedback loop to this, as media, needing to fill the enormous time devoted to the tragedy and its consequences, interviews "the man on the street". Not just the experts, but the ordinary citizen too is consulted.
Again, it is very important not to expect this organ to be at a stage of high development. It is young and immature. It is distorted as well by all the other imbalances in the social organism. It too is under pressure from the chaos and dissolving forces characteristic of this time of the turn of the millennium.
What lies in its future? What direction will media take? Does anything in Anthroposophy speak to these questions? What responsibilities fall to those with knowledge of these matters?
- part four -
In this part we will further deepen our understanding of the mystery of America, of the spiritual America. We will do this by examining some matters which have not even been guessed at by those who previously struggled to do research in this area. I have in mind here: Carl Stegmann's The Other America; F.W. Zeylmans' America and Americanism, and Dietrich Asten's America's Way. These texts, for all their anthroposophical insight, overlooked one of the most crucial elements necessary to an understanding of the mystery of America.
In order to truly understand America it is necessary to understand America's original peoples, the Indians. While the hereditary line of their physical bodies is that of a dying race, the Saturn Race, their soul and spiritual life is not. In them the American Soul first appears and in them Americans will find their true roots.
Sylvester Corey, of the Myrin Institute in New York, understood this fact. He produced in 1961 a small pamphlet, originally given as an address to the Waldorf School at Adelph; University, titled: American Indians and our way of life. Its thesis was quite simple. Americans are more like the Indian than they are like the European in their general soul characteristics. This in spite of the fact of being the physical descendants of Europeans (for the most part). The racial characteristics of physical bodies is one thing, the life of the soul is something entirely different.
We can appreciate this even more by noticing that for many contemporary Americans, the Indian is becoming more and more, not only a object for imitation, and an intriguing mystery, but as well a deep and remorse filled problem of conscience. No longer can Americans hide from the genocide on which this country was founded, and it has become increasingly necessary for many to come to terms with this fact.
Consider what we know of Nature. Nothing is wasted. That which dies is dissolved and becomes the very ground out of which the vitally new grows. In a like manner, Indian culture may seem to have disappeared, but it has not completely, nor has the rest been wasted. A most intriguing reside remains, whose potential and purposes we will only be able to begin to imagine.
Contrary to European cultures, America's aboriginal peoples still exist, still seek to preserve as much as possible of their traditions. In this they are not alone. The natural and simple way of life, the daily spirituality, the love of freedom, the understanding of brotherhood, these and more virtues of the way of life of the original peoples of America are hungered for by many Americas at a deep soul level. There is a unique hidden genius here, for the social wisdom of the Indian is a great and largely unread scripture, earned and intuited through centuries of practical experience.
In this brief essay we are only able to begin to look at a small aspect of this social treasure, which will come to mean so much in the future. In this regard, two matters stand out as needing our attention. The first is an Indian prophecy which, while valid in its own right, is especially important for the anthroposophist, because it predicts our movement's activity in America and the role we are needed to play. The second is of like significance, in that it is a social ritual form which has much to teach us as we search for the path to the inauguration of the needed Michael Festival.
In the southwest of America, in northeastern Arizona, about 100 miles from the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, lives the Indian Nation known as the Hopi. Their small reservation, of perhaps less then 10,000 souls, is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation's reservation, comprising more than 150,000 individuals. Little mention is made of these people in the history of America or in the Indian Wars of the 19th century, for they are known as the Peaceful People, and did not participate as overtly as other Indian nations in the resistance to the invasion of the white race, called in the Hopi language, the Pahana.
Even so, in their oral history, and in their prophecies concerning a coming Day of Purification, the Hopi preserve a remarkable picture of the history and eventual ending of the way of life of Indian peoples.
The Hopi oral history remembers the destruction of Atlantis and the resulting migrations east and west. It tells how their leaders led them from a land being destroyed because of the deeds of evil two-hearted people. Through a reed they went up, rising through clouds (remember Atlantis was a land of mists). After this emergence, a great chief died, but his sons, two brothers, were chosen to lead them further. The younger brother was to go to the west, to a new land, and to travel as far north and south and east and west in this land as possible, leaving behind rock writings and ruins (thus, the mystery of the mound builders), because a time would come when they would forget they had once all been one.
Eventually, those lead by the younger brother would come to the place the Creator wanted them to live (three arid mesas in America's southwest). At one point the Creator said to the Hopi, after they had arrived at their destination, "...I am the first and I shall be the last." (In this regard recall Revelations 1:8 "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord...").
The elder brother was to go to the east, to the land of the rising sun and to wait there. For there would come a time when the way of life of the younger brother was being destroyed, and the elder brother was to return, to come and help and to bring the "life plan for the future".
