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.


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...

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Incarnation is always a barrier to original participation (aka original immersion)

I have found Owen Barfield's idea of Original Participation - or Original Immersion, as I have sometimes renamed it - to be a vital tool in understanding the developmental-evolution of human consciousness throughout human pre-history and recorded history.

In broad terms, this posits that humans began as disembodied spirits, living immersed-in the divine consciousness - and as such with very little in the way of agency (or 'free will'). In other words, our original situation was a state of passive and unconscious being-part-of reality - 'animistic', regarding the world as composed of alive and conscious Beings - and ourselves as one among these beings.

When human spirits first historically become embodied or incarnated and also when each human is incarnated and as a young child; we at first retain many features of theis Original state of consciousness. This persepctive on reality is sometimes termed animism, or anthropomorphism - and is a form of consciousness shared by hunter-gatherers and all sufficiently young children.

But throughout the history of culture, and throughout the development of a normal child, there is a move away from Original/ Immersive participatioin - with an increased consciousness of the self, a sense of the self as increasingly detcahed from the environment and from other people - and a corresponding increase in agency or free-will. 

This next phase of Detached Agency is what Barfield (and Rudolf Steiner) terms the Consciousness Soul - it is developmentally characteristic of adolescence, and historically corresponds with teh modern condition of aleination.  

Thinking about thinking...

Thinking-about-thinking is something that we all ought to be thinking-about (I think)...

You see the problem?

Falsely-assuming, wrongly-directed, superficial and manipulated thinking is pretty close to being the core modern problem; yet it is a problem difficult to 'fix' - because it relies upon false/ wrong/ superficial thinking to discover and implement the solution...

I personally find most of what has been written on the subject to be unhelpful, because it falls prey to this boot-strapping paradox (ie. in trying to fix thinking with defective thinking ones is trying to lift oneself off the ground by pulling hard on one's bootstraps).

In particular, I find it painful and ineffectual try try and turn my thinking around to examine itself, as oft-recommended - this feels like trying to rotate my eyes backwards by 180 degrees, in hope of seeing the eyeballs: I can't do it, but even if I could - it wouldn't work...

But on the plus side; real and true thinking is always-going-on somewhere in our minds - albeit ignored and buried; and some-times it comes to the surface.

Yesterday it happened. I found my thinking suddenly clear, self-validating, and able to know reality wherever it roamed. This didn't last long; but I had the advantage of recognising what was happening, and regarding it as true and valuable.

The experience reminded me that real thinking puts down roots into that which is divine in us, and thereby - potentially - comes into direct contact with the thinking of all other Beings that are thinking from their divine selves. All sense of being alienated or cut-off from reality has gone; and I know myself a part of on-going divine creation.

What specific knowledge we get in such a state depends on where our attention is directed - which we control (since we are agent beings), and our own capacity to know.

I strayed from this state by (mistakenly, misusing agency) trying to think of non-realities - and thereby fell-out-from the thought-realm of the divine and into the usual externally-inculcated work of theories, hypotheses, models... of propaganda and manipulation. And so my thinking went back to its usual wrongness, superficiality, dishonesty.

My point here is that primary thinking really is attainable - albeit seldom and briefly. But we need to 'ask the right question'. It is less a matter of discovering and practising some special (esoteric?) method; and more a matter of transforming our ordinary, alert and purposive actual thinking - of having it suddenly put down roots into the real self...

Of the stream of thinking suddenly coming-alive and being intense, powerful, comprehensive.

That's what it feels like.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

The Third Eye fallacy

There is a recurrent spiritual idea that there might be an organ of spiritual perception - an inner 'Third Eye' - by which we might see reality; see, in particular, spiritual phenomena imperceptible to the ordinary senses.

But this idea is conceptually incoherent; because any inner spiritual eye would be prone to the same problem as any ordinary eye; which is that the meaning of reality is not Out There, but requires our own thinking. To know The World therefore requires not merely perceptual information (what we see, hear, touch, taste or small) but instead the true conceptual understanding of perceptual information*.

This 'combination' of perceptual and conceptual can happen in thinking, and only in thinking; and only when thinking is truth-full, real - is, in sum, the thinking of that aspect of each Man that is divine.

So, it does not matter whether an eye is one of the usual two organs that are located on our faces, or if it is an inner Third Eye - anything that is perceived by any means always requires to be interpreted and understood. Seeing is Not believed, not even with an inner eye, because we do not comprehend the meaning of what we see unless we are able to interpret what we see in light of true concepts, true theories.

