Tuesday, 22 August 2023

The great (and attainable) task of becoming more conscious

It seems impossible (for many reasons) for us to make ourselves feel good, or even better, most of the time - certainly not all of the time. Indeed, to focus on our feelings seems like the wrong approach altogether. And indeed it is! (although our feelings are nonetheless always relevant). 

Higher consciousness (i.e. a more god-like awareness and perspective) sounds to be working along better lines, with better goals; but it is hardly more attainable in practice - if higher consciousness is regarded as a more divine way of being. 

It does not take much adversity to prevent us achieving higher consciousness (or even imagining that we do), or to knock us off such a perch. And our own sinful natures will do the same, sooner or later.  

Yet if we recognize that consciousness is a kind of awareness, then more consciousness is a frequently attainable goal. 


In the first place we can be aware that more consciousness is needed in general; 

Secondly we can be aware that greater consciousness is desirable in some particular; 

And thirdly; at best we might actually experience that consciousness


Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield both regarded this as perhaps the most important task of Western Man in the Twentieth Century - and that fact that Western Man did not even attempt that task, is a deep and primary cause of that profoundly self-hating, and self-destructive civilizational trend that continues to increase. 


Of course, consciousness is a means or a mode; and to become more conscious means conscious of something. That bit often gets left-out when people talk about consciousness. 

The first step therefore needs to be gaining an understanding of that reality of which we desire to become more conscious - and that implies metaphysical reflection which is itself a form of consciousness. 

The first goal (for most people) is to become conscious of our own primary assumptions concerning the basic nature of reality - how reality is 'structured', how things-in-general work... whatever these assumptions may be (and they are likely to be negations, about what is Not; since that is what our culture inculcates).   

Only after we are aware of them, can we decide whether or not our metaphysical assumptions should be allowed to stand, or should be changed. 

For example, yesterday I was writing that I personally want to regard (assume) reality, the universe, this world... as alive, and composed of Beings. And that I want this - because I regard it as true, and because regarding the universe as made of things leads to great evil. 


Such a recognition (a specific wanting) is at the second stage I described above; it is a recognition of some specific awareness that I desire to develop. 

Even of itself, despite that this form of consciousness is known-about rather than actually achieved, this is progress - and it potentially enables discernment and evaluation of the world.  

From this recognition, I can then strive actually to experience this consciousness of the living universe; actually to see things that way, from that perspective. 

This may be achieved to a partial degree, or for a limited period of time; and we should aim to be aware of this achieved degree of success as well. 


At this phase of Man's development; self-awareness, consciousness, is a vital concern; because without it we cannot escape from this arrested spiritual-adolescence that afflicts so many Western people so severely (and indeed - apparently - nearly everybody everywhere to some significant degree). We have painted ourselves into a corner by our fundamental assumptions - and there can be no escape until after these assumptions are revealed and challenged - otherwise we will just set-about rebuilding our own prison. 


There is therefore a necessary inward turn; rooted in a recognition that our external culture is making things worse; but an inward turn that enables and should be followed by an outward turn, whereby we strive for consciousness of this/ then that/ then the other. 

As a task; it has no obvious end point, and is the task of a lifetime potentially. 

However, what it is that we become conscious about, is a thing that will vary between individuals, and at different stages of life. 


For the young adult; love, sex, work are likely to be subjects about-which to become more conscious of our assumptions, and what we would desire our assumptions to be. Such concerns are spontaneous and unavoidable. 

Whereas for an older person; sleep, death and "the dead" may well become much more important subjects than they were for the young adult. Again; such concerns tend to arise spontaneously.  

In general, the subject matter is not chosen but presses upon us spontaneously. However, the formulation of the pressing problem or recurring question is almost certainly wrong (and therefore unanswerable) - unless the earliest stage of metaphysical reflection has been successfully accomplished. 


It may seem that the task of becoming more conscious is a futile and quietistic bit of private piety - irrelevant to the world, and symptomatic of extreme decadence and selfishness! 

But that is itself an assumption based upon metaphysical convictions that are (very likely) to be unknown and unexamined. 

Before validly discarding the ideal of increased consciousness as a valid goal - for you yourself, here-and-now - you would need to understand explicitly what you would regard as a valid goal and why - in an ultimate (not merely short-term expedient) sense. And become conscious, too, of the nature (and 'mechanisms') of relationship between the individual person and society. 