The first sign of this coming destruction would be the appearance of a white race among them (the Hopi) who would claim the land as their own. Then will come three crises. The first two will rock the world into war (the two world wars) and the third will be the decisive one. "This third event will depend upon the Red Symbol, which will take command, setting the four forces of nature (Meha) in motion for the benefit of the Sun."...
"We know certain people are commissioned to bring about the Purification. It is the universal Plan from the beginning of creation, and we are looking up to them to bring purification to us. It is in the rock writings throughout the world, on different continents. We will come together if people all over the world know about it. So we urge you to spread this word around so people will know about it, and the appointed ones will hurry up with their task,..."...
"I am forever looking and praying eastward to the rising Sun for my true white brother to come..."
The above has been necessarily abstracted from a much much longer public talk given by Hopi Sun Clan Chief Dan Katchongva, Jan. 29, 1970. The full text is published in a book titled: The Return of Pahana: a Hopi Myth, by Robert Boissiere (Bear&Co, 1990). Knowledge of the Hopi Prophecy is hardly confined to America. The Voice of the Great Spirit: Prophecies of the Hopi Indians, by Rudolf Kaiser (Shambala, 1991), was originally published by the author in Europe, under the title, Der Stimme des Grossen Geistes.
I have lived with knowledge of this prophecy for over twenty-five years. Originally it was a small curiosity; I would read about it in odd places: an outdoor magazine, a '60's underground newspaper. Usually there was very little detail. Then, during the same year I met Anthroposophy, I found a small pamphlet titled: From the Beginning of Life to the Day of Purification, which was the original published version of the above noted talk by Grandfather David Katchongva (which has since gone out of print). For many years I made no connection between the two.
Finally, when I was part of the America Work, the circle of friends working with Carl Stegmann in Sacramento California, I wrote for his study letter, America in the Threefold World, a short article: Anthroposophy and the Hopi Prophecy of the True White Brother. Only two and a third pages in length, it simply asserted the general thesis, that the anthroposophical movement was the true white brother, the elder brother of the Prophecy who was to return to aid the Hopi during the third and final crisis.
Except for meeting two or three personalities who thought that what I had suggested was true, the matter basically went to rest. About seven years later, however, I sat down to write about it again, and much to my surprise, wrote over eighty pages in ten days. This subsequently lead to a book: The Mystery of the True White Brother: an interpretation of the meaning of the Hopi Prophecy. In this book I attempted to draw detailed relations between the Prophecy and the underlying nature of Anthroposophy, while at the same time placing the whole situation in the context of the present phase of history, in particular the turn of the millennium. In consultation with a publisher, I subsequently rethought the book, and decided to rewrite it and to place the Hopi aspect into the context, and the meaning of contemporary events into the foreground. [Update note, 2012: Several other iterations of my thinking followed, leading ulimately to The Art of God: and actual theory of Everything. More general statements about Goetheanisitic thinking and the Social Order are to be found in my book: American Anthroposophy, in the Chapters: The Methodology Necessary for a New Social Science - a brief introduction (written for that book during the Season of Michaelmas, 2007) and, The Natural Transformation of the Anthroposophical Society in America (also Michaelmas 2007)]
The purpose for relating all this is twofold. First to acquaint the reader with the fact that I have lived with this riddle for many many years. And second to suggest that what is said here, in this essay, concerning the Prophecy and its relation to Anthroposophy, is only a small segment of a much greater and more comprehensive study.
Let me now quote again, what I have come to see as the critical idea of the Prophecy, and then restate it in more contemporary anthroposophical terms.
"This third event will depend upon the Red Symbol, which will take command, setting the four forces of nature (Meha) in motion for the benefit of the Sun." We should perhaps note here that these words are an oral tradition and interpretation of pictographic writings painted on rock, which the Hopi have treasured and maintained for perhaps thousands of years.
The third crisis of this century, the crisis of the turn of the millennium, will take a course dependent upon the activities of the People of the Rose-Cross (the Red Symbol). It is this symbol which the Hopi prophets (initiates) received, as part of their instructions from the Creator (the spiritual world), when they guided the Hopi from Atlantis and into the new land, the Americas.
This People (of the Rose-Cross) has the capacity to bring into play in world events the powers of the four directions, the powers which reside not only in the world in connection with the four ethers, but the reflection of those same powers in the human soul, known to us as thinking, feeling, willing, and consciousness. Remember that Rudolf Steiner not only mentions the four directions and the relevant beings in the Foundation Stone Meditation, but when the actual foundation stone was laid for the original Goetheanum he carried out a ceremony in the open air evoking these same powers, much as the Indian still does today in the Pipe Ceremony.
All of this activity is for the benefit of the Purposes of the Christ in human evolution, "for the benefit of the Sun", for to the original Hopi, at the time of the Atlantean catastrophe, the Christ was the Sun Being.
