Sunday, 24 February 2019

What evidence for the evolutionary-development of consciousness in Western Man?

On the face of it, there seems little evidence for anything like a divinely destined evolution of consciousness in Western Man. Looking around in the public realm, or even in direct and personal experience; there seems little to suggest anything of the kind. Nothing that looks like 'progress'.

This is because of two things: 1. Materialism and 2. Negativity.

The materialism which absolutely monopolises modern public life means that consciousness appears only in an indirect way. We only see the indirect effect, the consequences, of consciousness change - and we see only its material - this worldly - manifestations.

Abstraction - including the reduction of qualities to the pseudo-materialism of number - is a major aspect of materialism.Indeed, it is more extreme: qualities are denied reality (because qualities are material) yet simultaneously these non-existent qualities are given numbers and used for calculation of decisions. This is the basis of such managerial technologies of quality managements, racial and sexual monitoring etc. 

The negativity means that the change is expressed by criticism, and not by positive assertion. We get some (materialist) version of what people do Not want; but don't get an expression of their goals.

So, the evolution of consciousness can be seen in the dominant aspects of the dominant ideology of Leftism - but reduced and one-sidely.


Take feminism. The positive spiritual ideals of feminism are related to the positive aspiration of a permanent, literally-divine spiritual and creative marriage relation between a man and woman after death and in the life everlasting as Children of God.

But modern feminism has reject the ideal along with the eternal; and the true spiritual impulse has been concretised to this-worldly economics and power differences. The imperfections of mortal marriage means that marriage itself is rejected as oppressive. What remains is only the negative side of anti-Man aggression- and this is implemented materially in laws and regulations. The deterioration in relationships between men and women is then celebrated.


Another aspect of the evolution of consciousness is an awareness of the uniqueness of each individual, and the knowledge that we have a divine seed within each of us - so that we may grow to become a distinct creative deity - each contributing to God's work of creation.

But of this modern culture expresses only the material aspect: we take into account only that which is measurable and mortal - even while refusing to allow the validity of any measure.

There is a negative refusal at accept any rationale for any economic differences - but without any positive desire for actual equality. We reject actual equality, because we demand that differences in individual circumstances be taken into account; but reject any actual method of doing this.

There is a rejection of legal and cultural impartiality, as a sham and a mask for prejudice; but reject individual judgement as also obviously prejudiced.


More generally; modern Leftism generally regards any reference to to the ideals of post-mortal life as merely an excuse for injustices during mortal life ('pie in the sky', 'jam tomorrow').

Another instance: Leftism celebrates racial and ethnic differences, yet refuses to tolerate racial inequalities; and (negatively) there is no acceptable, objective categorisation of race, ethnicity, culture or economics... Race is simultaneously deconstructed and its reality denied - because race is not material; and abstracted into numbers, so as to be implemented in the material processes of modern government.

The same applies to sex and sexual ientity. Modern negativism denies the reality of these categories because they are not material and do not have hard edges; modern materialism simultaneously creates abstract and hard-edged sexual categories for monitoring and control purposes.


In sum; the ideology of Leftism is implicitly trying, but of course failing, to build a positive system from a host of negative rejections. It is always appealing to morality while its materialism erodes the validity of all moral systems.

So Modern Man does indeed show evidence of the development of underlying positive impulses; but because of (covert, denied) metaphysical assumptions these are systematically distorted such that there is not even the possibility of good outcomes, and we get that moral inversion by which bad consequences are regarded as evidence of virtuous motives.

This is why anti-spiritual, mortal-life-focused Leftism has been the main tool of the dark forces; since a system of inevitable, irreconcilable, competing negativities is the perfect seedbed for evil.

In inducing modern Western Man to accept materialism and reject all spiritual things as impossible; and in making these beliefs a matter of deep, metaphysical assumption - woven invisibly into the enitre realm of public discourse; the demonic powers have created a machine by which even good and necessary impulses can only be manifested as evil.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Inspiration, imagination and intuition

Human development - of the maturing individual and also throughout the evolving of the race - can be understood to follow a path from inspiration, through the transitional state of imagination, and with the ideal destination of intuition.

(I derive these terms from Rudolf Steiner - but, while valuable, I regard his sequence, analysis and treatment of them to be significantly mistaken. For example he wrongly puts Imagination as first and Inspiration as intermediate, and argues Inspiration as primarily analogous to 'hearing'.)

Inspiration - This is the state characteristic of childhood and ancient Men. It locates knowledge outside the individual in God, or the Muses etc.); acknowledges the possibility of genuinely new knowledge; and regards knowledge as actively put-into the individual - who passively receives it. The self is porous to reality.

Imagination - This is the state characteristic of adolescence and modern man. Imagination is a step forward of maturity, in the sense that it is an active process, which may be consciously pursued. However, Imagination denies the possibility of genuinely new-and-true knowledge of reality; and regards Imagination as (merely) the recombination, extrapolation and interpolation of psychological images derived (passively) from experience and inheritance. In essence, Imagination is all we can 'know' but is solipsistic; the self is cut-off, disconnected-from, reality - so Imagination is merely an internal swirling of delusory patterns.

Intuition - This is the state of direct, or primary, knowing. It is a meeting of reality half-way; it is the mind actively-grasping reality; and of reality as created such that this activity be both possible and Good. Intuition regards knowledge as outside, and also regards Imagination as (potentially) knowledge. The self and reality are re-connected; but Not by passive-porosity - instead by the self and reality meeting in the realm of intuitive thinking: which is conscious knowledge.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Prayer is participation

I think it has to be assumed that only some prayers are 'effective' - and that there are many prayers that are 'wrong', and make no difference - for example being mere habitual repetitions, or askings for bad things.

But there is no doubt that some prayers are effective: all Christians know this from experience. This probably happens because prayer can be an act of creation: more precisely in prayer we can participate in God's ongoing creation.

That is how prayer can affect the future - we personally enter-into the creation, and add to it our personal creativity.

That is how we, individually, make a difference by our prayer. Creativity is always happening; and then we pray and introduce a new element by our prayer - so that the future is changed.

Changing the future is a creative act. Prayer is, in effect, each of us working-with God.


Prayer works by love: love is that which is aligned-with God's motivation in creation. It is love that 'ensures' our prayer is aligned with the goodness of divine creation.

This happens because love is the basis of creation - it is the cohesion of creation. Love is what allows personal creativity to be real - because by real I mean that our creativity is permanently woven-into creation.

Only loving prayer is effective - because unloving prayer is incompatible with creation.

Conversely, when we pray with Love - and only then; what we pray is intrinsically creative. And loving prayer is always effective - loving prayer changes the future.


This does not mean that the effect of prayer is predictable by us, nor that praying for some specific thing always gets us just what we ask-for.

But loving prayer always makes a difference, and that difference is always positive (when seen from a God's eye view).

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Romantic Religion: A Study of Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien by RJ Reilly (1971/ 2006)

Over the past couple of years I have come to regard Romantic Religion by RJ Reilly as one of the very best books I have read - I am now on my third slow, detailed read-through.

The book is probably the earliest (1971) serious study of the ideas of The Inklings - and its central chapters focus on Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien. As such, and despite its narrowish selectivity; RR remains far-and-away the deepest and best explanation/ analysis/ advocacy of the underlying (implicit) significance of this literary, philosophical and theological group of friends.

