Sunday, 28 April 2019

The pervasive Ahrimanic and Luciferic errors of Rudolf Steiner

"There slumber in every human being faculties by means of which he can acquire for himself a knowledge of higher worlds."

Thus wrote Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. In The Philosophy of Freedom he demonstrated that thinking was the power that allowed modern human beings direct access to the spiritual worlds, an access that had once been the privilege of only a handful of mystics. 

No longer was it necessary for average human beings to depend on scripture and other forms of religious authority, for they could discover spiritual truth directly through strengthened thinking. This direct knowledge, he argued, was the only foundation for true moral freedom. He went on to develop and teach practical methods by which it could be achieved.

A century later, the Society he founded seems dedicated mainly to preserving and disseminating his nearly 60,000 transcribed lectures [Note: this number seems considerably too large an estimate, since Steiner only lectured actively for about 25 years, which is about 9,000 days - and he did not deliver six lectures every day]. 

The result of his own spiritual research, these lectures cover everything from gnomes to seraphim, from the history of Atlantis to recipes for compost. "Steiner says" is the constant refrain of anthroposophists, who seem to prefer citations from these lectures to direct knowledge of anything. While Steiner's initiatives in education, biodynamic agriculture, homeopathic medicine and care of the mentally retarded have been lovingly preserved, anthroposophy has, since his death, produced little in the way of social innovation. 

Anthroposophists, when they can be understood at all, express superstitions and prejudices that would embarrass a redneck. Fearing injury by everything from rock music to microchips to Jesuits, they have become a society of esoteric hypochondriacs, in neo-Amish withdrawal from modern political and economic life.

How is it that a movement dedicated to strengthened thinking produces so many goofy and morally useless ideas?

How did the author of The Philosophy of Freedom become this ghost to whom his readers so idolatrously surrender their independence of judgement?

That sound and stirring concepts give rise to corrupt and neurotic human organizations is pretty much a summary of the history of all spiritual movements...

I have been again engaging with Rudolf Steiner - because I regard him as one of the most significant thinkers of all time, and because he is a vital contributor to my deepest understanding of reality. Steiner is essential, but...

Yet again I find myself up against the phenomenon of which MacCoun speaks above. When I read or listen to Steiner's own lectures, or to the best of his followers expounding, I am overwhelmed by a sense of suffocation under such a mass of wrongness that I find it hard to continue.

But I disagree with MacCoun in her specific diagnosis that this is due to the Anthroposophical Society (AS), and the way it dealt with Steiner's legacy. I also disagree with her belief that the AS could - in principle - be reformed... I regard the AS as a symptom of Steiner's deep mistakes, and therefore it is unreformable

The problems lay with Steiner himself, and with his decision to become a spiritual leader of an organised movement.  But I repeat myself...

The problems are deep, because Steiner made the serious error of developing a meditative technique that he regarded as intrinsically scientifically valid; and spent two and a half decades, day after day, putting himself into this trance-state and spouting forth in lectures whatever came to him in this state.

Steiner did not live up to his own best understanding - indeed as a matter of daily routine he fell below the standards he himself had understood and explained. Steiner distinguished the Luciferic and Ahrimanic types of spiritual evil - and he fell into both in his late work of lecturing and organising the Theosophical then Anthroposophical societies.

Steiner's focus on meditative technique - and training in this method - was Ahrimanic, materialistic. But (contrary to his own assertion that meditation should be in clear, alert consciousness) the actual meditative method he used was Luciferic - it was (according to multiple descriptions) a dissociated trance state of lowered consciousness, including lucid dreaming. He then took this unconsciously-generated, 'altered state', 'atavistic' material and systematised and taught it as fact - Ahrimanic again.

For many years, Steiner had this working like a machine. Ask him a question, he would go into a trance, and from his unconscious would generate vast masses of material on the subject - and by Steiner's unique intellectual brilliance (he was a genius) this dream-material would be systemised and rationalised even as it emerged in his speech

The vast bulk of Steiner's work from about 1900 was, then, an exemplification of exactly those errors and evils that he himself first diagnosed as spiritual problems of our time: the backward looking Luciferic trances, and the modern bureaucratic organisation he founded, led and left-behind: the Ahrimanic Anthroposophical Society.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

That monotheistic feeling...