We have to imagine here the immense spiral movement through time, which is contemplated by the Prophecy, especially as understood today in anthroposophical terms. Certain peoples left Atlantis and went to the West. This stream was a race destined to die out, carrying traditions which also in time would pass away. Their task was to live in a spiritual way in this new land, as stewards, preserving its pristine nature for a far future time, when the further demands of evolution would bring other peoples with other needs. These former atlantean people were told of this destiny, and of the eventual end of their way of life. But with this went a promise. Those who went to the East, those whose task was to found all the civilizations of the early post-atlantean epochs, would at the appointed time return. This stream of spiritual wisdom, of which Anthroposophy represents a continuation, would rejoin the elder and the younger brothers and found a new civilization, a "life plan for the future".
All that is contemplated by the Prophecy has come to pass, except one thing. The elder brother, the true white brother, the People of the Rose-Cross must in freedom accept this duty, this responsibility. There can be no compulsion, no initiate announcing that this or that must be done. No group decision either, no Vorstand, or Council. It is an individual choice.
I have made my choice. I have already set in motion those necessities leading to a personal meeting with the Hopi, at which time I expect to say, not literally in these words, but in this mood of soul: "I am of the elder brother people. I am here to offer to my brother, the Hopi, whatever aid I can give, and which you desire." [Update note, 2012: This too has gone through several iterations since 1995, with the latest version being here, from 2008: the songs of a true white brother.]
What will happen? Who can say? I do not doubt, however, that what does happen will be decided by two or more of us, in brotherhood.
We will now undertake to look at something written in the social scriptures of America's original peoples. It will help here to look at the social activity of the Indian as a kind of speech. It is not so important to us what they thought about what they did; their cosmology was appropriate to their time and the nature of their consciousness. Rather what is important is what was done, what was willed.
The Indian in his highest cultural achievements lived a spiritual life. His whole attitude from waking to sleeping, on every day, in every season, was that behind Nature was a world of spirit and in every natural event this spirit spoke to him.
Living this way, living and willing for social good, for the well being of the group, the tribe, the nation, the whole people, this willing lead to a practical understanding, to how to do that which was willed. So when we look at the social activity of the Indian we see what has been written in the script of deeds, out of their social genius, their intuitive striving for brotherhood, out of the depths of their primal version of the American Soul.
Now this activity was very much alive. It was not just something set into traditions handed down from a deep past. The Iroquois Confederacy, for example, was something added on to the life of those Nations which become associated in this way. A specific personality brought this wisdom to these nations, and convinced them to try it out. So also with what we will now look at from the wisdom of the Plains Indians. Someone came to them, someone their oral history calls Sweet Medicine, and taught them the Medicine Wheel Way, the Way of the Shields, the Brotherhood Way. As anthroposophists we can recognize that into these traditions flowed continuous spiritual inspiration, something we need as well if we are to keep our movement alive, healthy, and awake to the work it needs to accomplish.
In the book Seven Arrows, by Hyemeyohsts Storm (Ballantine Books, 1972), we will find the heart of this path to the spirit beautifully presented. Here can be found an aspect of the life of the Cheyenne, the Crow, and the Souix (or as they called themselves: the Painted Arrow, the Little Black Eagle, and the Brother People) not available in the conventional histories of the time. No attempt will be made here to describe this "Way of Life of the People", this "understanding of the universe". Everyone should read about it themselves, from the source. Our concern is rather with something that happened in the life of these Peoples, as a consequence of their receiving this wisdom, something which only from our point of view reveals its significance as an inspiration for the creation of the Michael Festival.
Let us gather the needed facts. These Nations of Indians did not speak the same language, and as part of their social life, their life together, there came to be the "sign" language: Speech and communication through hand signs, sufficiently sophisticated to allow them to share questions and answers concerning the deeper elements of human existence. As a result, over time, they came to share the same mystery wisdom.
Now in the course of the year the demands of life on the Great Plains necessitated certain things. In the winter, these Indians lived in small groups, perhaps just two or three families, camped in their tepees up a box canyon. Thus, spread out over large areas, each small group could find the game and fire wood needed to survive the winter. Life was lived predominately inside, with craft work, games and story telling the main activities.
As winter passed and spring arrived, these small groups began to move, to favorite hunting grounds and camping places, reassociating with others, until in the heights of summer and into the beginning of fall, large encampments came into existence, sometimes with hundreds of families and thousands of horses.
Under the influence of the teaching of the Medicine Wheel Way, individuals could go on a path of inner discovery. Those who choose to work with these teachings would then come to acquire either a painted shield (for the men) or a beaded or quilled belt (for the women) on which certain symbols would be placed. These symbols described something of who they were, the nature of their individual path, and those aspects of nature through which the spirit spoke to them in particular. Among the hundreds or thousands of individuals, who might be in a particular encampment, one would come upon those whose symbols had an affinity to one's own. Thus, one would find in the course of these annual gatherings one's spiritual brothers and sisters.