It is hard for us to grasp this reality, since we are accustomed to assume that seeing is believing, and that anything really-real forces itself upon us without any act of interpretation. Yet, at the same time - and in a contradictory fashion, we also know that the same sensory data can be, and often is, interpreted in widely different ways by different people - or by the same person at different times, or when in different psychological states.

Such a contradiction is, indeed, one of the deep roots of modern nihilism and despair - because people have come to believe that they can never really know anything: that objective external reality is un-knowable and that that their personal subjective experience has no necessary connection with objective reality.

The idea of a Third Eye is an attempt to get past this assumed unknowability of external reality, by assuming-by-definition that there exists an 'infallible' organ which both perceives and interprets reality - an organ that leads to knowledge. And indeed there is! But it is not an organ of perception, but an 'organ' of direct knowing (without perception).

The organ of direct knowing is our true, real and divine self in its thinking.

Because only by knowing directly can we escape from the insufficiency of the perceived; and knowing is an active state of thinking - not a static and crystallised state: being is itself active, dynamic, doing.

Direct knowing (without mediation, without perception; just-knowing some-thing) is a matter that is difficult to conceptualise for Modern Man, but was apparently quite everyday and normal in ancient cultures. People have tried to conceptualise direct knowing in many ways, often using natural science metaphors - but I find these abstract and impersonal - hence misleading.

The way I think about it, is that all direct knowing is akin to telepathy between individual conscious beings. I assume that ultimate reality consists of purposive, living, conscious beings, of which Men are one type. I also assume that it is possible for such beings to have access to each others thinking, to share thinking: for two beings to be thinking the same thoughts, simultaneously. And That is direct knowing. 

And I further assume that this kind of thinking is ultimate reality - it is itself a part of divine creation (because divine creation is thinking: God thinks creation into reality).

What is the relevance of this to Albion Awakening? Well, rather than me writing an answer, you reading and interpreting it... Think about it.

*This matter was elucidated for me by Rudolf Steiner's books Truth and Knowledge (1892) and The Philosophy of Freedom (1894); although Steiner was himself inconsistent in his actual later practice - e.g. mistakenly asserting that perceiving (inwardly) is necessary to knowing.  

Sunday 23 September 2018

The synergy of Barfield and Lewis

It is well known that CS Lewis and Owen Barfield were best friends, from soon after 1919 when they met as undergraduates in Oxford University until Barfield's death in 1997, some 34 years after Lewis had died.

Because Barfield's active engagement with Lewis - as man and thinker - continued right throughout his life, as evidenced in the fascinating (and deep) 1989 collection Owen Barfield on CS Lewis.

Most people, until recently, have approached Barfield via his more famous and influential friend; or have tired to tease out the 'influence' one had upon the other. But I have gradually come to realise that there are richer rewards from considering both together as complementary - indeed synergistic - writers. I mean by this that each offers something that the other lacks and needs; and considered together they are greater than their sum.

Starting with Lewis, we can see that he was the more creative and accomplished writer, and that he was able to express instinctively more than he could (or would) comprehend explicitly. For example, there are depths, there is heart and resonance in Lewis's imaginative fiction - especially the Narnia stories but also the Planetary trilogy, and also in his imaginative essays such as the Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce - that are absent-from, and even contradicted-by, Lewis's theoretical and explicitly-Christian writings..

Barfield was a deeper, more rigorous and honest theoretician than Lewis. Indeed, Barfield understood Lewis and Lewis's writing, better than Lewis understood himself. In this sense, Barfield was 'largher' than Lewis - but Barfield could not accomplish what Lewis did - so it could be said that Lewis expressed Barfield better than Barfield expressed himself! This is why they are complementary.

They are also synergistic, because when they are considered together, we can see that the combination of Lewis and Barfield make-up a really tremendous resource with vast potential for exploration and extension: something which has barely yet been begun.

Something that has limited this, so far, is that while the basis for understanding Lewis's fiction depends on an understanding of his interaction with JRR Tolkien and Charles Williams - and these are accessible and comprehensible writers; understanding Barfield depends on getting to grips with Rudolf Steiner - and this is a very much larger and more difficult task!

However, over the past several years, it is something I have done - and the rewards are immense. Barfield in deed, made it easier for us by telling us to focus on two of Steiner's earliest, and most straightforward, writings: The theory of knowledge based on Goethe's world conception of 1894; and The Philosophy of Freedom of 1896. Both take careful, prolonged, thought-full reading to understand - but the task is not beyond someone who really wants to do it.

So what might we get from this endeavour of combining Barfield with Lewis?  In brief, we get to understand - both in practice and in theory - exactly what it means that imaginative literature is true. We all sense, as Lewis sensed, that imagination takes us to places beyond and different from what can be stated explicitly in concepts - that indeed imagination is a kind of knowledge. And that fantasy, and invented worlds, provide something more real than real life.