The thing is to Make A Start; from then, the next problem you ought to address will reveal itself - and one thing will lead to another. 


Why are we, here, now; so much more vulnerable to wrong ideas than Men of the past?

It seem clear to me that Men of the past could believe all kinds of wrong things (and even have massively contrasting religions), without coming to serious harm. 

There was a very broad area of what seemed like common sense that meant almost all people, everywhere, shared broadly the same ideas of The Good.  

But that now wrong ideas, and almost any wrong idea seems to suffice, leads to the grossest evil of value-inversions; such that people nowadays consciously, actively and strategically pursue lies, ugliness and sin (and persecute truth, beauty and virtue) in ways that simply did not happen in the past.  


The best explanation for this difference of which I know, is Owen Barfield's account of Original Participation

What this suggests is that originally Men were spontaneously, and mostly un-consciously, immersed-in and controlled-by the divine and spirit world - from birth and through their lives. 

This influence came-through in all kinds of natural instincts; and these instincts shaped all traditional social practices - without awareness or planning. 

These ancient Men were less free, less consciously aware - and they just accepted and followed all kinds of behaviours which - ultimately - derived from the nature of divine creation. Men were mentally part-of divine creation, and therefore what they thought and did was broadly concordant with divine creation.    


However; across the ages and through the centuries this has dwindled. 

Men have become more conscious and autonomous of the natural and created; and in recent generations the immersive and unconscious, instinctive, controlling link between the divine and spiritual, and each Man's thinking, has been all-but severed (except during early childhood). We are cut-off from God and divine creation. 

This phase we currently inhabit is what Barfield calls the Consciousness Soul; and it explains why bad/ wrong/ evil ideas now have such a devastatingly inversional and weird effect on individuals and societies. 


There is still a sense in which we all still already-know (naturally, spontaneously, instinctively) what is Good (i.e. true, beautiful, virtuous, in harmony with God and creation) -- Yet that knowledge lacks the automatic regulatory power it used to possess. Instead, we are often deeply suspicious of this innate kind of knowing. 

At any rate, such knowing is far more easily confused or over-written than ever before in history - often as a prelude to its inversion.   

 

If all this is so - what does it mean and imply? 

It means that, in some sense, we can and should return to living in harmony with God and creation and in connection with the world of spirit. 

But it does not imply that we should recreate the behaviours and societies of the past. Indeed that is strictly impossible; since we are now so utterly, radically, different from the Human Beings that used to inhabit such societies. 

A society based-upon the natural and spontaneous connectedness of people to God, cannot happen when people are - as a matter of fact - Not spontaneously connected to God!


If not, then what? If not the impossible reversion - how instead might we move towards the harmony with God that Christians desire? Well, one helpful step is to identify and correct wrong ideas of our own

The fact that these wrong ideas were (pretty much) harmless to Men of the past does not mean that these same ideas will not harm us now. 

Bad ideas now are widely and deeply toxic to our whole alignment with the world of divine creation - therefore we absolutely need to become aware of them, and correct them.  


It's a big job - for a Christian to identify that which used-to-be regarded as harmless, or even as necessary, to his faith - and then reject it as incompatible with the basic aim of Christian life! 

Yet something like that, seems to be the special and vital spiritual task of this time and place. 


Monday, 26 June 2023

Christianity in time, in history

I was reading a chapter by RJ Reilly called "A note on Barfield, romanticism and time"; in the 1976 Owen Barfield Festschrift "The Evolution of Consciousness" - in which Reilly begins by making some striking and insightful points about the fact that Christianity is located in history, posits a sequence of events that are changes, and a goal (i.e. resurrection, everlasting Heavenly life). 

It would seem obvious that the metaphysical roots, its most most fundamental assumptions, would include 'time' - not Time as some kind of separable abstract entity; but time inextricably woven into the basic assumed realities of Christianity.

Yet (as Reilly's chapter goes on to describe) many Christians - especially among philosophers and theologians - have felt it necessary to root Christianity in the Time-less and the unchanging. This decision - sooner or later, somewhere or another - leads to a contradiction; whereby the historical, sequential nature of Christianity meets-up with its supposed eternal but unchanging ground. 