If man wishes to build for himself a world conception, he rightly strives toward harmonizing the individual parts...

One who approaches the world with the expectation that everything must explain itself without contradiction, as if it arose from an undivided foundation of the world, will experience many disappointments when he faces the world and its experiences in an unprejudiced way. It is traditional for the human being to treat all that he perceives in the world according to a pastoral world conception, in which everything is led back to the undivided, divine, primordial foundation; everything stems from God and therefore must be understandable as a unity.

This is not the case now, however. What surrounds us in the world as experience does not stem from the undivided primordial foundation. Rather it stems from spiritual individualities different from one another. Different individualities work together in all that surrounds us in the world as experience. This is how it is above all...

Various individualities work together in influencing these events that are relatively independent of each other. If you do not take this into consideration, if you assume everywhere an undivided foundation of the world, you will never understand these events. Only when you take into consideration what is to a certain degree the ebb and flow of events, the varied individualities who work with or against one another, only then will you understand these things in the right way.

This matter is indeed connected with the deepest mysteries of human evolution. Only the monotheistic feeling has veiled this fact for centuries or millennia, but one must consider it.

If one wishes to progress today, therefore, with questions of a world conception, above all one must not confuse logic with an abstract lack of contradiction. An abstract lack of contradiction cannot exist in a world in which individualities are working together independently of one another. 

A striving for conformity will therefore always lead to an impoverishment of concepts; the concepts will no longer be able to encompass the full reality. Only when these concepts are able to take hold of this world full of contradictions, which is the true reality, will they be able to encompass the full reality.

From Individual Spirit Beings and the Undivided Foundation of the World: Part 2 by Rudolf Steiner.

This particular section of a lecture by Rodolf Steiner jumped out at me; because he shares my own understanding that monotheism is an understandable but misguided urge; one that can only be achieved by an 'impoverishment of concepts', an ignoring of primary and intuitively-known realities, that - in the end, and especially at present - plays into sustaining this age of secular materialism.

In other words, a highly abstract monotheism, one that primarily asserts the unity of the world, is hostile to our intuitive knowledge of the multiplicity of agent Beings in reality. This world is Not merely 'aspects' of a primordial unity; it is a Society of Beings.

And this is why, for Christians, Love is the primary necessity; because it is Love which harmonises, and aligns the purposes of Beings into a participation in creation - Beings whose wills otherwise would be chaotically at war.

Christians are One in Love and Purpose - not in monotheistic Being. 

There is a qualitative distinction between the false monotheistic harmony of unity, and the true Christian harmony of Love.

This is why it is important for Christians to acknowledge that in deepest truth they are not monotheists, nor are they 'Trinitarian' monotheists - but that Christianity implicitly acknowledges and works-with the genuine autonomy of many, many Beings.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A world without edges

The world Now is qualitatively different from how it was a few generations ago. The changes themselves were not hard-edged, but the cumulative consequences are qualitative.

The world used to be one in which there were hard-edges outside of us. The task was to work from within one or other category that was made by the hard edges.

But the edges dissolved, or were-dissolved... Some of this dissolving was done by the forces of evil - but other forces of evil were concerned to introduces new hard-edges; especially, the global totalitarian bureaucratic System is all about hard-edges. But the reason that we experience The System as tyranny is that we recognise its categories are arbitrary, not-true. We only stick by them because we are compelled, and we can only be compelled because we cannot conceive of any better alternative.

To my mind, those who wish to reintroduce the old hard-edges are welcome to try; but I think this simply cannot succeed. All attempts have failed, and I think they have failed because Men's minds have changed, in a fundamental fashion.

We experience the world differently, which is as much as to say that our world is different - really different. The edges have gone because - for us - the edges are no longer present. 

In a world where there are no edges, or more exactly, no edges that we spontaneously and whole-heartedly recognise as real and 'objective' - we must either live by (what will be experienced as) passive compliance with some arbitrary external source of edges - or else must develop another way of discernment, that comes from within rather than from without.