We see all this demonstrated in practice in Lewis's writing, and we feel it with our hearts. But Lewis himself was confused and contradictory when it came to explaining how this works. Whereas Barfield understood it, in a conceptual and explicit fashion, as well as anybody ever has - but in ways that Lewis himself never really engaged-with.

Barfield often commented that although Lewis claimed to have been influenced by him; Barfield could not really perceive that influence. Barfield also explained that after Lewis became a Christian, Lewis absolutely avoided any deep and focused discussions on fundamental, metaphysical issues. (A fact that Barfield deeply regretted, although it never threatened their deep affection for one another).

And although Lewis read, admired and praised Barfield's writings - for example multply re-reading Worlds Apart during his final months of illness - Lewis did not show any sings of having either understood or accepted the major ideas in Barfield's writings.

This is not too surprising, because the differences between Barfield and Lewis were very deep; at the very deepest level of metaphysical assumptions. For Lewis to have accepted Barfield would have overthrown several of his most basic Christian theological beliefs - and this was probably why Lewis never engaged with Barfield. Lewis's main assertion was that all Christians shared a core Mere Christianity - yet Lewis's description of the content of Mere Christianity was quite different, in many significant respects, from Barfield's understanding of Christianity.

For instance; Lewis believed that God, and ultimate reality, were outside of Time; while Barfield believed that Time was universal, sequential, linear, irreversible. Linked; Lewis believed that human nature was the same among all people and in all times and places; while Barfield believed that human consciousness unfolded, developed, evolved throughout history. Lewis believed in an infinite gulf between God and Man; Barfield that it was Man's ultimate destiny to become divine in the same qualitative sense as God. 

This emphasises that for the fullness of the complementarity between Lewis and Barfiled to be recognised, requires that the reader be prepared to 'take Barfield's side' on these explicit philosophical questions - at least as a starting point. Whether someone wishes to entertain such a possibility depends on whether he believes that a theoretical understanding of imagination is important and necessary. Lewis was able to avoid engagement with Barfield, because Lewis regarded it as unnecessary and probably undesirable (perhaps lethal to imagination) to analyse and explain the structure and inner nature of imagination.

But Barfield believed that to become conscious of the truth in imagination was simply the most important and urgent task for modern Man. I agree with Barfield. If you also agree, then you simply could not do better than to study Lewis and Barfield together, as complementary, as indeed synergistic writers - as together yielding even more than both added together.

This essay has been published on L. Jagi Lamplighter's Superversive Inklings blog.

Sunday 15 July 2018

In quest of Primary Thinking/ Final Participation in practice

This may seem to be a paradox; but it seems possible to pursue Primary Thinking/ Final Participation in a deliberate and purposeful fashion - and without falling into the trap of trying (and inevitably failing) to coerce the higher consciousness to a lower agenda.

Primary Thinking must come from the real self - so we need to attend to the real self and strengthen its influence. The real self has its own agenda; and that agenda is intrinsically aligned with Creation - because to think with the real self is to participate in divine creation.

The direction, or subject matter, of primary thinking cannot be imposed; but needs to be recognised - having recognised it, we need to harness our will to that matter. This may be resisted by our lower, contingent selves - since the creation agenda does not pursue this-worldly-expedience or advantage; and may not make much sense to us.

But if we can recognise a spontaneous, inner impulse from the Real Self, then by following that, we may experience more Primary Thinking: more explicit, more frequent, more intense...

This has (apparently, so far as I can judge) happened to me over recent months through my reading of the Fourth Gospel (aka. the Gospel of John). I felt a sustained, inner-derived urge to understand this gospel, above all other scriptures; to understand Jesus in light of this gospel; and I have followed this urge.

And I have reported some of the outcomes in this blog; although the primary outcome was actual direct and wordless experience - the blogging is merely a selective summary, expressed in language.

And this activity has been associated with a considerable increase in Primary Thinking, with a considerable increase in intuitive knowledge. I am now better able to recognise Primary Thinking when it happens, and am able to practise attending to it, taking it seriously, and according it authority.

I now, retrospectively, perceive that this wish to read and re-read the Fourth Gospel, to brood over it, was an impulse coming from my Real Self.

This may be a general lesson. If or when we do feel such an impulse - we should evaluate whether it is from the Real Self; is, perhaps, the Real Self trying to break out from the mass of distractions, false personalities, and evil impulses that make up the everyday mind.

This is something that could only be discovered, not imposed; and perhaps that is a quest that many people could benefit-from? The quest - that is - to discover the subject matter, activity, situation, person or whatever it may be - that their Real Self most deeply and sustainedly wishes to be the medium for its own growth and strengthening.