The contradiction may linguistically be reframed - as a paradox, mystery, polarity, or whatever; but I regard these tactics as ultimately hypnotic word-spells, intended to stop-thinking. 

It is extremely rare to come-across a Christian who accepts what I regard as the necessity to base Christianity in ultimate metaphysical explanations that sustain the need for history, sequence, change, a goal...  

Barfield himself was Not one of these Christians. He continued to try and ground time-located/ directed Christianity in "the unchanging" - he merely attempted this in a different place and with a different terminology; but with the same contradiction (as indeed there must always be since a situation of change and no-change cannot be combined). 


This feeling that changelessness, no-time, is The ultimate reality - permeates Eastern Religion in general, and much of Western - such as Platonism and its developments - but it is in practice an "elite" concern. It seems that intellectuals - because of their propensity to speak and write in abstractions; are perhaps disposed to assume that such timeless and general entities are ultimate; and/or to regard the final goal of life as one of unchanging spiritual bliss - including an end to the thinking which is both the distinction and the curse of being an intellectual. 

The contradiction between the eternal and unchanging, and life, is necessarily found in all religions that include no-time as a fundamental assumption; although it varies where and how this contradiction is manifest. In Christianity, the contradiction undercuts the simplicity and clarity of understanding what Jesus did and taught. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the contradiction is instead between theory and practice - because the theory states that life is irredeemably worthless in its entirety.

Yet these are religions - making many discernments of values and practice, and having elaborate rituals, requirements, symbolism etc. There are all kinds of hypnotic word-spells that purport to join-together the time-less and time-bound; but they are psychological manipulations, not genuine understanding. 


Children, tribal peoples, and simple folk often have a very different way of talking about such things - yet typically implicit and unconscious; which is rooted in the assumption that the world is made of Beings - living, conscious, purposive Beings; that change and may transform, but can neither be created nor destroyed: they Just Are, and Always Have Been.

There never has been any good reason why Christianity shouldn't share exactly this 'primitive, Beings-based metaphysics - but explicitly rather than unconsciously and by implication; yet the first known person to understand Christianity in this apparently obvious and common-sensical fashion seems to have been Joseph Smith (the Mormon prophet) from about 1830!  

Neither Barfield, nor Steiner his Master, knew anything about Mormon theology, and did not make this inference on their own - so both remain captive to the contradiction. 


I regard it as a serious weakness of Christianity that the class of intellectuals and theologians have (like those of other religions) violated and over-written the innate and spontaneous assumptions about reality, with which we all came into the world; and replaced them with something that does not make sense.

Presumably, we are all intrinsically capable of recovering our original unconscious child's understanding, of making it conscious to our adult minds, and choosing to accept it as true.  

That sounds simple and easy, but the rarity with which it is achieved suggests that - although it may indeed be simple - it is not easy. 


Metaphysics never is easy to do; which is why our Western world is so deeply and widely corrupted, and still getting worse. 


Review of Simon Blaxland-de Lange's biography - Owen Barfield: Romanticism come of age

Simon Blaxland-de Lange. Owen Barfield: Romanticism come of age. Temple Lodge Publishing: Forest Row, UK, 2006/ Second Edition 2021. pp. xvii, 367. 


Blaxland-de Lange's is the only biography of Owen Barfield, and it is very good. 

Indeed, because its greatest strength is that BdL has such a deep understanding of Barfield's ideas, this biography is a way by which someone could approach reading Barfield from scratch. By reading the biography first, the potential explorer can discover which of Barfield's very various books he would be most likely to enjoy and appreciate - and therefore where he might best start reading. 


The biography's great strength, might also be regarded as a stumbling block; which is that BdL is - like Barfield - a serious, indeed professional, Anthroposophist - a follower of Rudolf Steiner. 

This has the great advantage of providing valid and thorough explanations of this aspect of Barfield, which aspect is usually so badly covered by most other writers about Barfield - few of whom have made the (considerable!) effort necessary to get to grips with Steiner's vast oeuvre

On the other hand; the book is written on the basis of Anthroposophical assumptions, and includes reference to Steiner concepts; that will strike the na├»ve reader as bizarre, as well as startling. Yet, there is also a good deal of Steiner, and indeed the core of his work; that is potentially of primary importance to everyone; so to attain understanding is well worth a bit of effort.   