The title Romantic Religion encapsulates the thesis; although in fact it would be more accurate if the title were Romantic Christianity, since that is The religion at issue here; and one that could not be substituted by any other.

The method is to define Romanticism, mainly by means of its historical lineage; and then (in the first main section) to use Barfield as the philosopher who best understood Romanticism and its unique significance and necessity. Lewis, Williams and Tolkien are then considered separately in terms of how they exemplify, and how diverge from, the framework of Barfield.

This time reading; I have become convinced that Romantic Christianity is the best term for what I personally believe, and regard as the essential future of Western Man - and especially English Man! I shall probably be referring to myself, in shorthand, as a Romantic Christian from now onward.

Of course Romantic (and Romanticism) are mostly, in the cultural mainstream of the past century and more, rather widely differently understood from the Inklings (and especially Barfield) mode. Indeed, 'romantic' is usually a pejorative or pitying term, signifying escapist, wish-fulfilling unrealism.

Nonetheless, Romantic remains the best term, for both its historical and etymological accuracy - and because many of the common ideas of 'Romantic' are entirely appropriate and correct from a Barfieldian-Inklings perspective: for example, a focus on love, creativity, fantasy and imagination, nature, ecstatic emotion, inspiration and intuition.

All of these seem to me desirable, as well as necessary; so long as they are rooted in Christianity. Indeed, it was-and-is the subtraction of Christianity from Romanticism, as early as Byron and Shelley, that led to the degeneration of the historical Romantic movement: degeneration into hedonism, Leftist politics and the sexual revolution.

No doubt I shall quote from Romantic Religion in the future; but anyone who shares my conviction on these matters, and who is prepared to make the effort to engage with such a book, would need to read RR if note entirely, then at least extensively.


Note: I find it significant that such an outstanding piece of intellectual and critical work, by such an deeply intelligent and rigorous scholar, should originally have been done as a PhD thesis at Michigan State University (a long way from the Ivy League); by an academic who was teaching rather than research orientated (he spent his career at the University of Detroit); and it was issued by an obscure publisher: The University of Georgia Press. This confirms a pattern I have often observed with genuinely high quality and original work in the late 20th century - it comes from the cultural periphery, not the centre. Or rather - what is officially the centre is actually trivial, derivative or corrupting - almost wholly, and vice versa. The reasons will be obvious to regular readers of this blog.  

Implications of Steiner's great 1918 Zurich prophecy

As I keep revisiting Rudolf Steiner's now-validated century old prophecy; I realise that, although the prophecy is about Western society, and what it needed to do - but hasn't done; and although the prophecy has been fulfilled at this social level - its true implications are for the individual.

The prophecy was based upon an understanding of what would happen if Western man continued in the path of increasing materialism/ positivism, scientism/ reductionism in public discourse and private thinking - and we did continue.

The spiritual realm is now regarded as purely 'subjective' - hence not really real, hence without relevance for social living. Reality is mainstream-structurally-regarded as meaningless, hope-less, going-nowhere; and we our-selves as irrelevant.

It is, of course, a disaster that The West has made these choices; but the lesson of the prophecy was actually for individuals primarily - it was that we must (and must means must) develop our spiritual consciousness into new realms - more exactly into a 'animism of thinking': a recognition that ultimate reality consists of living, conscious, purposive Beings in a creation that has been transformed by Christ.

This means that the modern public discourse has become - in rejecting God, Christ and the Holy Ghost - (quite literally) insane - as well as calamitous and dull.

But this operates at the individual level - and the social level cannot budge without first the transformation of individual consciousness - and this transformation can only be done by conscious choice; it cannot be coerced or compelled; nor can people be induced to do it by unconscious manipulation/ propaganda/ habit-training.

We must now choose the Good - because evil is the default. 

The the lesson of the true prophecy is for you, and me, and everyone as an individual. It tells us what we must do if we are to avoid the general fate of our society: mental sickness, despair and demotivation.


Thursday, 7 February 2019

Actually achieving Final Participation - but being unaware of the fact

Many or most people achieve Final Participation quite frequently - and in a reductionistic, psychological sense: it isn't all that difficult to do so.

The problem is that achieved Final Participation is not noticed; or when noticed it is rejected as unimportant.


In a minimal sense - Final Participation is happening to me in those, mostly brief, 'moments' when I look at the stars or a beautiful and beloved landscape, read and really 'get' The Lord of the Rings, am suddenly moved by music and recognise it happening to me, or become aware of myself among my family, or awaken in the night feeling my-self to be at the centre of a great field of awareness.

That is IT - but it is generally regarded as trivial or delusional - just a random firing of neurons, or evidence of the human ability to imagine themselves more significant than they really are... In a word: the subjective experience is regarded as merely subjective - and having no relevance or importance to anybody else or any-thing else.

And this interpretation is understandable; because by this-worldly criteria it is nearly-always true.


For a start - we expect to be overwhelmed by reality (when it is really-real). We figure that anything real will impose-itself on us, so that we cannot resist it - that we will be swept-along by real-reality... so brief and delicate moments are not what we are looking for.

And secondly - our interest in reality is typically a (covert) interest in power. We are prepared to believe that something brief, delicate and subjective is real if - like mathematics, science, and engineering - it promises to bring us power.

Such power might be personal enhancements (such as money, a job, high status) or it might be more remote and idealistic power - the power to build a bridge or cure pneumonia... but our interest in subtle, non-overwhelming reality is linked to our optimism that it will have 'cash-value' in our mortal lives. 

So we seldom notice Final Participation because it is outside of our metaphysical assumptions about what is really real - but even when we do notice it, our interest usually fades rapidly when it becomes apparent that we cannot use that knowledge to improve our lives: when we realise that such knowledge is not power.


Indeed, the knowledge that we get from such moments as I listed is not easy to share - it is not translatable into the common language of our times - partly because that common language excludes such matters, and partly because we don't even know how we might be able to communicate or explain such matters beyond (as I did above) merely describing the situation in which it happened.

It seems that an important part of it is that there must be a direct form of knowing, a knowing without communication - so that two people might know exactly the same thing without sensory perception or having to interpret symbols... by some mechanism whereby the same knowledge is being (simultaneously) shared...

Since the entirety of modern culture is based on the assumption that no such mechanism can exist, that all knowledge arises by a complex, multistage and unreliable chain of communication-steps... well we can barely even formulate the possibility of direct knowing.


However, however, however... If we are able to understand that these brief and delicate moments of Final Participation are In Fact direct glimpses of truth and reality; attained because our minds are (briefly) attuned with the divine creation - we can see why they are brief and incommunicable; and we can also see why the knowledge we attain is disconnected from power.

When we are directly observing divine creation, we are indeed only one step away from actually joining-in-with divine creation - but that is a vast step, seldom taken. It is one things to observe reality - but another and qualitatively more-difficult thing to engage in the making of reality; because for creation to continue entails that it be coherent, harmonious - that all additions to creation be fruitful and (of course) Good.

You and I are (almost certainly) a very long way from being able to contribute to divine creation; because we are not in harmony with the divine. (In other language, we are creatures of sin.) But I am not saying it is impossible for a mortal Man to add something to creation - indeed, that is precisely what a true creative genius has done (done objectively; whether or not recognised by fellow men).