Yet it is difficult - sometimes impossible - for Men to imagine and believe any inner source of objective reality. The loss of edges is experienced as a loss of all reality, a world of arbitrary, fluid, subjectivity. Imagination is seen as untruth.

The answer, and perhaps the only imaginable answer, can be described; but to believe it, to regard it as real, to regard it as objectively valid... well, that requires a great deal of metaphysical rebuilding, the making of new foundations - which most people are unwilling even to consider embarking upon (perhaps for fear of losing what they already have, but mostly because they think-they-know that the effort would be futile).

In a world without edges, and where edges are not coming back; then that primary task is to derive discernment each from his own resources; but to know that discernment to be objective, and to reference a single and shared reality.

To put it differently, we seek a world where the imagination is true, and where that truth is universal - for all Men.

This has been sought for more than 200 years - but mostly the first and fatal step has been to discard Jesus Christ. Among the minority of Christians who sought this path, there has been a failure to re-imagine Christianity in the necessary, post-edge-world, personal-objective mode.

The consequence is that few have succeeded - yet succeed we must, because an honest and rigorous analysis tells us that there is no alternative.

More exactly, the consequence of failure is that mortal life will be a Waste of Time, because all our lived experience will come to nought of value, because our frame of understanding will negate experience.

Incarnation and death will become the only positive value of mortal life - and everything in-between At Best only a Waste of Time.

And that, I suppose, will be the end of things.


Christianity in an Ahrimanic age

I have found a modified version of Rudolf Steiner's schema that evil can be distinguished in two forms - Ahrimanic and Luciferic - to be a valuable tool.

The Luciferic is (roughly) the impulsive, instinctive, self-gratifying, psychopathic kind of evil - as characterised by the frenzied violence and torture of unbridled war; or the greedy lustfulness that drives the sexual revolution. This tended to be the dominant form of evil in ancient times - and of course it still continues.

But that does not capture the modern form of evil - which may originate in this kind of 'id'-driven thirst for instant gratification; but which takes this and operationalises it in the form of definitions, laws, regulations, and bureaucracy - enforced by omni-surveillance and micro-control mechanisms. This is the Ahrimanic - a cold, rational, systematic form of evil.  

In other words, the distinctive and dominant form of evil of this time, of modern times, is totalitarian. The Ahrimanic is the totalitarian, bureaucratic, strategic...

It is the evil of a whole society organised in pursuit of evil that has been pre-defined as Good. It may be an evil without pleasure; evil as an industrial process - a crushing, icy evil. The modern sexual revolution is presided-over, guided, implemented - not by passion crazed Caligulas - but by stony-eyed officials.

The problem is that almost all the real and serious Christian denominations and churches (I mean the best churches - not those that are liberal, apostate, vaguely-Christianised-leftist organisations) still seem to regard evil as Luciferic; and respond to its threat (or try to respond) by doubling-down on the Ahrimanic aspects of Christianity.

For example, the sexual revolution is seen by Christians as primarily about the Luciferic - to be opposed by better organisation. Whereas the real problem is not the work of lust-crazed individuals seeking pleasure; but the Ahrimanic, incremental, planned strategy of a vast army of drab, cold-eyed, strategising bureaucrats; armed with United Nations mission statements, European Union laws, International consensus definitions, guidelines, terms-of-service, models of best practice etc etc.

All too often the Christian response to the sexual revolution has been along exactly the same lines as the totalitarian bureacrats. An increase in planning, systems, supervision; a greater number and precision of rules; tougher enforcement - and so forth.

This is to fight ice with more ice; to fight Sauron with the One Ring. Such a Christianity presents the individual with what looks like nothing more than a choice of rival bureaucracies - one powerful and growing, the other small and collapsing. A choice of two would-be totalitarian monitoring and control systems. Both alienate, both are evil in form.

One can either be crushed by secular materialism, or crushed by religious practices...

The answer to the dominant Ahrimanic evil cannot be merely a different version of the same. Nor can it be a version of old-fashioned Luciferism; which is, anyway, an impossibility...