The organization of the book is somewhat eccentric. It begins conventionally enough, with a "biographical sketch" which gives an overview of Barfield's life, and some of the major incidents - ending with some snapshots of his attitudes and concerns at the end of his ninety-nine year life. 

After this, the book is presented in a thematic way, with different chapters covering different aspects of Barfield's life and ideas - and these chapters are not in any overall chronological arrangement, but instead each chapter includes whatever is relevant to its particular concern. 

This means that - after the first overview - the book chapters can be read, without loss, in almost any order; and this has been my practice over the decade-plus since I bought the first edition. 


Second edition differences are minimal. Indeed, I could only myself detect the addition of an Appendix making available for the first time Psychography; which was an aborted draft attempt, from the late 1940s, at a spiritual autobiography by Barfield - which runs at 12 pages, and stops in Barfield's late teens. 

This is well worth reading, as a further insight into some fundamental aspects of Barfield - including his extreme shyness and reserve in talking on the topic of himself. 

For instance, he writes about the psychological effects of his problem with stammering; but never actually says what that problem was! If the reader did not already know about this problem from elsewhere, then the passage would be highly mystifying - and the problem sounds more sinister, and shameful, than it actually was.  


In sum: Romanticism Come of Age is probably the only indispensable book about Owen Barfield - anyone who is interested by Barfield will want a copy, and will consult it frequently. 


Thursday, 23 March 2023

Four reasons to read Owen Barfield - even if you already know Rudolf Steiner

It seems to be a fault of Anthroposophists seriously to read only Rudolf Steiner himself, and secondarily those who explain and expound Steiner's own views. 

But if Steiner himself is taken seriously, then he was establishing a 'way' (a Spiritual Science) rather than a body of information:

"Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe". Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, Number 1 - my emphasis. 


Therefore it should be expected that those who engage most deeply with Steiner will potentially be able to produce original and valuable work, by going either wider or deeper than the Master - and thus, in principle, be worth reading. 

We can then ask: why read Owen Barfield specifically? 

What does Barfield offer that he does better than Steiner? 


1. Flavour

Barfield's writing has a very different flavour than Steiner, since they have very different personalities. Some who dislike the taste of Steiner will enjoy Barfield. 

2. Prose

For an English speaker, it is relevant that Barfield wrote in English, and in a clean and elegant prose style; whereas Steiner wrote in a 'Victorian' style of German that is (apparently) rather dry and pedantic in the original, and in translation often reads awkwardly. Barfield's prose is always concise and focused; while Steiner (especially in the lectures) is often rambling and discursive.  

3. Quantity and Quality 

Steiner wrote, and had transcribed from lectures, a truly overwhelming quantity of work; of widely variable levels of quality and interest; whereas Barfield published a more manageable body of work. While Steiner at his best is better than even the best of Barfield; Barfield's average level of quality and relevance is significant higher than Steiner's average.    

4. Themes

Barfield wrote in depth and detail about several matters that Steiner covered less well or not at all. For instance, Barfield wrote a lot, and with many example and references, about the development of language and especially of words. 

Barfield discussed the nature of modern (post-Einstein-ian) science and post-genetics Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory; and the implications for science and society more generally. 

Barfield also rooted his critique in the modern Western condition as it developed after the 1914-18 World War and up to the 1980s; aspects such as alienation, existentialist disaffection, radical politics, and the sexual revolution, and destruction of the environment - especially by buildings, noise and pollution. 


So there are plenty of good reasons to read Owen Barfield, even for someone who is already familiar with Rudolf Steiner. 

 

Monday, 6 March 2023

Going beyond Barfield's focus on the romantic imagination

Plenty of people, of many types, have the kind of positive, enjoyable - even joyous or blissful - imaginative experiences that get called things like epiphanies or peak-experiences.

These might typically happen in deep conversation with friends, in beautiful places, or in response to literature or music. These could be called "romantic imaginative" experiences. 

I certainly had many such moments as an adolescent and young adult; and I also regarded them as very important in my life; in the sense that I sought and cherished them, and felt that they had significance. 