And having discovered it; do it: pursue this as the medium for theosis, by means of an explicit recognition and prioritising of Primary Thinking.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

Another attempt at explaining the evolutionary trajectory of consciousness...

If we start-out unconscious and immersed-in the whole world, including what we would now distinguish as the 'spiritual' - seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling the divine; and aware of its activities in our own bodies -  then as self-awareness/ consciousness begins to develop, so we incrementally separate-from the spiritual.

(This is part of an individual growing-up, and it is part of the history of Man; these two being expressions of the same underlying reality.)

At this stage we get ritual, formal procedures, special places and practices that re-connect us with the spiritual. It is because the connection has been broken, and a gap opened between the person and the spiritual, that special structures and processes are needed to bridge the gap.

So the emergence of religion, and magic, are evidence of some degree of separation... Man is no longer unconsciously immersed-in the spiritual, the spiritual is no longer integrated-with all of living; instead man is consciously aware of the need to reach the spiritual - and able to devise effective methods of doing this.

However, as consciousness continues to develop, as self-awareness increases; reaching across the gap to the spiritual gets harder and harder, and finally becomes impossible. Man is self aware; but cannot become aware of the spiritual - he cannot any longer see the spirits, he cannot heard the word of God, he cannot feel the presence of the divine. And if he stays in this state - pretty soon he denies the reality of the spiritual.

Modern Man is in exactly this state. Intensely self-aware as baseline; and without the capacity to perceive the spiritual. It is the state of alienation - of being alone in the universe; and for many it is inescapable except by the obliteration of consciousness (for example, by intoxication).

There are three possibilities. The first and usual path is to accept that alienation is reality and to deny the reality of the spiritual, including the divine. This leads to despair, and suicide in one form or another - nonetheless it is chosen by most people because in the short term it justifies and excuses total selfishness of motivation.

The second is to try and move back to the earlier stage of immersion in the spiritual - to try again to perceive the spiritual world: see ghosts and auras, hear voices of angels, smell/ touch/ taste the presence of the divine. This can happen fully only when consciousness is surrendered; and can happen partially only when consciousness is lowered by some self-intervention, by consciousness alteration. This, broadly, is the New Age attitude, of self-engineering; of consciously trying to diminish the level of consciousness; to surrender-to the spiritual.

The problem is that to succeed (which in practice seems impossible for most people) is to become un-conscious. To succeed is not-to-know that one actually-has succeeded...

The third path or possibility is to begin where we are, which is 'located' in our self-awareness; that is in our thinking. But to expand the scope and strength of our thinking to include the spiritual.

This depends on us regarding the spiritual as real and important - so we are not trying to fool-ourselves - to expand the scope and strength of thinking is an active choice, a conscious motivation - something we must want to do and must do in awareness of our doing. So, since this requires sustained effort, we need to know that it is worth doing.

That is our task. Success comes when our thinking includes the spiritual - includes, potentially, everything that we know to be real. Success is known when we inhabit this expanded thinking - we locate our-self in that thinking. And, and because, when thinking derives from our-self (our real self, not a 'persona' nor an automatic habit).

So the third stage is that - starting from a situation of being cut-off by our thinking; we instead reconnect in our thinking.

How? That is for each to discover and do for himself; knowing that it is what is wanted and we are capable of doing it. Learning to do it, doing it in freedom, and with positive intent and proper desire... these are part of the necessary process. 

As usual in this mortal life; it is part of the divine plan that - as much as possible - we do things for ourselves, by our own best efforts; since we are being trained for eventual godhood. I God did everything for us, we never would learn. 

Help is there and will be provided when personal efforts fail - but we need to be aware that the basic 'set-up' is that the world provides experiences, which we need to tackle and learn-from. 

Tuesday 3 July 2018

What makes 'higher' consciousness higher?

It is implicit in the ideas of Owen Barfield, and indeed in many others with an interest in consciousness, that to be aware is a higher state than to be un-conscious. Because to be a psychologically-mature adult is to be conscious of many things that in a child are unconscious. But why is it better to be conscious?

A first answer refers to agency - or 'free will'. Thus the adult may have agency, may control thinking, only because the adult is aware of what he thinks. He satnds outside of, observes, his thinking. By contrast, a young child is largely immersed-in his world, and (in his thinking) more-passively swept-along by it - there is little scope for agency. He thinks - but does not know that he thinks.

But even if agency requires consciousness - self-awareness; why is consciousness better than unconsciousness, why is agency better than being immersed-in and swept along?