The middle sixties saw a massive cultural upsurge in the Luciferic (turn-on, tune-in, drop out - let it all hang out etc.) and that would-be explosion of the id and the instinct, merely fuelled decades of ever-expanding and further-encroaching bureaucracy. Nowadays, the Luciferic 'liberation' serves merely as an excuse for ever-more Ahrimanic constraint.

If evil comes from some combination of the domination of the Genital urges (Luciferic), and the raionalism of the 'Left Brain' (Ahrimanic) - what is needed is the Heart. And that is something new, something untried - but something profoundly Christian.

What Christianity needs cannot be captured in any formula or rule (that is just more Ahrimanic stuff) - in a totalitarian age we cannot expect to protect Christianity, or even to be Christian, by adhering to any principle of truth, or any flow-diagram of validity.

Nor can we fall into the trap of regarding anything other than the systematic as Luciferic, hence evil. There is a third way - the way of Jesus - and that is the only Good way. 

We must acknowledge the individual person in relation with God to be the fundamental unit of truth, beauty and virtue. This has been said many times before - but never done. A religion of the heart must be rooted in persons, not abstractions; because only persons can love - yet love is objective, the primary basis of all creation, the heart of Christ's teaching.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Intuitive knowing and final participation

I have written a fair but about Primary Thinking in an attempt to clarify what Owen Barfield meant by Final Participation.

The difficulty with the 'thinking' aspect of the term, is that most of thinking is not primary - and I have felt a misleading temptation to strive to attain a new and different 'method' of thinking - perhaps a meditation technique. I know this is an error, and method/ technique is not a path to wisdom - but the call to change the mode of thinking seems to lead in that direction...

I am currently finding it more helpful to think of what I am aiming at in terms of Intuitive Knowing, with a metal emphasis on the 'ing' aspect of knowing - that intuitively know-ing something is not a thing static and categorical, but an active process; the attribute of a conscious Being.

And, for me, Intuitive Knowing is a proper goal however is may be achieved, by whatever method or technique or by none at all. I need to know intuitively - that is the goal; and how this best happens may vary widely or open-endedly according to the unique situation. 

My understanding is that - in life - there is a lot which we 'know' in a shallow, contingent, secondhand fashion; but that the aim is to base all knowledge, thought, action on only that which we know directly and intuitively - know for our-selves, from that of us which is divine.

In this mortal life, intuitive knowing only happens sometimes and temporarily - it cannot be attained as a permanent state. That is sad but not tragic; because this mortal life (for those of us who have it, the minority of Men who survive the womb and early childhood) is a time of experiencing and learning - a vital yet transitional phase.

This mortal life is a time of change - the one thing impossible is any fixed state of Being. Fixity is not an option. This situation intrinsically maximises our experience; we must keep learning, because we always keep experiencing change.

Since I am still alive, I have more that I ought-to learn; more situations in which I need to discern and rely-upon direct and intuitive knowing. Beyond death - if I actively wish it - I could live eternally in a state where intuitive knowing is the norm.

But clearly, for me, there is value in continuing to live here, now, in my situation; because there are things that I can learn best in mortality.

My conclusion is that I should seek intuitive knowing; but should not despair that it is an exceptional state that cannot be held-onto. Not holding-onto is one of the things I must learn.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Pre-mortal life

From The Salutation by Thomas Traherne

These little limbs,
These eyes and hands which here I find,
These rosy cheeks wherewith my life begins,
Where have ye been? behind
What curtain were ye from me hid so long?
Where was, in what abyss, my speaking tongue?

When silent I
So many thousand, thousand years
Beneath the dust did in a chaos lie,
How could I smiles or tears,
Or lips or hands or eyes or ears perceive?
Welcome ye treasures which I now receive.

(Read the whole thing)

It seems to be characteristic of Romantic Christians that they - we, including myself - have a belief in having lived before this mortal life.

Often this takes the form of some version of reincarnation - which seems to be a basic, default belief among tribal people, and many Eastern religions. But the key things seems to be not reincarnation, but the direct, intuitive conviction of having lived before this mortal life; of having lived as a spirit, before being incarnated.