But this was not enough! - and such moments did not have a sufficiently powerful effect on my life; I did not learn from such experiences, they did not transform my life, they did not give my life personal purpose or meaning. 

I always felt as if on the cusp of a breakthrough that never came - and meanwhile my life was essentially just like everybody else's; and becoming more so with each year. 

But, I did not have any explanation as to why such things were important: what made them important, whether the importance was just for me - or maybe had general significance. 


Much of this was that my basic assumptions about life and the universe denied any overall purpose and meaning for things-in-general - so it was not really possible for my individual life to have these. 

In other words; lacking a metaphysical explanation (in terms of primary assumptions about the nature of reality) that explained the purpose and meaning in Life-in-general; I lacked an explanation for the value of joy/ epiphanies/ peak-experiences. 

But even for those who do have a metaphysical explanation for the value of Life Itself, will not get real value from specific romantic imaginative experiences, unless they have a metaphysical explanation for the value of joy/ epiphanies/ peak-experiences within that general context.


And this is what many/ most Christians lack. Their Christian understanding is such that they cannot explain to themselves what it is that romantic imagination contributes to their own life; and therefore they typically undervalue it - maybe even denying it has any ultimate significance.

It was the nature of Owen Barfield's contribution to the study of romantic imagination that he provided just such an explanation - although he claimed (wrongly) that his explanation was 'epistemological' rather than 'metaphysical'

Barfield explained this in terms that Romantic Imagination was a form of 'knowledge' or knowing. (It is easier, I find, to understand this as know-ing - something dynamic happening here and now; rather than a know-ledge - something statically achieved concerning something fixed and bounded.)


Yet, I think we need to move beyond imagination as the focus, of concern to intuition. Imagination is experienced as coming from outside us, like an inspiration of knowledge; whereas intuition is about what is within us.

While imagination has connotations of passively receiving something from without; intuition recognizes that we do and must actively participate in the creation of knowledge

By this account; the experienced romantic imagination of joy, epiphany, peak-experiences; is a step towards our active investigation of reality by means of intuitive discernment, and the active exploration of our fundamental needs for knowledge, guidance, validation. 


What I mean is that romantic imagination is something that happens-to us, and its value is thus limited; but intuition can be understood as an active engagement with divine creation, something that we decide and will from our-selves. 

Therefore, I think it is more important that we have a metaphysical understanding of intuition; than of imagination - and that is what I have tried to attain by my reflections on primary-thinking, heart-thinking, and direct-knowing

Which is, I believe, the mode by which Barfield's Final Participation may be attained in this mortal life - albeit intermittently and temporarily. 


Sunday, 5 February 2023

How to filter-out the "outlandish and bizarre" elements in Rudolf Steiner

Of all the important thinkers of the twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner is perhaps the most difficult to come to grips with. For the unprepared reader, his work presents a series of daunting obstacles. 

To begin with, there is the style, which is formidably abstract, and as unappetizing as dry toast. But a determined reader could learn to put up with that.

The real problem lies with the content, which is often so outlandish and bizarre that the reader suspects either a hoax or a confidence trick. 

Books like Cosmic Memory, with its account of Atlantis and Lemuria, seem to belong on the same shelf as titles like Our Hollow Earth, or My trip to Venus in a Flying Saucer

The resulting sense of frustration is likely to cause even the most open-minded reader to give up in disgust.


The first paragraph of Rudolf Steiner, by Colin Wilson, 1985.

*

The Big Problem with Rudolf Steiner (as I have said many times) is that most of what he said and wrote was wrong; but some of what he wrote is sufficient to establish him as one of a handful of the most vital thinkers of the past couple of centuries. 

But because most of Steiner (a very high percentage!) is wrong; on the one hand, most people reject his work outright; while on the other hand, Steiner's disciples and followers (mostly in the Anthroposophical Society, which he founded) are mostly wrong in what they believe - to the point that they miss the significance and importance of what he was right about.  


What Steiner needs, therefore, is scholars who will take was is good and leave aside what is not; and the closest we have to this is Owen Barfield who, in addition, added much of value to what he took from Steiner. 