Eventually the seasons would change, late fall and winter would approach, and the various encampments would dissolve into smaller and smaller groups, to re disperse over the Prairie. Of note here is that the smaller groups would not always be composed of the same families and individuals which wintered together the year before. One acquired new friends, marriages arose, deaths occurred, with the result, that one wintered with different people, often people not even of the same Nation or language. These new associations might even include children, old enough to leave the maternal fold, who would winter with "uncles" or "grandfathers" whose relationship was not of blood, but of that spiritual affinity discovered during the summer encampment.
Now these summer encampments also occasionally celebrated a special ritual, the Sun Dance. We are here not concerned with the meaning of the Sun Dance (which would confront us with a whole other problem), or its details, but only with the fact that when necessary the leaders of the encampment would foster this ritual, because they knew it renewed something in the life of the people, first by giving individuals a special initiation process, which would strengthen them (and thus their contributions to the group) as well as re inspire and rebind the group by its participation and support of the ritual.
These then are the facts of this way of life, the script or speech by activity of some of the social wisdom of these Peoples. Let us now review this activity in our imaginations, to seek what it has to say to us.
Over the course of the seasons, individuals, families and small communities traveled a path of inbreathing and outbreathing, contraction and expansion, condensation and dispersion. This grand annual rhythm brought it about that the relations and associations of disparate individuals and groups underwent growth, metamorphosis and change.
Woven into this way of life, was a common path to the spirit, which served and strengthened individuals and groups, but which was also approached in freedom. Differences of language and culture were overcome, individuals met in freedom and made new associations in freedom. Whole and part had a role; the social life itself lived, flowed, breathed, gave birth, and felt death.
Rudolf Steiner has urged the creation of a true Michael Festival, a late summer, early fall gathering. He has spoken as follows:
"This is the great and powerful picture given us in the approach of Autumn, so that from out of what happens in the cosmos we read this admonition: Nature consciousness must change in man into consciousness of self." (The Festivals and their meaning, p 338).
"...Michael rejects the inherited impulses of nationality..." (;bid.p 354)
"Because of Michael's rising from archangel to archi, spiritual deepening, which in the past was limited to certain peoples, will now be available to the whole of humanity. (ibid. p364)
"Through the Michael Impulse men will become personalities through what streams into them from above..." (ibid. p365)
What would happen were anthroposophists to found and sponsor a social festival, held annually, which brought together, in America, various different Peoples, people of different ways of life, to celebrate human freedom and the meeting of people across the boundaries of language, race and culture? What would happen if this were done in a way that Anthroposophy wasn't mentioned at all, purely as a service, done by those who understand that it needs to be done, and that once the people get together, they themselves will discover what needs to be done next? What if this were done in many places, not one giant overwhelming gathering, but each "renewal" organized in a way such that people have the opportunity to meet each other? What if each study group in America, held a small festival of this kind, gathering local people of different races, cultures and languages, into a shared celebration of their differences and their common humanity? What if these were held after high summer, as a preparation for those who might go from these gatherings to larger ones held later? What if...?
[Update note, 2012: Because (in part, the matter is complicated) the Anthroposophical Society was not able to take up this impulse, when offered, the needed Michael Festival in America was created instinctively (American's are natural anthroposoophists, remember) via the work of the Bioneers - Revolution from the Heart of Nature, who presently hold a Fall (mid-October) gathering in San Raphael, California, which is international in scope, and includes all peoples from over the world, particularly Aboriginal Peoples. Members and Frieds of the Anthroposophical Society need to participate in this now, rather than offering their own version.]
- part five -
It is now our task to weave together the various conceptions developed in the previous four parts, to seek for a higher point of view and a deeper meaning. Let us begin this process by looking at the title to this essay, to see what it suggests.
In the most obvious sense the title suggests that it is the mission of Anthroposophy in America to serve in some manner the awakening of the American Soul. Nothing unexpected here. Certainly most of us would agree that the awakening to a renewed spiritual life is in any event the general mission of Anthroposophy to humanity; so clearly it must be so to the American Soul. Yet a question does lurk here. The task being suggested is specific to the American Soul, so that we must ask ourselves: If we are to serve such a need, in what ways is the American Soul different or unique with respect to the general soul conditions of humanity, and how do those differences effect the completion of our task?
The founder of our movement had no doubt about these differences, nor about their profound and deep significance. These differences were the partial content of hundreds of individual lectures, and the central content of many lecture cycles. Moreover, there is a certain confusion which can arise, because Dr. Steiner sometimes spoke of distinctions between East and West, and sometimes about distinctions between East and Center and West, and no doubt meant something different by the term West in each of these two instances. In the former, central Europe was included, and in the latter, it was excluded. In addition Steiner often spoke of America as an appendage to the English, or spoke of English speaking peoples, including the Americans with the English. The point of all this is to suggest that when reading Steiner one must be careful to try to understand from which point of view he was speaking, at that particular time.