In the poem above Traherne describes (or imagines) the memory of being incarnated; and many people - perhaps all Romantic Christians - have some such memory, although they may be unsure of its validity.

William Blake explicitly believed in a pre-mortal existence; Wordsworth described it in glorious detail in his Intimations of Immortality; Coleridge in a poem to his son. But of these, Coleridge seemed especially uncomfortable about his statements - and rejected the  reality of pre-mortal life; and Wordsworth became similarly negative about in his later life - because it conflicts with the metaphysical assumptions of traditional Christianity.

(The reality of pre-mortal spirit life is, however, consistent-with the Fourth Gospel - being specifically asserted for Jesus; and indirectly in the discussions of the Baptist's identity, and at John 9:2.) 

I have come to recognise that a belief in my pre-mortal existence is more powerful and more causally-important for me than a belief in post-mortal Life Eternal.

This is so, because the pre-mortal implies the post-mortal; and the pre-mortal is more sure.

Memory of my pre-mortal life, albeit dreamlike and hazy, is a direct and personal experience. And since I also believe that pre-mortal life had no beginning, but was from eternity; then this implies to me that post-mortal life is also eternal.

Since I have lived from eternity, then I expect that I shall live - in some form - to eternity; since I was transformed (not created) at birth, then I expect to be transformed (not annihilated) at death. 

By contrast, post-mortal life eternal (after biological death) can, for me at least, only be known indirectly*.

*Those who know post-mortal life directly are (I guess) those who (potentially) believe in reincarnation; but I do not have such memories or intuitions.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Romantic Christianity - from the past to the future

One fundamental idea of Romantic Christianity is that we took a wrong turning in the past and therefore need to recover and reconnect with lost things - another fundamental idea is that when this recovery and reconnection is achieved, we will develop to a future that is new and has never previously been experienced anywhere in the world.

So, Romantic Christianity has an element that is conservative, or even reactionary; and another element that is radical, or even progressive.

This can be seen in its antecedents: those writers from whom Romantic Christianity intends to pick up the torch and carry it forward. These include William Blake, ST Coleridge and Novalis - authors who looked back and were also innovators. Authors who were deeply Christian, and also unorthodox or heretical.

But their work was not taken up by society, and was perhaps incomplete - or, at least, their task and project was lacking in that self-conscious, explicit awareness which we modern people (it seems) require to be sufficiently convinced by an idea that we can powerfully be motivated by it.

In particular; it is part of the intuitive conviction that leads to Romantic Christianity, that the destined future must be - can only be - one that is consciously known and voluntarily chosen. That, indeed, the only free choice is a conscious choice - and this is, of course, necessarily the choice of a single person.

Such an ideal of free individualism has not been seen at any time or place in the past... nonetheless, the conviction is that nothing else will suffice, here-and-now. 

The idea of going back and reconnecting with this Romantic Christian impulse was, I think, only itself made fully self-aware and explicit by Owen Barfield (in the essays collected in Romanticism Comes of Age, from 1944) - although he could perceive that it was solidly implied by the work of Rudolf Steiner.

But the possibilities for Romantic Christianity have changed over the past two hundred years, and indeed over the past decades. When it began, there was the possibility that the whole of a national culture (or a substantial segment of one) might take-up the project of Romantic Christianity - that, for example, England might do so.

To be more exact, that English culture might recognise the incoherence and insufficiency of the ruling assumptions of materialism (aka. positivism, scientism, reductionism) and reconnect with the embryonic spiritual and Christian tradition it had incrementally, and very fully, abandoned throughout the 19th century.

Such a large scale self-transformation now seems to be impossible; or at least the trends are contrary. So the hope of Romantic Christianity has narrowed to the individual. It is a project that operates one person at a time, one soul at a time.

This might seem trivial - except that (unlike for materialism) for Romantic Christianity each soul is immortal and of unbounded value.

By contrast, any and all worldly gains are bounded by the decay, sin and death that are intrinsic to this mortal world.

A culture, society or planet is evanescent; but a soul lasts forever.