But we can also see that the situation in which this happens is rare and unstable. When the situation is right, when a person is (however briefly) truly aligned-with the goals of divine creation - when he observes and loves creation... then it may be that his own divinity, his own agency, may not only observe but also contribute to on-going creation in some way - quantitatively microscopic, but eternal and therefore significant.


Perhaps, indeed, there is do distinction between observing and co-creating; perhaps these ephemeral moments of Joy are in fact our own, individual, nano-contibutions to the actuality of divine creation? I would not rule it out - and indeed perhaps this is why we are mortally alive - our destined purpose. Perhaps the contributions of mortal men - no matter how small and infrequent - offer something of great and permanent value to the vast totality of God's creation? 

Yet even if or when this happens, there need not be any observable relationship with mortal life in this world. Such a happening is Not about power, Not about 'will power', not about the limited situation of a 'successful' (comfortable, convenient, pleasurable) mortal and earth-bound life; but way beyond and above and far wider-than such superficial and ephemeral considerations.

Monday, 4 February 2019

The lineage of Romantic Christianity in England (a sort-of manifesto: a testimony)

To define Romanticism with precision has proved impossible - because it is a movement, a phase in human consciousness; but those who feel it will recognise it when we see it.  

To be included in this list, one must be both Romantic and Christian (and be someone whose work I personally respond-to):

William Blake
William Wordsworth
ST Coleridge

Then came several generations during which the Romantics were not Christian, and the Christians were not Romantic. Exceptions include George Macdonald and GK Chesterton, who link between the early Romantic Christians and the Inklings. Both of these I somewhat like, especially GKC - but I am unable to engage whole-heartedly.

Charles Williams
JRR Tolkien
CS Lewis
Owen Barfield

William Arkle

Current representatives of whom I am aware include Jeremy Naydler, Terry Boardman, and the Albion Awakening bloggers: William Wildblood, John Fitzgerald and myself.

Comments:

The influence of Rudolf Steiner is evident; since although Anthroposophists are extremely rare in England - Barfield, Naydler and Boardman are all of that ilk. This is evidence that Romanticism fits most comfortably with heterodox Christianity - despite that Tolkien (Roman Catholic) and Lewis (Church of England) were orthodox in their practice. Indeed; Blake, Barfield (for much of his life), Arkle and most of the currently alive people - are (I believe) essentially unaffiliated Christians; whose religious and spiritual practice is mostly and in-principle individual rather than communal.

The Steiner link is also important because Germany (in the sense of the Central European German-speaking culture - including Austria and Switzerland, and some culturally-Germanic cities not nowadays in Germany) was the other great origin of Romanticism - with Herder, Goethe, Schiller etc. However until Steiner's 'conversion' in about 1898; the German Romantic literary tradition was not really Christian. An exception is Novalis - the father of Romantic Christianity in Germany.

It might also be argued that CG Jung (1875-1961) is also part of the German tradition of Romantic Christianity - although (as so often with Jung) his status as a Christian is ambiguous - overall, I would say that by the end of his life, Jung should indeed be regarded as a Christian.  

There are not many on this list; because I don't know of many Romantic Christians. It is a job still to be done, by each individual - since Romantic Christianity must be experiential (knowing 'about' it does not suffice).

However, I regard both Barfield and Arkle as having essentially done the necessary work and, uniquely, achieved Romantic Christianity: both in their theory and in their living.


Mainstream Christianity still tends to regard Traditionalism as a 'safe' path to salvation; and theosis as too 'risky' - and Romanticism is about theosis.

But for the Romantic Christian there is no 'safe' path in the modern world; and traditionalism has in fact become impossible (judged at the deepest level of motivation); as well as sub-optimally desirable. We feel that, in modern conditions, salvation requires theosis; so a purely salvation orientation can only be a kind of 'rescue' procedure.

Because ultimately Romanticism is not a 'reaction' against the Industrial Revolution, modernity and bureaucracy; rather, Romanticism is a positive path of divine destiny, concerned with human evolutionary-development of consciousness.


The aim of Romantic Christianity is (implicitly) to attain the divine form of cosnciousness (what Barfield termed Final Participation) as the primary goal of mortal life at this era of history. In different words: the aim is to restore the unity of Life - including the healing of the split between mind and matter, subjective and objective... to cure the malaise of alienation.

Romantic Christianity is both theoretical (metaphysical) and practical (experiential) - ideas and living both need to change; because otherwise the two aspects will be at contradictory, at war - and therefore unattainable in life.

The Romantic Christian demands that life be Christian - as its root and frame; and also demands that life (including Christianity) be Romantic - therefore it cannot accept the ultimate of primary necessity of System, organisation, institution, bureaucracy... these are all to be regarded as evils; even if, sometimes (in mortal life); expedient or even temoprarily-necessary evils - evils that challenge us to love, faith and hope; and to grow.

Love and creativity are the goal; with creativity as located in thinking, and thinking regarded as universal and primary. 

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Sorath... One or how many demonic leaders?

The demon's problem is that, by Not incarnating and having separated themselves from God's direct presence in Heaven, they are not-easily brought-to-a-point...

They are eternal and indestructible spirits who have taken the side against Creation; and as such they are Not-very-good at learning from experience.

Perhaps, the hellish economy works more by a kind of 'natural selection' among demons, rather than by the learning and development of individual demons.

That is, maybe the individual demons stay much the same (because they don't learn from experience), but one or another comes to the fore at different times and places and situations; for which they happen to be best adapted.

Some rise, some fall back down the hierarchy; and the supreme Leader varies at different times, and perhaps too in different places - hence the several names for the chief demon in different sources and cultures.

So The Devil may be sometimes the passionate and charismatic Lucifer, sometimes the coldly bureaucratic Ahriman, sometimes the sadistic Sorath - whatever is working most effectively here-and-now in the work of opposition to God, Good and Creation?


Romantic Christianity to replace the sexual revolution

The sexual revolution currently does sterling work in maintaining the totalitarian bureaucracy; mainly as a fantasy, but also as an actuality (being bound up with travel and intoxication, the other great fantasy self-manipulations).

This is another reason why Romantic Christianity is what we need. If Christianity is bureaucratic, it is just like 'work' - which people hate, even as they clamour for ever more bureaucracy.

And Romantic Christianity is individual - each must 'do it' for himself; because no institution or group will be encourgeing him.

Indeed, whenever some modern group does appear to be encouraging this, it is invariably a fake or a deception - as with the 1960s counterculture embrace of William Blake. What was actually on offer Blake minus Christ, which made a decisive and deadly difference. Or sometimes there is Christianity without Romanticism - which entails a passive, externally-applied Romanticism.


Thursday, 31 January 2019

Spontaneity, selection and training ('initiation') in the developmental-evolution of consciousness

1. We begin spontaneously in contact with the gods, with the spiritual realm - dwelling immersed-in it; passive to it. Such is early childhood.

2. The gods recede as self-consciousness develops - spiritual specialists begin to be selected from those who have a spontaneous 'gift' for contacting the gods and spirits: shamanism among 'animistic' hunter-gatherers.

3. As well as selection, there is a period of training (or 'initiation') leading to a profession of god-spirit specialists: the priesthood among the 'totemic' religions of agriculturalists (including herders).*

4. Self-consciousness reaches a maximum and the gods and spirit realm become inaccessible: the alienation of modern materialism.