It depends what is meant by 'better' - what is being asserted is that consciousness is indeed higher than unconsciousness - as an adult is higher than a child, and a human than a cow; but a young child may be (usually is) a morally-better person than an adult; and a cow may be a nicer creature than many humans.

What then does higher mean? The answer must refer to God's wishes and plans for people: divine destiny. My assertion is that God has various interlinked hopes and plans - some are moral, and some have to do with consciousness.

We can only talk in generalisations, and for some individuals divine destiny may be Not-growing up, and Not becoming conscious (for example, they may die as a child, or may have a mental handicap - and this experience may be a part of their soul's eternal destiny; intended from before mortal life for their benefit, to learn from it something vital). But on the whole, many humans are meant to go through adolescence into adulthood, to move from being unconscious to being conscious; and ultimately to become conscious in the divine way (to become Sons of God).

And divine consciousness is assumed to be most-fully self-aware, because fully agent: fully free.

So, as God is higher than mortal Man; divine consciousness than human consciousness; so higher consciousness is such because it is closer to the divine consciousness. Consciousness can be seen as a ladder from least to most, from (presumably, one average) the (supposedly) 'unalive' mineral world, plants, non-human animals, children, adolescents, sexually-mature adults - and more and more conscious adults.

The degree of consciousness constrains (that is it both makes-possible and also limits) the degree of agency, or freedom; and (I assume) God wants us each, enentually to become god-like in our agency; by choice, and apparently by incremental stages, throughout eternity; but also (usually, but not invariably) partially to experience divine consciousness, briefly at least, during our mortal lives here on earth. (This is theosis - the intention of becoming more god-like, during mortal life.)

In the end, whether we regard consciousness as higher than unconsciousness, freedom higher than passivity; whether we indeed regard thinking as primary, and ultimately more important than behavioural actions, depends on whether we choose to ally and align with God's hopes and plans - or not. Salvation, or not.

First salvation - at align with God's purposes; then theosis - to become more divine in our being and thinking.

As usual for Christians; we find that everything eventually depends on faith, trust, love - the first 'commandment' (to love God) is first for this reason: everything is built-upon it.

(Note: If we do not love God - then none of these distinctions matter. Perhaps only current happiness matters; and if current happiness is enhanced by the destruction of consciousness, or by destroying the capacity to think, to be agent and free in thought - or by being evil, according to God's distinctions ... well so be it.)

Monday 2 July 2018

Owen Barfield and The Notion Club Papers

[Jeremy - in The Notion Club Papers, by JRR Tolkien]

Sometimes I have a queer feeling that, if one could go back, one would find not myth dissolving into history, but rather the reverse: real history becoming more mythical - more shapely, simple, discernibly significant, even seen at close quarters. More poetical and less prosaic, if you like.

If you went back would you find myth dissolving into history or history into myth?... Perhaps the Atlantis catastrophe was the dividing line?

Tolkien had a problem with his legendarium: the First and Second Ages took place on a flat earth; but at the drowning of Numenor (i.e. the 'Atlantis catastrophe'), and the advent of the Third Age (and the time of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) the world became a round: a sphere. By this change - which was accomplished by direct action of The One/ Eru/ Iluvatar - the undying lands (Eressea and Valinor) became qualitatively separated from the mortal lands (Middle Earth); so that only the enchanted ships of the Grey Havens could get from one to the other - ordinary ships that went West just came around the globe to reach the other side of the Middle Earth land mass.

But this change in planetary geography due to the Numenor/ Atlantis catastrophe was also the dividing line between a magical-enchanted world of the elves; and the mundane world of Men. The Third Age was a transitional phase between these, during which the High and Grey elves left Middle Earth, and the 'magical Men' of Numenor faded and were diluted into being like the mundane men of Middle Earth (although in LotR we meet several of the very few-remaining 'pure' Numenoreans such as Aragorn, Faramir and Denethor). 

In the Fourth Age (our Age) the elves have all departed or faded into invisibility; the Men have lost all their magic, and the world is disenchanted - lacking contact with, or belief in, elves, or the Valar. (Presumably the Ents and the Dwarves have gone extinct, or concealed themselves.) Hobbits, as a type of mundane Men, are said to remain, but hidden.

Tolkien was never happy about the mechanics and implications of this flat-to-round earth transition; and he kept tinkering with the 'cosmology' until shortly before he died; even (astonishingly, in his seventies) planning at one point to rewrite the entire Silmarillion as a round-earth mythology, involving enormous changes - quite beyond then-resources of Tolkien's time and energy.

Yet there was a possible solution to this problem - and it was one that had been worked-out in detail by Tolkien's fellow Inkling Owen Barfield.