For example, he makes the following remarks while lecturing in England in 1922:
"So I believe that in the future my book [Towards Social Renewal] should be read more in the West and in Russia, but that it has no chance of becoming effective in Germany. The West, for instance, can learn much from this book, for in a non-Utopian manner it simple states how the three spheres co-exist, and should interact. For the West the moment in time does not matter, for much is still to be done for the right interaction of the three currents, the spiritual life, the economic life, and the politico-legal life."
Which West does he mean here? From the context and from the paragraph he seems to mean to exclude Germany, i.e. Central Europe, and therefore means West in the sense of England and America. It is far beyond the bounds of this essay to do a full analysis of the various indications given concerning the differences in soul characteristics between East, Center and West, and as well the material concerning the folk soul of individual peoples, as that would be relevant. However, for purposes of this essay, one fact does need to be brought forward; namely, a reasonable characterization of the differences between the soul life of the Middle European and the American. For it is the working together of these two, in anthroposophical work in America, that concerns us.
But even such a simple task requires of us more than one point of view. In The Challenge of the Times, Steiner says, "I have often brought to your attention the fact that the English-speaking peoples possess the real germinal potentiality for the development of the consciousness soul."; "...the German Middle European must be educated into the the consciousness soul..."; and, "The British folk character is power. The German folk character is the appearing, the seeming, if you will, the shaping of thoughts, that which is not in a certain sense of the solid earth. In the British folk character all is of the solid earth,..."
The A B C's of these distinctions include that the East is to develop freedom, the Center to develop equality and the West to develop brotherhood. In the East the spirit, thinking, in the Center, the soul, feeling, and In the West, the body, active willing. (Abstracted from Carl Stegmann's The Third Call.)
"...the American is much more intent upon learning something new than is the European who, in similar circumstances, has a greater tendency to defend his old points of view." (America and Americanism, F.W.Zeylmans.)
"...Americans live primarily in the outer world and concentrate on their tasks and problems. They have a spectator consciousness of the environment in which they live. They experience their identity through exposure to the outer world.
"By contrast, Central Europeans tend to development consciousness with regard to the inner life of the soul. They can be both actors in and spectators of their inner struggle. They come to consciousness of their own identity through the inner conflicts that arise out of the confrontation with the outer world and not so much out of the immediate experience of the world." (America's Way. Dietrich Asten.)
For myself, I have developed the following, which has been hinted at earlier in this essay.
The gesture of the American Soul is to see problems, to seek through the will to live on the Earth, and the intuitions of the thought life follow this will impulse. The need to accomplish the deed, brings in its train, the service of the active thinking, or any other conscious use of the inner life. The solving of the needs of the world as it is, becomes the cause by which the inner world is molded in the service of this will impulse.
The gesture of the Middle European Soul life is to live inwardly in the ideal, to will in that realm first and often to rest in the achievement of results in this realm alone. This in itself is seen as a significant accomplishment. Later an attempt may be made to conform earthly existence to this ideally realized conceptual result. The world is worked on in accord with what it ought to be as that ought is conceptualized by the inner activity.
We have only scratched the surface of a much needed deeper study, because these differences realize themselves in certain consequences for the anthroposophical work in America. Consequences which in many cases are unfortunate, because the whole question of how these very different ways of working should be united has been ignored, been left to take whatever course it would out of an unconscious interaction between the two soul gestures. (See, for more detail on these questions, elsewhere on this part of the loom: On the Practicalities of Communicating the Ideal to the American Soul)
A great part of the problem, for us in American anthroposophical circles especially, is that the "America Work" is a neglected study. Set off to the side, seemingly not as attractive as Waldorf teaching, or Eurythmy, or other established anthroposophical disciplines, the study of the Spiritual America languishes, a building less then half built, really only a partial foundation, its construction interrupted and prolonged by the assertion that other concerns were more important. Yet the "America Work" is a life giving necessity, not just for the American Soul, but for the whole anthroposophical work. Consider the following:
For many years America has been a fertile ground for our brothers and sisters from Europe to come and find a place for themselves, and this co-mingling of vastly different soul forces, without any effort to work consciously with these realities, has lead to an intriguing, if not downright peculiar situation. Thus, from a certain point of view it is possible to look at anthroposophical work in America as being severely distorted by a strong Euro-centric bias. In this regard I have written elsewhere:
"The anthroposophical society is not free of the effect of the negative forces which seek to realize the complete descent of humanity, especially Western humanity, into materialism. In America, one of the manifestations of this is that the anthroposophical movement/society is lamed by an unfortunate over adaption to the forms of soul life more properly belonging to Central Europe. This capture of the spiritual impulses proper to the American Soul is nearly complete, and is evidenced by the current emphasis on meditation practice in the courses and conferences. It is the gesture of the central European soul life to see meditation as an essential thing in itself, to see the vertical relationship between man and the spiritual world as the primary act. The American Soul is not so constituted, although by admiration and imitation it will so adapt itself. Its gesture is to need to act on the world, to live on the Earth in a right way. Meditation in this context becomes secondary, a means to an end. The American wants to meet spiritual people who are effectively active on the Earth and facing its problems. The American wants to know what can be done and what is being done to cure the ills of the social world, and to heal the living Earth from the damages being caused by mankind's selfish concept of progress.