5. The conscious-self deliberately-chooses, again-spontaneously, to interact with gods and spirit beings: this is Final Participation (the aim of Romantic Christianity).


*Totemism is what most modern people know as 'traditional religion - that which grew and reached its peak among literate agriculturalists; indeed some would assume that this is the only 'real' religion since the founders of the great world religions all emerged in agrarian societies. Yet such religion - although better than the alienation of materialism - is far from wholly-satisfactory. Its basic stance is one of an intrinsically hostile world, with hostile gods and spiritual beings that require appeasement; and this appeasement can only come from a 'priesthood'. Therefore, there is absolute dependence on priests to avert the innate malevolence of reality. The laity may crave contact with the gods and spirits, but the deities are leaving man's consciousness because in order to gain freedom consciousness is creating a barrier against direct perception and knowledge. The state of absolute dependence on an organised and initiated priesthood leads to growing-child-/parent-like state of resentment and superiority variably mixed-with gratitude and an ethic of service. In such a situation of at-least-partial hostility, religion often darkens as self-consciousness increases: religion becomes based around the management of fear.  

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The problem of Rudolf Steiner and the Anthroposophical Society

I continue to engage with the work of Rudolf Steiner, and continue to find him to be A Problem!

In the first place, it is important to acknowledge that the problem arises from the fact that Steiner was a genius of first rank importance in our cultural history - and therefore is thoroughly deserving of the most careful and sustained consideration.

To put it the other way around; it would be hazardous to leave-out Steiner from our thinking. He is certainly not indispensable; but we, at least, would each need to discover Steiner's contribution from other, often related and influenced-by sources (such as, in my experience, Barfield and Arkle; and Mormon theology) plus personal meditation.

But - within the overall context that Steiner is someone who made a deep and vital contribution; he comes-across as one of the most maddening and off-putting of writers!

I think this is due to the unfortunate historical fact that Steiner built an organisation, a movement, around his philosophy - the Anthroposophical Society; and that this became an institution; and that this institution has become the sole source of Steiner's legacy... Steiner and his work comes down to us, as it were, inside the Anthroposophical Society.

The further problem is that mainstream intellectual culture (partly, but only partly, because of this institutional capture) has completely ignored Steiner. So there is no independent tradition of engagement that takes Steiner with the extreme seriousness he deserves.

And for the Anthroposophical Society; it is clear that Steiner's work is regarded as primarily a vast and (apparently) systematic collection of set of spiritual scientific facts. Thus Steiner expertise comes in the form of people with an encyclopaedic knowledge of what Steiner wrote and (mostly) said on hundreds of topics and in hundreds of thousands of words.

This is a Big Problem, because We get Steiner via his Society, and the Society regards Steiner as systematic and vast; so that in practice we are confronted with an 'all-or-nothing' demand.

If we are to take Steiner seriously, we are asked to take him whole - and this means either a lifetime's work of reading and comprehending more than a hundred dense books, or getting him secondhand and through the lens of the Anthroposophical Society - for whom Steiner's nature and oeuvre are regarded as essentially perfect and infallible.

This sounds exaggerated, and I suppose Anthroposophists would strenuously deny it!; but I believe that it is literally correct.

The situation seems to have arisen from a contradiction in Steiner's teachings, and another contradiction between what he said and what he did... but noticing and taking-seriously this kind of contradiction is exactly what the Anthroposophical Society regards as tabu. 

Indeed, it was because Steiner despaired of having his early philosophical works noticed by 'mainstream' intellectual culture, that he began to put his energies into lecturing to various niche audiences - an educational groups for socialist workers, Nietzchians, Theosophists and then forming his own Theosophical off-shoot called Anthroposophy. But in principle, Steiner might not have done this, might have remained 'independent'; and his books then would have come down to us as the work of a spiritual philosopher analogous to Coleridge, Emerson, Nietzsche, William James or Owen Barfield.

In a nutshell; the AS regards Steiner as systematic - therefore all-or-nothing; and the Society regards the person of Rudolf Steiner as wholly-well-motivated - but I do not.

Instead, I regard Steiner as a significantly-flawed individual; whose work is deeply self-contradicting, in multiple ways. And therefore to take Steiner whole is to lose his essence and to dissipate his importance.

Thus, I believe that we must be selective in reading Steiner; and this selectivity is not just in superficial details but in primary aspects of his legacy. As we read Steiner we need to recognise contradictions, and to take sides - accepting the valid, and rejecting the wrong. We also need to recognise the man's flaws, errors, and mistakes - and not to assume that he always meant well, nor that he was always truthful, nor that everything he did (or that happened to him) was For The Best.  

The difficulty is - as I said - that Steiner comes to us inside the Anthroposophical Society, and all Steiner expertise is among Anthroposophists. So someone who wants to engage with Steiner as a major Romantic Christian and as an autonomous thinker is compelled to set himself against all this! - and to contradict those who know far more than he does!

This can, however, be done coherently by regarding Steiner as primarily a metaphysical philosopher, and regarding his teaching as primarily about each individual using this metaphysical understanding to attain a different and higher state of consciousness. The millions of 'facts' (i.e. the findings of spiritual science that Steiner provides in his later work) should therefore be regarded as merely suggestions.

In a nutshell, we can choose to regard Anthroposophy as a way or path; and to reject (in part or in whole) the vast collection of facts and theories by Steiner (on subjects such as cosmology, evolutionary history, politics, agriculture, medicine, education, dancing, music, drama, bees etc. etc.)

And finally, Steiner must be regarded as a Christian, and his whole philosophy as making sense only within a Christian framework.  

For Steiner, Christianity is mandatory. Everything of primary value that Steiner said needs to be understood within a specifically-Christian frame.

And, significantly, Christianity is perhaps the only aspect of Steiner's legacy which is Not, in practice, taken seriously by the Anthroposophical Society.

Advisory note added for Romantic Christians: Do read Rudolf Steiner, anticipate learning from one of the great thinkers of all time and one of a handful of the most important thinkers for modern Westerners; but read selectively and critically - being prepared to reject the bulk of what he says. Focus on the early three philosophical books (GA 2, 3, 4) - up to 1894 - but don't restrict yourself to them. Interpret the later books in light of the early three. Understand that the whole must be interpreted in light of the foundational fact (for Steiner) that the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ is the centre and most important 'event' not just in the history of human society, but in the history of the earth - and indeed the history of all creation.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Traditionalist Christianity, Biblical inerrancy and their residuum of unresolved positivism

The deep and ineradicable problem with all forms of backward-looking, traditionalist Christianity is explained by Owen Barfield's idea of 'RUP' - the Residue of Unresolved Positivism.

Of course, understanding the full power of this critique depends upon accepting the idea that human consciousness has developed/ evolved; such that throughout Man's history possibilities are closed-off, as other possibilities emerge. Nonetheless the negative critique can be appreciated even without this; if we take into account what is known about the Hunter-Gatherer societies that preceded the agricultural - and if it is acknowledged that the conditions of H-G societies were closer to Man's natural and spontaneous behaviour.