But even Barfield seems to have been unable to be clear about the nature of Steiner's work, and respected him to the point that he never (that I have seen) denied anything that Steiner ever said. What Barfield instead did was - in his writings - focus on the aspects of Steiner about which he was most sure; and said little or nothing about the colossal number of claims that Steiner made about... everything under the sun, and indeed from many ages before the sun. 

Barfield always recommended Steiner's earliest philosophical books; but did not make clear to the putative reader that most of Steiner's later books will strike most people as simply absurd, and obviously false. 


My understanding is that the major problem for those who regard Steiner as important, and who accept his core analysis and teachings; cannot find grounds from within this teachings for rejecting anything that Steiner ever said or wrote. 

Steiner purports do be doing a spiritual science; and repeatedly emphasizes that anyone can test his claims for themselves by spiritual investigation - yet, in practice, it seems that nobody ever feels able to do this, and must therefore treat all of Steiner's claims as if they constituted inerrant scripture.  

This seems to be because Steiner was able (at will) to produce in himself - while awake and alert and with full reasoning and memory capacities - a kind of consciousness that perceived the occult world - from which he reported back his observations and interpretations; and nobody else has since been able to do this. Certainly not in the vast volume that Steiner did in his lectures after about 1897, and accelerating until near his death in 1925. 


Because Steiner's followers cannot do what Steiner did to generate his claims, they feel unable to check his claims; and therefore simply take them on trust - regarding them as true because Steiner said them. Steiner discourse is therefore closely analogous to 'fundamentalist' Protestants in terms of Anthroposophists citing their scripture, and argument proceeds by proof-texting - by trading quotes and citations. 


For reasons that I set out in the post earlier today; I believe there is another and practical way of checking Steiner's claims; which can be done by anyone serious about understanding what is valid in Steiner, and using methods that Steiner recommended as the best and himself practiced

And that 'method' is simply by reading Steiner in the spirit of direct-knowing, of heart-thinking

Instead of trying to replicate Steiner's method of observing the hidden spirit world by inner perception; the reader tests Steiner's claims by intuitive means. 

Whenever a claim of Steiner's fails to be sustained by heart-thinking, whenever his premises or a line of argument is unsupported by the direct-knowing of our deepest thinking - then it is rejected as untrue. 


In other words; we accept from Steiner only that which is specifically sustained and confirmed by our own deepest-possible intuitive responses. 

This, I repeat, is exactly what Steiner recommended in those works of his that he regarded as his most important (specifically The Philosophy of Freedom, which he repeated many times was his fundamental publication). 

Therefore, we can - and in a viable and valid fashion - refute the mass of Steiner, and filter-out from the nonsense that which we most need and could benefit from. 


Saturday, 4 February 2023

Refuting Rudolf Steiner's innumerable specific claims - the example of Owen Barfield

Of all the important thinkers of the twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner is perhaps the most difficult to come to grips with. For the unprepared reader, his work presents a series of daunting obstacles. 

To begin with, there is the style, which is formidably abstract, and as unappetizing as dry toast. But a determined reader could learn to put up with that.

The real problem lies with the content, which is often so outlandish and bizarre that the reader suspects either a hoax or a confidence trick. 

Books like Cosmic Memory, with its account of Atlantis and Lemuria, seem to belong on the same shelf as titles like Our Hollow Earth, or My trip to Venus in a Flying Saucer

The resulting sense of frustration is likely to cause even the most open-minded reader to give up in disgust.


The first paragraph of Rudolf Steiner, by Colin Wilson, 1985.

*

The Big Problem with Rudolf Steiner (as I have said many times) is that most of what he said and wrote was wrong; but some of what he wrote is sufficient to establish him as one of a handful of the most vital thinkers of the past couple of centuries. 

But because most of Steiner (a very high percentage!) is wrong; on the one hand, most people reject his work outright; while on the other hand, Steiner's disciples and followers (mostly in the Anthroposophical Society, which he founded) are mostly wrong in what they believe - to the point that they miss the significance and importance of what he was right about.  


What Steiner needs, therefore, is scholars who will take was is good and leave aside what is not; and the closest we have to this is Owen Barfield who, in addition, added much of value to what he took from Steiner. 