"A related matter is the absence of a Christ centered meditation practice. Reading the literature offered by the American anthroposophical society on its meditation courses one is struck by the absence of this element. Especially at the time of the Etheric Return of the Christ, it seems odd that meditation practice is offered as a thing in itself, without being related to its fundamental spiritual content. This is understandable for the meditation practices of the East, for Tibetan or Zen Buddhism for example, with their non-theistic orientation. But for the West, meditation without a moral (Christian) mood of soul is unthinkable.
"In America there Is a hunger for Christian meditative practices with depths equal to those of the Orient. Many souls, during the '60's and its aftermath, turned from their Christian roots, turned to the East, tasted those disciplines and found them wanting. Yet, when they looked at Christianity, they found fundamentalism, TV evangelism, essentially gross distortions of what they knew instinctively represented something higher. The hunger persists, but these souls cannot find their way to the Table. Something stands in the way."
These things could be said, and from a certain point of view they are true, but there are other aspects to these questions. This co-mingling of American and Central European soul forces was a necessity, no less than the necessity which drove the Europeans (on their path to becoming Americans) to the genocide of the Indian. Even so, there is a higher point of view, from which we may solve the dilemma. Valentin Tomberg, in his remarkable Studies on the Foundation Stone, had this to say concerning the "incarnation" of spiritual impulses:
"The three Hierarchies of the cosmic Spirits of Light bring the fire, the movement and the form of the life-giving Light Of Christ into the life of Earth*. (*We are here speaking of the working of the Cosmic stream; the corresponding current of the spiritual Earth-organism has a different direction). Moreover they bring it - as a cosmic current - in the horizontal direction which is from sunrise to sunset. This horizontal cosmic current expresses simultaneously the graduated working of the three Hierarchies of the Spirits of Light. For the activity of the Spirits of Wisdom preponderates in the East, - there the current has the quality of pure spiritual Fire drawing near the Earth. Then, as the current flows further toward the West, the Spirits of Movement begin to participate in it, making it spiritual light that moves our moral feeling; while in the West - through the preponderance of the Spirits of Form - it becomes definite spiritual missions, tasks and aims to be achieved on Earth. In the West the current reaches its destination; through the spiritual forces of the West it can become a reality helping to mold the destiny of the Earth, it here receives a form corresponding to the destiny of Earth."
Now we certainly have the expectation that Anthroposophy will spread over the Earth. But if we look at the facts, at what has happened so far, we can see that by far the strongest movement is from Center to West, from Europe through England to America. In fact if we go into the background of Steiner's work, we will remember that it was first associated with the Theosophical Society. In fact the whole impulse for the renewal of spiritual life, amidst the materialism of Western civilization, begins with first a turning toward the East. Out of the East something comes, the Bhagavad Gita is translated into European languages for the first time, and the spiritual fire of the Orient kindles an interest in the souls of Central Europeans. I think we can behold an important truth here, if, consistent with Tomberg's beautiful picture, we see that the whole spiritual revival in the world, of which Anthroposophy is a part, is effected and directed by the flow of the work of the Spirits of Light moving from sunrise to sunset, from East to West.
Further, In accord with this picture we can see in the founding years of the Anthroposophical Society the work of the Spirits of Movement, stirring the feeling life, the soul life of the Central European, inspiring the imagination, giving birth to all that we now experience in the once-called daughter movements. But now another phase begins, timing itself with the turn of the millennium and all that great struggle which this implies. Here then, the Spirits of Form, take the next step, finishing the incarnation of this new spiritual impulse on the Earth, giving it the form corresponding to the destiny of the Earth.
In this sense then we can see the movement of Europeans to America, to carry forward the anthroposophical impulse, is quite in accord with the work of the Hierarchies. Our work is, as it were, swept along by the cosmic current responsible for its being, nature and form.
Moreover, if we add to this our previous observations concerning the introduction of social chaos and the loss of tradition, we can see that the American having been torn lose from his past, will have had, of necessity, to enter into a kind of cocoon phase. The soul does not immediately move from the old to the new, but transitions, sheds slowly the past, passes through stages of formlessness first, before emerging out of its chrysalis into its new way of being. From this point of view the predominance of the European approach to Anthroposophy, which has held sway in American circles, has played a needed role, surrounding and protecting the American Soul as it learns to find its way on the new path to the spirit. But now something else must happen. The America Soul, as that expresses itself in anthroposophical work, is now to come into its own. It has an original relationship to Anthroposophia, it has its own unique gifts to bring to fruition; gifts, which if we accept the picture Tomberg has given us, represent those soul forces which will transform the anthroposophical movement further, into that form corresponding to the destiny of the Earth.