Anyway; the insight is that all agricultural-based - or 'agrarian' - societies are a development from H-G conditions, and contain ways of life that are specific to them - they are an historically-contingent society, as we can now appreciate since we are aware of the H-G societies that preceded them and the post-industrial revolution/ modern societies that replaced them. The Agrarian are 'middle' societies. It is an historical fact that Christianity emerged and grew in developed-Agrarian societies - and many of its features were (either therefore or contingently) those of such Agrarian societies (and probably-therefore have declined since) - for example Christianity depends on literacy (which was not a feature of H-G societies), sedentary settlement, social-function hierarchy and specialisation - eg. a priesthood, an institutional church... and so on.

Furthermore, Christianity emerged and grew in societies where people were less able to attain direct contact with the 'spirit world' than H-G societies, and less 'animistic' than these societies; but much more spiritual and animistic than modern societies.

To put it another way, the agrarian Christian societies were not as positivistic/ materialistic/ reductionist as modern societies, but far more positivistic than H-G societies. This Agrarian positivism is evident in - for example - their highly systematised, formal, abstract theology; their dependence on literacy with its requirement for interpretation, memorisation, analysis and synthesis of texts; the existence of specialised systems of law and philosophy - and so on.

For instance; any system of Christianity based-upon the textual inerrancy of The Bible (which underpins much 'evangleical' Christianity of the post-industrial modern era) is significantly positivistic.

In other words, all backward-looking traditionalist Christian systems have a great deal of positivism in them - a great deal of materialism; with the consequent distance from the livingness of the world, the experience of the spirit realm and instead the experience of alienation (only sometimes and temporarily overcome in specialised situations such as ritual and prayer).

If it is agreed that we moderns need to get beyond positivism/ materialism, going back to traditionalism, going back to The Bible, just Will Not Work. We would need to do something more, and different.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Individuality and incarnation

The faceless massed hosts of Heaven? No, not really....

The most powerful argument of 'modernism' is probably its positive attitude to, its advocacy of, individuality. It's interesting how often the argument comes down this - and serious Christians nearly always seem to end up arguing against individuality and in favour of some kind of communalism, some kind of subordination of the individual to the group - or to God.

Now, this is wrong - I think we feel it is wrong, at a deep intuitive level (I certainly do).

Furthermore, mainstream modern materialist Leftism is in practice strongly anti-individual (ie. totalitarian); while Christianity requires an absolute agency of each individual.

But how did this confusion arise - with so many people, for so long, arguing on the wrong sides?


I think the root of The Problem is, as usual, metaphysical - it relates to mistaken fundamental assumptions of most Christians concerning reality. The particular assumption relates to incarnation, the embodiment of humans - how and when this happens...

I think most Christians start from an unspoken and unexamined assumption that all Men were - to put it crudely - stamped-out as identical incarnate souls (probably) at some point between conception and birth; and all differences have arisen since then. The (wrong) assumption that all of us started-out The Same, and that individual differences we observe in this world are an unfortunate consequence of mortal corruption - and so the supposed-aim is that (in resurrected post-mortal life) we ought-to end-up as again The Same. This is envisaged as being absorbed-into a uniformity - as when Heaven is pictured (usually mentally) in terms of massed and apparently-uniform hosts, choirs, worshippers, praisers, armies, obedient classes of persons.

(Yet, surely, this conceptualisation clashes absolutely with the life and teaching of Jesus in the Gospels?)

In contrast, my contention is that the incarnation of Men is fundamentally like that of Jesus Christ. It is accepted by most Christians that Jesus was alive (co-eternally with The Father) before he was incarnated on earth; and (as is standard doctrine for Mormons) I believe that the same applies to all Men.

If such a pre-mortal spirit existence is accepted for all Men, and not for Jesus only; then this harmonises easily with the understanding that we, each of us, always-were distinct individualities. We were each unique individuals from eternity, from before we were conceived or born - we were born as unique individuals - and that is our ultimate and divine destiny.

Our Christian God, the creator, does not want same-ness, does not want people to be identical with one another: the plan always was and remains that we are unique individuals who should live together in-love.

And this is why love must be central to Christianity - it is by love (as we may glimpse in the best mortal marriage, family or friendship) that different individuals may live, work, create together in harmony and with a mutually-reinforcing (synergistic) effect.

The original Problem for God was therefore (in a very simplified sense) how to create this reality in such a way that already unique individuals would - voluntarily, by choice, in knowledge, over Time - reach a situation in which all would create-together in a wholly-harmonious and mutually-reinforcing way.

God has no interest in making everybody the same, or subordinating the individual - except sometimes as a matter of temporary expediency during the long period of learning. But the primary nature and goal of God's reality is of individuals working towards a loving harmony of creation.

Therefore, I regard the modernist materialist advocacy of individuality as a perversion and distortion of what God really does want. And I regard the standard mainstream Christian opposition to this individuality as an error; induced by the temporary expediencies of what might be termed 'social policy' or 'church order' - which are important but not fundamental Christian Goods.


How to read Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom

There is, perhaps, no more-important book that The Philosophy of Freedom (PoF) by Rudolf Steiner; yet it is, of course, limited in its scope - and potentially misleading.

Steiner himself apparently took several years to see its limitations (after-which he became a, very-unorthodox, Christian), and never properly acknowledged the fact that PoF was written from something like an anarchist/ Nietzschian/ anti-Chrstian stance. He pretended that the later Christian and spiritual metaphysics was latent in, and implied by, the PoF - which untruth makes the book extremely bizarre, and deeply puzzling to the spiritual-Christian reader...


It is possible to read PoF as a free-standing and self-justifying work; and indeed I think it likely that that is the best, perhaps the only, way to understand it. Contextualising the work can only come after it has been understood. So I would recommend accepting the book's implicit premises while reading it - until the overall thesis has been grasped. There is a useful website called The Philosophy of Freedom which does exactly this.

This way of reading PoF accepts Steiner's assertion that he has proved his thesis with 'evidence' (evidence from logic and introspection) - and it therefore accepts the book's self-designation as epistemology - and its function in terms of a libertarian-anarchist rationale for absolute individuality.

But further reflection reveals that PoF is metaphysics, Not epistemology; it is asserting a thesis about the structure of reality, not merely about knowledge of reality. But only if PoF were true epistemology (and only if epistemology could deliver on its promise of assumption-free knowledge - which in fact it cannot ever do!) could PoF legitimately use evidence to prove its thesis - since if the thesis is true, it changes the nature of what-counts-as evidence. And this is to assume what is being proved - and so the argument undercuts its own legitimacy.

At the level of epistemology (as is usual/ universal with epistemology), PoF is therefore circular reasoning - and the reader can only choose either to enter the circle and believe its truth; or else reject it. And on what possible legitimate grounds (other than prior metaphysical assumptions) should he make such a decision?   

PoF leaves-open such questions as why reality really-is the way that it is described by PoF; and if it was - how could we ever know the fact?


Most importantly, the book simply asserts that freedom is the ultimate value - which many or most people would dispute. PoF asserts that a real morality must be independently arrived at and embraced wholly by the individual from his own resources - yet this is the opposite to traditional ideas; and there is no way (other than a kind of mockery) rationally to argue that the one morality is better than the other; except by asserting the (assumed, never proved) primacy of freedom, autonomy, agency...