But even Barfield seems to have been unable to be clear about the nature of Steiner's work, and respected him to the point that he never (that I have seen) denied anything that Steiner ever said. What Barfield instead did was - in his writings - focus on the aspects of Steiner about which he was most sure; and said little or nothing about the colossal number of claims that Steiner made about... everything under the sun, and indeed from many ages before the sun. 

Barfield always recommended Steiner's earliest philosophical books; but did not make clear to the putative reader that most of Steiner's later books will strike most people as simply absurd, and obviously false. 


My understanding is that the major problem for those who regard Steiner as important, and who accept his core analysis and teachings; cannot find grounds from within this teachings for rejecting anything that Steiner ever said or wrote. 

Steiner purports do be doing a spiritual science; and repeatedly emphasizes that anyone can test his claims for themselves by spiritual investigation - yet, in practice, it seems that nobody ever feels able to do this, and must therefore treat all of Steiner's claims as if they constituted inerrant scripture.  

This seems to be because Steiner was able (at will) to produce in himself - while awake and alert and with full reasoning and memory capacities - a kind of consciousness that perceived the occult world - from which he reported back his observations and interpretations; and nobody else has since been able to do this. Certainly not in the vast volume that Steiner did in his lectures after about 1897, and accelerating until near his death in 1925. 


Because Steiner's followers cannot do what Steiner did to generate his claims, they feel unable to check his claims; and therefore simply take them on trust - regarding them as true because Steiner said them. Steiner discourse is therefore closely analogous to 'fundamentalist' Protestants in terms of Anthroposophists citing their scripture, and argument proceeds by proof-texting - by trading quotes and citations. 


For reasons that I set out in the post earlier today; I believe there is another and practical way of checking Steiner's claims; which can be done by anyone serious about understanding what is valid in Steiner, and using methods that Steiner recommended as the best and himself practiced

And that 'method' is simply by reading Steiner in the spirit of direct-knowing, of heart-thinking

Instead of trying to replicate Steiner's method of observing the hidden spirit world by inner perception; the reader tests Steiner's claims by intuitive means. 

Whenever a claim of Steiner's fails to be sustained by heart-thinking, whenever his premises or a line of argument is unsupported by the direct-knowing of our deepest thinking - then it is rejected as untrue. 


In other words; we accept from Steiner only that which is specifically sustained and confirmed by our own deepest-possible intuitive responses. 

This, I repeat, is exactly what Steiner recommended in those works of his that he regarded as his most important (specifically The Philosophy of Freedom, which he repeated many times was his fundamental publication). 

Therefore, we can - and in a viable and valid fashion - refute the mass of Steiner, and filter-out from the nonsense that which we most need and could benefit from. 


Rudolf Steiner's understanding of the spiritual world

I am re-reading Colin Wilson's excellent book about Rudolf Steiner: the man and his vision (1985) - which he opens by saying that Steiner's core assumption is twofold: that there is a super-sensible, spiritual world hidden 'behind' the everyday world of the senses - and from-which the perceived world is derived. And secondly; that thus world is knowable by those who choose to develop their latent abilities. 

So far, this is hardly distinctive; except that the way in which the hidden ('occult') world was discovered was not by trance, dream or other 'hallucinatory'-state but by an intensification of the alert, awake, clear thinking that Steiner regarded as characteristic of science.

Steiner therefore called his practice a Spiritual Science (and the specific type of spiritual science he recommended, he termed Anthroposophy).


But when we are told of a spiritual world behind the perceptual world; this naturally seems to evoke a picture in our minds of two perceptual worlds. 

In other words, we often imagine the surface everyday world of solid-things, then - separated from it by a barrier - another world of spirit-things. 

When we imagine ourselves knowing the spiritual world, therefore we imagine seeing/ hearing/ touching the spiritual world by something like of an extra set of new senses.  


At times, especially in his later career as a leader in the Theosophical Society then originator of Anthroposophy; Steiner writes exactly like that about his own experiences. 

He describes observing, in an inward fashion, the activities of spiritual beings such as the so-called-dead or angels, on planes of reality not perceptible to the senses. 

Steiner describes (what seems like) observing events of the life of Jesus, or the evolution - and re-incarnation - of the earth; and/or the history of reality in 'Akashic' records that sound like scrolls recording everything that ever happened, but which can be seen and read by inner sight.  