I shall describe this in a moment - but it needs to be made clear that Barfield's solution was never an actual possibility for Tolkien, for many reasons. Barfield was essentially CS Lewis's friend, and Tolkien and Barfield had never been close - probably they spent very little time together outside Lewis's presence. Furthermore, Barfield did not enjoy Lord of the Rings, indeed he apparently was unable to finish reading it. And then, although both were strong Christians, there was a denominational gulf between the two - since Tolkien was a devout traditionalist Roman Catholic and Barfield a heterodox Anthroposophist-Anglican.

Barfield was, indeed, a philosopher with so radical and original a metaphysics that few - even of his admirers and scholars - have been able fully to grasp and explicate the sheer scope of what he assumed, argued and asserted.

For Barfield consciousness was primary, and 'matter' was merely a secondary 'condensation' from pure consciousness. Furthermore consciousness 'evolved' - which means it changed by a process of developmental unfolding; in accordance with the divine plan to enable Men incrementally (and over many thousands of years, and multiple incarnations) eventually to attain to god-hood.

The aimed at divine mode of consciousness was what Barfield termed Final Participation: 'final' because it was divine, and 'participation' because it entailed becoming co-creators with God. Because consciousness was primary, Final Participation happened in thought, in thinking. God thought the universe into existence, this thought was objectively real; and if man attained to this level of consciousness, each Man (in harmony with God's purposes) would become a participant in this creation.

And, because consciousness is primary, for Barfield there was no reality apart-from consciousness. What we perceive (what know by our senses, and by reasoning from sensory data) is all we know of anything. There is an indescribable stuff (what Barfield terms the unrepresented) that exists independently of our perceptions of it; but perceptions can only be understood with concept,s, by thinking - so we know nothing about this unrepresented reality.

We only know what we think, and our thinking is a product of our consciousness, and our consciousness can change qualitatively.

What we regard as objective facts are actually 'Collective Representations. In other words, beings with the same quality of consciousness, perceive the world in the same way, and therefore usually come to regard the world as consisting of data which they suppose to be independent of consciousness. When everybody perceives a tree, then people tend to assume that what is really there is a tree; when actually 'a tree' is a concept that is absolutely dependent on consciousness. 

(It can immediately be seen how alien this way of understanding would have been to Tolkien, even if he had known and grappled with it - which he would have been unlikely to do; probably regarding it as pride-full and blasphemous.)

If Barfield's understanding of the evolution of consciousness was applied to the Numenor/ Atlantis Catastrophe, we would understand it to be a qualitative change in consciousness, imposed upon the inhabitants of the world by The One. It was consciousness that changed, primarily; and as a result, the world became perceived as spherical instead of flat.

(It is not a matter of whether the earth 'really had been' flat, or not; but that such a question is meaningless - since there is no 'really' which is independent of consciousness. To the Second Age consciousness of elves, men, dwarves, Sauron, orcs etc; the new form of consciousness perceived the world as round. And there is no going-behind this perception.)

So, the drowning of Numenor really was, as Jeremy of the Notion Club Papers suggested, a 'dividing line' - in which the era of enchanted myth changed-into the era of mundane history. The change was instantaneous; but the working through of this change took some thousands of years.

(Such a Barfieldian perspective also explains how Tolkien's legendarium is real: really-real, not just applicable fiction! It is real because it is 'about' consciousness; it is a way of 'representing' consciousness and its development, under divine shaping.)

So where does that leave Modern Man, in our Fourth Age - which Barfield sometimes called the Age of the Consciousness Soul? Well, we are of course disenchanted, can no longer perceive the elves or the gods; indeed we deny the reality of any God at all. Whereas the enchanted world of Tolkien's First and Second Age was one where most things were alive and conscious and in communication to some degree (a residue of this remained in the Third Age, in Lothlorien - preserved by Galadriel's ring)  for mundane man, everything is dead: indeed Man understands himself to be dead, and consciousness to be an illusion or epiphenomenon of material processes. Because only matter is real, and matter is experienced as un-alive...

But this is incoherent, insane; it is not a viable form of consciousness: it is consciousness turned against itself. It simultaneously claims to know, while denying even the possibility of knowledge. It claims to discern meaninglessness, to know exactly that which is un-knowable (i.e. to know with certainty how things really-are, independent of that consciousness which knows). 

We need to move into a Fifth Age of Middle Earth; in which we can begin to know that consciousness is primary, and to know that consciousness and reality are indivisible.

This was not a matter that Tolkien addressed in any of the work published during his lifetime - but it is a special appeal of the Notion Club Papers that Tolkien comes to the very edge of this matter; which is a thing that can be done in high fantasy.