Furthermore, in order to explain clearly; PoF presents a very simple model of how cognition is inserted into the world, which it splits between sensory phenomena and the concepts requires to make sense of them. This is very helpful, but must be transcended since, again, it is a circular model and gives no idea of how we could know its truth, or its limitations.

(Did Steiner personally observe his consciousness being instered into the world, and the effect it had? Does he personally know what life without/ before consciousness is like? Can he compare individual morality with universal morality to confirm that they are one? Clearly not - so where does this knowledge come-from?)


None of these limitations to PoF are a significant problem if we read it from the Christian metaphysical perspective that there is a loving creator God, we are his children; and creation was set-up and continues mainly to make possible the development of human consciousness towards a divine situation in which freedom/ autonomy/ agency are indeed prime goals.

From such a perspective PoF is revealed as being about both individual agency and the cohesion of reality; because they are the same. The true concepts by-which we understand the perceived world are the same as those of God's creation; and the truly-agent individual is able to participate in God's on-going creation - which is the purpose of the evolutionary-development of consciousness towards freedom and autonomy.  

But we need to bring this metaphysical perspective to our reading of PoF - it is not to be found within the work itself.

My advice is to do just this - and then to read it!


Friday, 9 November 2018

Romantic Christianity explained

To define Romanticism with precision has proved impossible - because it is a movement, a phase in human consciousness; but those who feel it will recognise it when we see it.  

To be included in this list, one must be both Romantic and Christian (and be someone whose work I personally respond-to):

William Blake
William Wordsworth
ST Coleridge

Then came several generations during which the Romantics were not Christian, and the Christians were not Romantic. Exceptions include George Macdonald and GK Chesterton, who link between the early Romantic Christians and the Inklings. Both of these I somewhat like, especially GKC - but I am unable to engage whole-heartedly.

Charles Williams
JRR Tolkien
CS Lewis
Owen Barfield

William Arkle

Current representatives of whom I am aware include Jeremy Naydler, Terry Boardman, and the Albion Awakening bloggers: William Wildblood, John Fitzgerald and myself.

Comments:

The influence of Rudolf Steiner is evident; since although Anthroposophists are extremely rare in England - Barfield, Naydler and Boardman are all of that ilk. This is evidence that Romanticism fits most comfortably with heterodox Christianity - despite that Tolkien (Roman Catholic) and Lewis (Church of England) were orthodox in their practice. Indeed; Blake, Barfield (for much of his life), Arkle and most of the currently alive people - are (I believe) essentially unaffiliated Christians; whose religious and spiritual practice is mostly and in-principle individual rather than communal.

The Steiner link is also important because Germany was the other great origin of Romanticism - with Herder, Goethe, Schiller etc; however until Steiner's 'conversion' in about 1898; the German Romantic literary tradition was not really Christian. An exception is Novalis - the father of Romantic Christianity in Germany.

There are not many on this list; because I don't know of many Romantic Christians. It is a job still to be done, by each individual - since Romantic Christianity must be experiential (knowing 'about' it does not suffice).

However, I regard both Barfield and Arkle as having essentially done the necessary work and, uniquely, achieved Romantic Christianity: both in their theory and in their living.


Mainstream Christianity still tends to regard Traditionalism as a 'safe' path to salvation; and theosis as too 'risky' - and Romanticism is about theosis.

But for the Romantic Christian there is no 'safe' path in the modern world; and traditionalism has in fact become impossible (judged at the deepest level of motivation); as well as sub-optimally desirable. We feel that, in modern conditions, salvation requires theosis; so a purely salvation orientation can only be a kind of 'rescue' procedure.

Because ultimately Romanticism is not a 'reaction' against the Industrial Revolution, modernity and bureaucracy; rather, Romanticism is a positive path of divine destiny, concerned with human evolutionary-development of consciousness.


The aim of Romantic Christianity is (implicitly) to attain the divine form of cosnciousness (what Barfield termed Final Participation) as the primary goal of mortal life at this era of history. In different words: the aim is to restore the unity of Life - including the healing of the split between mind and matter, subjective and objective... to cure the malaise of alienation.

Romantic Christianity is both theoretical (metaphysical) and practical (experiential) - ideas and living both need to change; because otherwise the two aspects will be at contradictory, at war - and therefore unattainable in life.

The Romantic Christian demands that life be Christian - as its root and frame; and also demands that life (including Christianity) be Romantic - therefore it cannot accept the ultimate of primary necessity of System, organisation, institution, bureaucracy... these are all to be regarded as evils; even if, sometimes (in mortal life); expedient or even temoprarily-necessary evils - evils that challenge us to love, faith and hope; and to grow.

Love and creativity are the goal; with creativity as located in thinking, and thinking regarded as universal and primary. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Christianity without scripture - is it possible?

Not, of course, the specific person, his name and history; but yes.

Since we can have a relationship with the Holy Ghost, and have the possibility of direct knowledge from the Holy Ghost; we can know Jesus without being told.

We can know from death and its implications, that we need a saviour - who could offer us eternal life.

We can know from life and its problems and limitations, that we need to become divine; that we need theosis: we need to become Sons of God.

Thus we can know what we need and that we cannot get it for ourselves; and we could learn - directly from a relationship with the Holy Ghost - that we have, in fact, been granted what we need - if we choose to accept it.

So, even if there was no Bible, or we had no access to Scripture, or if it had been corrupted; or if Christian churches were absent or corrupted - we could come to know and love Jesus Christ.


(The above is, indirectly and with significant modifications, derived from some of Rudolf Steiner's insights; in his writings on Christianity.) 

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Incarnation BC?

Although most Christian apparently don't have this attitude; I find personally it hard to reject-outright the idea of reincarnation.

This mainly because (it seems) that most people, through most of human history, have believed in the reality of one or another form of reincarnation - plus several of the more modern thinkers whom I most respect believe in reincarnation, apparently from directly intuited personal experience.

However, I find that the Gospels tell us that Jesus taught all Men are resurrected after death - not reincarnated - and make their choice of Heaven or Hell. On the other hand, the Gospel discussions of whether or not John the Baptist was some kind of reincarnation of a prophet seem to confirm that, at least until the advent of Jesus's ministry, reincarnation was regarded as possible - if not universal. 

One way I make sense of this is that I think modern religions tend to fall into one of only two categories - either they believe in some version of reincarnation with spirits returning to inhabit a series of bodies; or else that each human spirit is formed at a time related to incarnation. But these two are not the only possibilities.

A further alternative is seldom known or considered - that an eternal pre-mortal human spirit was alive before incarnation, death and resurrection; in other words that the full potential span of human life falls into three stages: pre-mortal spirit, mortal incarnate, and resurrected incarnate.

(However, given the role for agency and choice, presumably it is possible to choose not to be incarnated, and to remain as a pre-mortal spirit. This would presumably be the situation of some angels - who are either awaiting incarnation, or else have - at least currently - declined the offer of incarnation. And it would be the situation of demons - who reject incarnation along with rejecting God's plan for creation and the Love necessary to its accomplishment.)

This three stage understanding of human life (which is the Mormon view) is the one I regard as true - and my interpretation of those modern people who believe in the reality of reincarnation is that they have not sufficiently seriously considered this alternative. That, for example, they have misinterpreted their intuited memories of pre-mortal spirit life (which may include historical actions in this world, and with people in the past) as being incarnated life. In other words, they remember previous spirit lives, but simply assume that these must necessarily have been incarnated lives.