This seems exactly like traditional religious experiences of a 'hallucinatory type'; seeing visions, hearing voices, perceiving other times and places... But with the difference that Steiner had these experiences - not in the context of a trance or dream or religious ecstasy, but in everyday waking consciousness.    


But at other times, Steiner seems to be clear that the understanding of supersensible reality comes by direct understanding, into the realm of thinking; and therefore Not by means of observing inner perceptions with new inner senses. 

(This is the message of his early books Science and Knowledge, and The Philosophy of Freedom.) 

This is what I have variously termed primary thinkingheart-thinking, or direct-knowing; and is a type of intuition. 

It is envisaged as learning without the intermediary of first perceiving some kind of representation like a picture, and then needing to understand what one has perceived. But with direct-knowing, instead the understanding comes into our thinking without mediation - the subjective experience is that knowledge simply 'arises' in our thinking.  

Such a mode of direct and unmediated knowing, is a much rarer and historically more distinctive way of penetrating to the hidden world of the spirit. 


My conclusion is that Steiner did both: Sometimes he perceived the hidden world of spirit with inner vision: Other times he knew the hidden world directly, in thinking. 

But he failed always to be clear about which he had done, and about which was the better mode of knowing.  

Of these; direct-knowing is the more fundamental and potentially valid way of understanding the hidden spiritual world; because any form of inner vision must entail the further step of interpreting its meaning. 

Whereas (by my understanding - not Steiner's) the perceiving mode provides a very high volume of potentially very specific information - but its validity is much less than direct knowing. 

Because this kind of perceptual information can be 'manufactured' by learnable techniques of meditation, and produced almost at will by those with aptitude. Yet, at the level of specific detail, each such 'visionary' will produce his or her own unique and unreplicable description from observing the hidden world - as can be seen from comparing (say) Swedenborg, Blavatsky and Steiner; or the various New Age channelers of the late 20th century.

(Although Steiner seems to have copied then modified a great deal of Blavatsky's general descriptive scheme of metaphysics and history.)    


To avoid confusion; we would need to avoid talking about the super-sensible world in ways that conjure up an inner world of pictures, stories, observed beings. 

We would need to cease talking about experiences such as watching the work of angels, reading the Akashic records, hearing the words of spiritual guides and the like, feeling our hands driven to engage in automatic writing - and other similar things.  

In sum: There is a hidden spiritual world, and it can be known; but it is ultimately known-by-knowing, therefore not known by (yet another) layer of perceiving. 


Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Whatever happened to Final Participation in the decades since it was refused and rejected?

Owen Barfield formulated the concept of Final Participation some seventy years ago - building upon the work of Rudolf Steiner who died a century ago; and they both understood that this was the destiny for Man - a divine destiny which, if refused, would become pathology as its impulses were distorted in the process of 'materializing'. 

In other words; Final Participation is a spiritual and Good imperative; but if the primacy (and true nature) of the spiritual was to be denied, if this necessary Good was refused - as in fact happened - then the imperative would change Mankind; but in bad ways. 


Final Participation entails Men consciously choosing the reality which they affirm and live-by; and the divine destiny was to affirm divine creation and the spirit. 

Anything else would - does - lead to pathology.  

What we, therefore, find is that creative spiritual impulses get horribly-distorted into destructive materiality when their proper channel is refused. 


If we look at any one of the (from a Christian perspective) Big Lies that dominate public discourse in the world today; we can infer that it originated in some Good spiritual impulse that has been twisted into evil materiality. 

The major terminus of materiality in the modern world is that bureaucracy which characterizes the global totalitarian System. 

It is best if each works-out the examples for himself; but we could consider the horrible ways in which an underlying spiritual destiny concerning sex and sexuality has been made into an anti-Christian/ anti-Human/ anti-functional System of unnatural, dishonest and (spiritually as well and physically) destructive outcomes; in terms of material laws, regulations, subsidies and arts/ media propaganda. 


Because we inhabit a spirit-denying world; all that is truly spiritual Must-Be reduced to the physical material; and because the System officially regards reality as non-theistic, purposeless and meaningless - therefore all (in origin) Good impulses are necessarily transformed and twisted to evil. 

And this will continue until we acknowledge, understand and evaluate our ultimate assumptions regarding the nature of reality.