We need to be careful here not to consider the task of the Central European Soul to be higher or lower or any such type of distinction with respect to its relationship to Anthroposophy. This impulse, the anthroposophical impulse, through the forces of the Central European Soul was given life, vitality. Through the forces of the American Soul it is to be given form, to be made Earthly. Here, where the upward streaming Earth forces are so strong, Anthroposophy becomes something through the will, something more than it has been to date. Something that it cannot become solely through the rhythmic life, or the life of feeling. Both kinds of soul forces are needed.
This need not change our more conventional image of Dornach as the center of the anthroposophical society/movement. The center of the feeling life of the human organism, the heart of the human being, its role is central. It balances, mediates, and guides. It pulses in accord with its own nature and, as well, in accord with that which flows through it, the blood (the living spirit), an organ in its own right. So it is with Dornach. Dornach is the heart of our movement. But just as with the new born human infant, which is born with the nerve-sense pole (head) well developed, and the rhythmic system, moderately developed, and the limb system young and undeveloped, so does Anthroposophy incarnate, developing each system in order; the will organism last, only after birth.
To those who are yet unclear on this, who wonder what happened in the East, we need to see that the originating activity has taken place above the Earth in the Cosmos. Perhaps the souls of the East participated in this activity in their sleep life. From East to West then, from Cosmic birth, through life filled becoming, to Earthly form, the anthroposophical impulse moves carried along from sunrise to sunset by the Spirits of Light, bringing "the life-giving Light of Christ into the life of the Earth."
Remember what the Hopi Sun Clan Chief said: "I am forever looking eastward, to the rising sun, for my true white brother to come..."
In this regard then, let us now look at the anthroposophical impulse as that appears ready to take on the essence of its earthly form under the influence of the social genius of the American Soul. For those who might be expecting this essay to describe such form, let me say that such an act would be premature. The idea here is that we can expect the American Soul, as it matures under the influence of the new path to the spirit, to engage in activities which give rise to form, form which we cannot anticipate because of the way the America Soul works: intuitions follow the impulses of the will.
The gesture of the American Soul is to see problems to be solved, and the modern world is certainly full of such problems. But where do we begin?
Reason it this way. America has a special relation to the modern world. American materialism and American culture is everywhere imitated and exported. This transmission of a way of life, this movement of the materialistic and commercial impulses, which flows out of America and into the world, there becomes an influence in the culture and life of other peoples. If we look with our imaginations at this activity in its totality, as a community gesture of the soul life of Americans, we can see it as a kind of song, a tone setting act in the dance of life over the whole world, a leading voice in the World Song. If that song emanating from America undergoes a change, that change as well will be noticed, exported and imitated. In a way then, American culture, in the widest sense, is a lever by which to move the whole world. The question then becomes, by what means do we change the song of American culture?
It would certainly be an impossible task if we had to approach such a problem from the beginning. But Divine Circumstance is wiser then we can imagine, and if we perceive closely and clearly enough the various matters so far developed in this essay, matters of social fact, we will see that a special seed, planted near a century ago, is about to flower. Everything is properly in place, everything is precisely and subtly balanced. We need only awake to the task, choose in freedom to act, and the needed deeds can be done. Even the individual personalities are in the proper places. Did not Dr. Steiner tell us of those who would return, and those who would be incarnated at the turn of the millennium, at the time of great battle with the Dragon? The Stage has been set in accord with the Designs of the Master Playwright Himself.
Let us review what has been so far developed in this essay in the light of this understanding of the Drama now to unfold.
The human being stands in the world in the center of two relationships. One is the vertical relation, between himself and the divine world of the spirit. Toward this world the human being has the possibility of "rendering" those sacrifices which lead to the transformation of his own nature. By giving up who we are now, we become as the good Gods wish for us to become.
The second relation is a horizontal one. The human being stands in relation to the social world, toward which he again may sacrifice, may "render", because the nature of the social world, the being of that social world only has those qualities which flow from such a sacrifice. The social world becomes as humanity gives to it to become.
The union of these two relations, the vertical and the horizontal is the Image of the Cross, and the human being, by sacrificing in these two directions, becomes himself a Cross-Bearer.
Through the centuries, both of these directions of action have undergone transformations consistent with the evolution of the human being and, as well, the evolution of the world of spirit. As part of this unfolding and development, the social world has complexified, becoming threefold (tending toward ninefoldness), until, at this very moment in time, its central organ, the heart of the heart of the social world, has been born and achieved sufficient maturity to begin to play its role as the sounding drum of the shared conscience of the human community.