On the other hand, since reincarnation was apparently a possibility for John the Baptist, it is also possible that some modern people happen also to be reincarnates who, like John the Baptist, are spirits that have returned to fulfil some particular function, do a particular job... So when such people seem to recall a previous incarnate life or lives, maybe they are correct.

I find it striking that so far as I know, all simple, tribal, hunter-gatherer type societies believe in reincarnation - in the form of a 'recycling' of spirits within the tribe over time. The concept is apparently that there are implicitly a fixed number of spirits (or souls) who are reborn some time after death - so that the same set of personalities recur across the generations. My presumption is that such societies self-understanding will have been broadly correct - so this would imply that there used-to-be a, probably universal, system of reincarnation.

Most sedentary (i.e. settled, non-nomadic) totemic and pagan societies apparently either believe in some version of reincarnation, or else they regard life after biological death as being something like Hades or Sheol; that is continued existence of the spirit or soul in a ghostly, demented half-life of present-awareness without agency. Again, I would tend to accept that these people correctly understood their situation - at least in essentials. So, it is possible that this 'underworld' represented the time in-between reincarnations; or that some people/s (e.g. the Ancient Hebrews or Greeks) chose Not to reincarnate - but remained in Sheol/ Hades... implicitly awaiting the Messiah/ Saviour.  

If we accept that the situation up to the time of Jesus's incarnation (i.e. approximately the years BC) was as above - that biological death was followed either by a a kind of suspended animation like Sheol, or else a reincarnation from such a state. Then the further possibility is that this situation was changed by the work of Jesus; and from some point AD onwards - probably the time of Jesus's own resurrection - spirits were resurrected instead of being reborn.

This also applied to the spirits at that point in Sheol/ Hades - some of whom were resurrected at the same time as Jesus. But - given the importance of free choice - it may be that resurrection could be refused, and that some of these may have a job still to do as reincarnates.

If so, modern people who believe they recall earlier incarnations may either be recalling their pre-mortal spirit lives; or they may be people who recall an incarnation (or more than one) before Christ's work in making resurrection, and who have returned to incarnation for some particular purpose.


Friday, 2 November 2018

Coleridge and 'Psychoticism'

Some years ago I wrote about the high-Psychoticism Christian: the 'good Christian' who was not nice,  not sociable, conscientious, organised - who was impulsive, easily bored, bad at sustained endeavour; a man who nearly-always failed to follow-through on his resolutions.

And I later wrote about how such high-Psychoticism persons potentially have a vital role to play in Christianity - because for all its disadvantages; high-P is needed for creativity, and that integrity which depends on immunity to social conformity.

I now realise that Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) is a great example of exactly what I meant.

Coleridge was a deep and devoted Christian, and had a wide and deep influence through his life and beyond - affecting Anglican practice and theology (via disciples) all through the nineteenth century.

Coleridge was also a long term opium addict, a frequent drunkard; he all-but abandoned his wife (luckily she and the children were well looked after in the house of her brother in law, Coleridge's friend Robert Southey); and he passionately loved another woman (but entirely chastely).

His life was chaotic in the extreme, he was moody in the extreme, short-tempered, impulsive, inconsistent; he missed appointments and broke arrangements; he failed to finish (or even begin) nearly all of his large projects.

But Coleridge acknowledged and repented his sins; he regretted the way he was, he tried to reform but couldn't. He was what he was - he was made that way.

While what he did was nearly all flawed (requiring tremendous and sustained concentration - or else scattered notes, hints, scraps), and was far less in amount then he was capable of doing; nonetheless Coleridge was perhaps the most significant philosophical thinker of his time. As a conversationalist (or rather monologist) he was apparently supreme; and sometimes he was a lecturer of astonishing power - and thus sufficient of his great potential was somehow made available.   

Christianity has this great strength - and we must never forget it - that repentance is more important than behaviour; and by Jesus Christ repentance is available to everybody at ever time and in an inexhaustible supply.

Much of Coleridge's life needed repenting every hour of every day for decades - but that was not a problem - that well can never run dry.

And thus Coleridge was a truly great Christian, although in many ways a bad man.

In this age, these end times, when institutions are corrupt and obedience and hard work are turned to evil ends; it is possible that only someone of the Coleridge type has the creativity, independence and courage to provide what is needed.

Not as a Christian leader, of course! That would be a disaster. But as an educator, clarifier, explainer, encourager, and as an inspirer.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Why consciousness is the key

Consciousness is indeed the key - and the problem can be approached from several directions to yield this same answer: that (here and now, in our current situation) we must become aware of that which we used to take for granted, unconsciously - and must actively and knowingly embrace what we used passively to obey.

All this need to take place in a Christian frame - because consciousness without Christianity is a curse; and will be fled from into instinct, intoxication or passive obedience (as we see). And because without God (a personal God, the creator, who loves us each personally), there can be no knowledge.

The problem is seldom presented; but when acknowledged it is usually in terms of whom we should obey... The mainstream materialist media?  A particular church? Our own pleasure seeking/ suffering avoiding instincts?

None of these will suffice, none of them are acceptable or effective. Unacceptable to our deepest, intuitive selves; ineffective in terms of this modern world.

We need each to 'dig' down to expose our fundamentasl assumptions to consciousness, so that we know what we have believed; then we should either consciously endorse these assumptions as solidities upon which we can build; or reject them - replace them.

But this is not a safe path - and it is worrying how many assumptions melt-away under the spotlight of consciousness and the tireless gaze of intuition. It is likely that we will be left with fewer assumptions; at any rate that is my experience. It is almost certain that we will be in a minority of one...

But those assumptions which remain after such a process are solid; we know them, and can defend and retain them against external attack because we do not regard external attackers as valid.

We can defend them in thought - I mean. Indeed, better than that - much better - they no longer need defending... They have become ultimately unassailable.

Of course; external power can influence, perhaps control, our mortal bodies; can terrorise us, perhaps, into doing or saying this or that; but once an assumption has been exposed and made conscious and intuitively endorsed... well, then we have it forever, we can't ever again be rid of it even if we want to - because then we will know that we are only kidding ourselves, and would not be rid of it.

We can nowadays, in The West, survive and thrive only on known certainties (both known, and certain) - and this process seems to be the only way to get them.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Jeremy Naydler's prehistory of computers, reviewed

Published in the current issue of Oxford Magazine – by Bruce G Charlton

Review of: Jeremy Naydler. In the shadow of the machine: the prehistory of the computer and the evolution of consciousness. Temple Lodge Publishing: Forest Row, Sussex, 2018 pp xi, 373.

Oxford residents might have come-across Jeremy Naydler; since he often guides tours of the city and has given lectures to a wide range of local groups over recent decades. He is also a Fellow of the Temenos Academy, and teaches at their London headquarters. Or perhaps you have come-across him looking after flowers and vegetables in the suburbs? Because Naydler’s main lifetime job has been as a gardener.

He read PPE in the nineteen seventies and then pursued scholarly interests independently before completing a PhD in middle age; on the subject of the pyramid texts of Ancient Egypt. Since publishing books on this subject and on Goethe’s science in 1996; Jeremy Naydler has become, in my judgment, one of the most interesting and original living writers in Britain.