In a nutshell, we can - if we choose - regard the Notion Club as a fantasy version of The Inklings; and the unfinished text as the start of a process by which these Fantasy Inklings would, in the course of the full narrative and as its climax, solve this most important of all the problems facing modern materialistic Man.

Friday 29 June 2018

Good magic and Final Participation

When it comes to magic, what is real and what is the provenance of the real, one can only work forwards on the basis of whatever primary thinking intuitions emerge. This is what has emerged, so far:

I assume that real and Good magic was an 'everyday' possibility for people in the remote past, but seems not to be at present. Examples of real Good magic would include Ancient Egyptian priest-magicians who accomplished supernaturally-enabled feats of building and making, the British builders of megalithic monuments, and most recently some reports of some tribal shamans or medicine men.

But magic was not really 'used' in the past, not used to attain human will; rather, men were immersed-in the divine; and insofar as a man conformed to divine purposes, he was able unconsciously to be a conduit or coencentartion of divine powers. This was therefore a kind of channelling, and not of human will manipulation nature (the human mind serving as a channel for divine powers and purposes). I presume that magical rituals were mostly about the mental preparation that made this channelling possible.

As human consciousness, the autonomous, agent self, became stronger through human history; so this magic became impossible. Men were no longer immersed-in the spiritual but stood apart. The spirit world was invisible, imperceptible - only exceptionally and by more and more extreme measures (and finally not at all - many modern people never-and-cannot perceive the spirit aspects of reality).

From about 1500 onwards in The West, Men stood apart from the divine; and from that time attempts at magic were attempts of the self, of 'the ego' to coerce nature, to compel results - they were driven by human desire and will.

And Renaissance magic was ineffective, in terms of its stated goals. Its effects are explained by changing of human minds (the mind of the magician, and the mind of any human subjects) - in a kind of self/ other brainwashing, and also by evil magic done by subordinating the self to serve demonic forces.

Good magic became impossible because Men were (due to the evolutionary-development of human consciousness, in-line with divine destiny) no longer immersed-in God's creation. Men increasingly stood apart from creation, the personal self became differentiated-from the divine; and therefore Men's powers were derived only from Men.

That is the current situation (although it was meant to be a brief and temporary phase - we are stuck-in-it due to wrong human choices; we are stuck in spiritual adolescence - refusing to move on to spiritual maturity. We are stuck because maturity requires each person's explicit choice and wish).

Here and Now, most claims at magic are bogus - in the sense that they are done by convincing the self or other people that magic has-been-done: modern manipulative magic is psychological (and any benefits are a kind of psychotherapy).

Attempts to control reality, to make reality to conform to explicit human wishes, by magical systems such as spells and rituals, are not effective; they do not do what they set out to do by the mechanisms they posit. And what they do do, is not what was intended, nor are the means correctly known.

Rare instances of real Good magic are either done unintentionally, by accident, due to an unpredictable, unplanned, unconscious and momentary alignment of a person's purposes with divine purposes.

Real and evil magic can be done, in a way; but they are not done in conformity with the magician's will; the magician is not controlling supernatural reality, but is being-controlled-by it. When a magician really summons a demon, and some magical consequences ensue; the magician is being manipulated by the demon, not vice versa.

And evil magic can do only what demons can do, what immaterial spirits can do - which seems to be done by acting on minds; tempting, persuading, convincing, via sins. Demons cannot create, cannot affect divine creative activity: creation is solely divine.

The magic of the future will happen insofaras an individual person attains primary thinking, or Final Participation; when someone consciously and voluntarily aligns their thinking with the universal reality of God's thinking - which is creation-in-action.

We may then, as individuals, participate-in the ongoing work of creation. And that is our proper goal now (i.e. theosis) - but especially in post-mortal resurrected life.

When we think In Reality, we must be aligned with divine purposes. We are (or may be) doing real magic in this world, and doing it consciously and purposively; those purposes coming from that which is divine in us (what we inherit as children of God) - but these purposes are not 'devised', the purposes are emergent-from that divine mind in us. That which makes this possible is Love - specifcially love of God (which, for us, is Jesus Christ) and of our divine family, consisting of God's loving children.

Thus any idea of a person 'using' magic to attain human purposes is nonsense. We may participate-in the Good magic that is ongoing divine creation (either unconsciously and immersed-in, or consciously and voluntarily in primary thinking); or we may be used-by the demonic powers in their work of sabotaging and inverting divine creation. Ultimately these are the only two options.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Escaping bad habits of thinking - I dissent from Barfield's advice

That modern Western Man has developed bad habits of thinking is obvious to anyone who has tried to escape them. In a post a couple of days ago, I excerpted a representative analysis of this phenomenon by Owen Barfield, which he concluded by suggesting that the only cure for bad habits was good habits.