All of these developments take place at an unusual moment, the turn of the millennium. This moment has a special character, in that with the death of tradition the historic forms of social life have become formless, chaotic. But this formlessness is not purposelessness. On the contrary, the chaos is a natural prelude to the incarnation of new social forms, and, as well, the necessary precondition for the development of moral freedom. In addition, if we understand the form giving principle in general in Nature, we are aware that it organizes matter through sound in a most general sense. In this way we can see that what is to sound in the world as a social impulse will participate in the creation of new social form out of the present chaos.
In all the world there exist yet only a few human beings who can understand that these realities have come to be and what they mean, what they portend for the future of humanity. And, this understanding would not be possible if a whole century had not been given over to the gradual enlightened preparation of these few human beings, through the work of Anthroposophy. And, not only have these few human beings developed sufficiently in their cognition to perceive the great Drama, but this preparation of souls is a continuous, ongoing, accelerating, widening process. A song is being sung, and a few are hearing it, and learning to sing along with it, to share in freedom its creation and consecration. And, most especially, these few are learning how to teach others to listen, and to sing.
In America, where the voice for brotherhood is stirring, the appointed ones mostly sleep to the ancient spiritual song, which still rings forth over the Earth here. These "appointed ones" yet know little or nothing of the original peoples, or of the deep social wisdom that these peoples are ready to bequeath to the future. But that is changing, another voice takes up the song of the ancients, the Prophecy long held dear and consecrated through centuries of faithful ceremonial life.
A special time is at hand, this song tells. A great spiral dance through time has been accomplished, and those who once were brothers, but became strangers to each other, these now can be reunited. The path to the spirit of the ancients is dying, is now in its very last days. But the new path has come, borne on the long winds of time, borne by those who many times have danced on the great spiral. Out of this new Way, comes a new Song, and new singers, singing the song of life for the future, for "the Day of Purification".
What will happen when these two voices join together, when those who yet sing the song of the honored ancients, join in community to sing together with those who bear the new song? This will not go unnoticed, although nothing overt need be done other than join the two songs together. As these voices meet and search for common ground a tone will be set, a tone which will catch the ear of many who are yearning just to hear again this sacred sound. This tone is unique, for it carries within it awareness of the special qualities of the time; and, as this tone reverberates in the land it will by its nature, as easily as flowers open to the light of the Sun, set in motion in a new way, in an almost imperceptible way, the sounding drum of the social world.
Thus, through the joining of these songs, the sounding drum will beat a new and subtle rhythm, and the sleeping giant will stir, hearing finally the call to brotherhood, which has for so long been merely a dream. Then, when the giant stirs, and begins to find his true nature, the whole world will notice, and hear the new song, and a light will dawn for many as they ask: Whence comes this song, this new Way to the Spirit, that bears in its wake such ripe fruit?
This then is the theme song of the Great Drama of the Turn of the Millennium, written carefully in the very stuff of the social world, in the simple facts of the time. There are many parts in this Play, enough for all human beings.
The thesis of this essay is, in part, that American can be turned from its materialistic course by free deeds undertaken by members of the anthroposophical movement. Yet the subtitle suggests that this is not the mission of the anthroposophical movement, but rather the mission of Anthroposophy. There is a point to this.
"Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual In the universe." Rudolf Steiner, first leading thought, from Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts.
When I first studied the leading thoughts in an anthroposophical study group, the leader, a Central European, explained that the word cognition was a better word than knowledge, i.e the sentence should read: "...path of cognition...". His reasoning was that what was meant was that Anthroposophy was a path of active conscious thinking, and that sometimes people became confused and seemed to see Anthroposophy as a path involving the acquisition of information and facts (knowledge), and therefore primarily of study. Subsequently I began to perceive that there were different styles of approach, and that one could discern to some degree which approach individual members of the movement/society favored.
This is not to say one or the other is better; each, I think, is appropriate to the individual, and each may have a role to play. The point is that it is the mission of the active conscious thinking to wake the sleeping giant. With active conscious thinking living spiritual forces enter into the life of the Earth. So when I suggest that Anthroposophy is to play a role in the return of the elder brother, in the reuniting of the of the two brothers and what that means in terms of the Hopi Prophecy, I have in mind more then just a meeting of people. Those who wish to put themselves forward as representatives of the true white brother need to be striving for Anthroposophy, for active conscious thinking.
It is these living spiritual forces which then become the source of the new song, forces which are not solely from the Hierarchies, but which flow primarily from human activity.
The American Soul is deep. Its roots lie hidden in the heritage of ancient aboriginal peoples. Its flowering cannot yet be seen or even imagined, for this Soul is newly born and has yet much to learn and experience. Rudolf Steiner sets us forth on the right foot when he says:
Eternal becoming in thinking / Every step a deepening / Overcoming the surface / Penetrating the depths.
to which I add:
We dream America / We sing Her shadow and Her light / We dream America / And America dreams us.
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