Naydler’s central concern is the interaction between human consciousness and human culture; and he is of the opinion (which I share) that changes in human consciousness have been a driving factor in cultural evolution; as well as cultural evolution having affected human consciousness. Hence the subtitle of this book: The prehistory of the computer and the evolution of consciousness.

What makes this book distinctive is that it is a prehistory of computers. In other words, it is about the stepwise change in human thinking and technology that led, over a span of thousands of years, to the situation in the late 20th century in which - suddenly – computers became first possible, then developed with astonishing speed, and then swiftly took-over first the material world and, increasingly, human thinking. For this progression to happen in just three generations from the first electronic computers until today, was possible only because all the necessary pieces were already in-place.

In the Shadow of the Machine is thus a work in the genre History of Ideas, and as such it is exceptionally thorough and carefully argued. The argument is broadly chronological, describing many steps in the development of each significant component necessary for the computers of today. And as well as describing the specifics of the technological changes; these are related to the necessary conceptual change in the people involved, without which the technological progression could not have happened, and would neither have been understood nor implemented.

Naydler starts with some of the most simple of technologies from the oldest societies of which we have record; such as the Ancient Egyptian methods for raising water; or, as another example, medieval clocks and renaissance calculating devices. He explains why there were periods when apparently-valuable technologies were known-about but not used; then quite rapidly, something changed and the technologies became widespread.

But computers are software as well as hardware; so Naydler also lists and discusses the changes in symbolic notation, language, numbers, logic and so forth – and how these were implemented in physical form – via cogs, punched cards, switches etc.

Then there is electricity; without which computers would have remained exceedingly simple and slow. One of the most fascinating themes of this book is the discussion of the mysterious nature of electricity (and electricity turns-out to be much stranger, and much less well understood, than commonly realised); and the way that its ‘reputation’ began as something dark sinister, alien, inhuman – but later took on increasingly positive connotations until it became so pervasive as to be all-but invisible.

In the Shadow of the Machine takes up right up to the early years of modern computers and the threshold of our current era, and concludes with some wise words about the implications of computers for the way we think – and the established and increasing degree to which our own thinking is entrained to being computer-compatible; such that we habitually think like machines, and tend to disregard any thinking that does not conform to this reduced mode.

In sum; this is a book of ancient history that is of crucial importance for the present and future.

Christ returning in the etheric?

I have blogged before on the strange revelation or prophecy from the early 1900s onward and standing at the heart of Rudolf Steiner's entire (vast) corpus - and therefore - presumably, although I'm not sure - that also of Owen Barfield.

You will need to read that post first...

Now; I find that I cannot just put this prophecy aside and move-on, but I keep returning to think about and consider the matter. Because if it was true - this would, of course, be the most important fact in the world - and, although Steiner (in his later works) was often/ usually wrong in detail, he was nearly-always right in essence.

Thus I shall entertain the thought that Rudolf Steiner was factually correct that the Second Coming of Christ has by-now already happened, and not as an incarnation of the bodily Christ but in 'the etheric'; and I shall further assume that while the core revelation is true, the details are mistaken - so that there needs to be a clarification.

Then, I shall see where this experimental-assumption gets-me; and whether it makes any kind of sense...


1. If Steiner genuinely knew that Christ was to return in the Etheric; my understanding is that this was not a chronologically exact foreseeing of the future - because I believe such predictions to be an impossibility.

So that in reality Steiner's prophecy was actually an announcement of a current state of affairs; and it meant that the Second Coming had already happened, which is (I infer) how Steiner knew about it.

So instead of something going-to-happen circa 1933, let's assume instead that there was a return of Christ from circa 1750 - in other words from the beginnings of the movement called Romanticism.

This is how Steiner could sense the event; sense it both directly - as an ongoing reality; a fact of daily life; and he could also sense it from his profound studies of Goethe and the other German Romantics, and the change that had come over their thinking.


2. What about the Etheric? What does that mean?

Translating Steiner's categories of The Self (as I understand them) the Etheric comes in-between the Physical Body and Consciousness (the Astral Body) - so Christ's return is not in his body (i.e. he is not incarnated), and it is also not in a way of which people are conscious.

The Etheric implies that Christ is felt; a transformation of Life, an unconscious feeling, at the level of instinct.

The presence of Christ in the Etheric is known as an instinctive feeling.  


3. Does this make general sense? Yes, it does.

The impulse of Romanticism came upon Western culture beginning from 1750 - affecting poetry, literature - including the invention of the novel almost exactly in 1750, music, visual arts, philosophy...

Romanticism also affected Western culture, through several later waves - eg the 1890s, the 1920s, the 1960s-70s) in terms of a new and strong (often destructive) impulse of individualism, political radicalism and revolution, the sexual revolution, an assertion of the instinctive (and 'primitive', or 'tribal').

In religion and spirituality we could point to Quakerism, the US New Religions of the middle 1900s, New England Transcendentalism, Walt Whitman, DH Lawrence, the Beats, the New Age... Every movement (good, and - mostly - bad) that contains a theme of instinct, personal revelation, intuition, utopia, altered consciousness, hopes of transcendence or higher evolution; all such could be interpreted as having some degree of unconscious awareness of the new possibilities deriving from the actual felt presence of Christ. 

We could posit that there was indeed a second coming of Christ perceptible at an unconsicous level; but distorted, and indeed twisted to evil by such factors as adherence to materialism; the pro-instinctive, short-termist and hedonic theories of the sexual revolution; consumerism; and by the cultivated spite and resentments of the various Leftisms and, in general, politics conceived as primary.

Probably the main evil-tending distortion is that Modern Man will not allow himself to become conscious of Christ. 

In other words, we could ascribe the malign phenomena of Steiner's own amazing 1918 true-prophecy to Western Man's failure to respond properly to the Second Coming; indeed, by our wicked choice to have perverted and inverted our instinctively-felt urgings of Christ.


4. What would be the implications? (Continuing to entertain the notion that this understanding is correct.)

Well, one implication would be that we need to become conscious of Christ's presence... This needs stating more strongly: we must become conscious of Christ's presence in this world, and of his direct influences on each of us, individually.

To become conscious of an instinctive-feeling means that we each need to do 'scientific' work - because that is the core nature of science: to do science is to become explicitly conscious of phenomena.

Therefore we each need to become scientists of our-selves.

And that is exactly what Steiner and Owen Barfield (and, of course - following them, myself) have argued is the primary task of Modern Man; which is to embark on a 'scientific' introspection, to develop a clear knowledge of our own thinking, to make intuitions both primary and explicit; and to do all this is the Christian context of its being done in light of the first and second commandments to love God, and neighbour.


5. Does this kind of 'Second Coming' even make sense to a Christian?

Well, maybe. I am more inclined to think so than before I embarked on this exercise.

It may make sense if our understanding is that this mortal life is about experiences from-which we need to learn in order to become more divine. If, in other words, our main task (as mature adults) is theosis rather than salvation - because salvation, while not universal, is by-default; and Hell must positively be chosen.

On such a basis, it is imaginable that a return of Christ at the level of unconscious instinctive awareness may be a means to this end.


In sum; I am surprised what good sense can be made from making the contingent assumption that Steiner was correct-but-with-errors when he announced the Return of Christ in the Etheric...