Here I ultimately disagree with Barfield; because the essence of the problem is not just the badness of habits, but the dominance by habits - so the cure of bad thinking habits is more along the lines of reducing the habitual element in thinking.

It has proved to be very difficult indeed for individuals to go beyond the point of analysing this problem in their own lives, to giving general and effective advice (or training) about what to do next. For example, Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield thoroughly understood the nature of the problem; but Steiner - in my view - became sidetracked into system-building, and movement-building; and in more than a century his anthroposophical movement has got nowhere in achieving Steiner's original goals for a new consciousness.

Barfield made no claims to expertise in this matter, and always pointed to Steiner as the authoritative source of guidance - yet Steiner's specific guidance (for example in How to Know Higher Worlds, 1904-5) has a long track record of failure, and indeed even in principle seems clearly insufficient and prone to unwanted consequences.

My understanding is that the reason for this difficulty is that, when to comes to going where we want to go (which Steiner sometimes terms Pure Thinking, Barfield terms Final Participation and I have called Primary Thinking) - then habits are the enemy, and there is no such thing as a 'good' habit.

My understanding of this is rooted in the simplifying idea that (very briefly put) what we are trying to do it to attain a conscious version of the spontaneous and intutive state of young children or simple hunter gatherers. That is, our goal is a life in which the present moment is intuitively comprehended; and therefore all a life without much in the way of strategy, complex social systems, plans or routines.

I am aware that there is an inevitable, indeed irreducible, element of strategy, system and plan in any life - I regard the matter as one of polarity in which there are valid distinctions that cannot be made into division (i.e. we can validly distinguish between stability and change, but these are abstractions, and in life neither can be produced in a pure form; because life is 'developmental', and development is a process that necessarily includes stability and change).

However, my point is that any increase in the habitual, organised, systematised, strategic, planned elements of life will thwart our goals. Final Participation cannot be implemented by a flow-chart. And the attempt to organise, to drill, to proceduralise; has been a trap into which person after person, organisation after organisation, institution after institution has fallen over the past couple of centuries during which the need for a development in consciousness has been known.

If not, then what? First, we need to be careful that the form of the question does not simply lead us back into error. The demand for general advice, for general guidance, often contains an implicit demand for 'a system'. When the objective is to live from our real and divine Self, in harmony with God's creation; then any explicit, communicable external and objective system is going to be wrong - since it must be a simplified, partial and distorted version of God's creation.

When we align-with and participate-in the on-going reality of creation this is exactly-Not about implementing pre-decided plans. It is about love as the basis for working-with God in our family-business. Coming into this business with a set of plans developed before we joined, when we were lesser people (as we are now) would be harmful - and indeed simply does not happen.

(Love makes possible creation, love sustains creativity - and the family is the true metaphysical principle of reality.)

To join with the work of creation (which is the nature of Final Participation, of Primary Thinking) requires that we are not of that way of thinking - it is not that this is a test or exclusion criterion - but that Final Participation just-is a setting aside of the abstract models, plans and schemes, rules and protocols that Man has developed over the past several thousand years of 'civilisation' in his state of increasingly alienated consciousness.

(That Rudolf Steiner developed a massive, complex system of abstract distinctions and protocols, and a huge international social organisation - with and elaborate headquarters, a bureaucracy, multiple branches and specialities; is a measure of how far Steiner fell-away-from the clarity and purity of his original insights.)

When we are stuck in bad habits, based on false metaphysics; we need to correct our metaphysics: that is vital. If we are materialists, we need to stop; if we are not Christians, we need to start. But this of itself will not induce the desired changes - the nature of our situation tends to lock us into falsehood and error... bad habits.

We may have insight and be born again as believer-in Jesus; but for our-selves to become more divine (i.e. theosis; which is what Final Participation is about - the divine mode of thinking) we cannot achieve by drilling ourselves into some new habit: it is habits-as-such that are agents of our alienation.

This is why we cannot rely on any organisation, any system, any abstract scheme, strategy or plan of training. Why we must take personal responsibility for our theosis. Why we need to become attuned to the actualities of the existing situation, to develop aware intuition as the basis of life.

The aimed-at state - as I said - is much like that of the child or hunter gatherer, a life in which memories and aspirations all find integrated expression in the present. However, the child is passively immersed-in living and unconscious of it - he may be an instrument of God, but never a co-creator.

Our aim, by contrast, is to be consciously participating with life, with God (our Heavenly parents) and his grown-up children (our older brothers and sisters); and this is done by-and-in our thinking.