The mystery of stuff and other things
I was rereading Georg Blattmann’s fine little book: “Radiant Matter: decay and consecration” (hard to find a copy, sorry), which is about the table of chemical elements, and its esoteric meaning, when I ran into this comment in the introduction.
“’I have made a great mistake’, Einstein said later, ‘in writing the letter to the president’, which informed him that it was possible to create a nuclear explosion.”
Not many scientists regret their deeds. Made me wonder if Rudolf Steiner ever regretted any of his works. I have nothing but the question, yet my view is that it remains a vital question to acknowledge.
I was reading Blattmann’s booklet because I was working on giving some order to my reading possibilities, and had chosen using the seven liberal arts as a formative guide. These are: rhetoric, grammar, logic, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, and music.
I had previously used this formative order of the seven liberal arts, in an article I wrote called: https://thecollectiveimagination.com/2019/10/29/tiger-saucy-writes-an-open-letter-to-greta-thunberg/
[Grammar] a gospel of knowing: “A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception” … [Logic] a gospel of the imagination: “Poetic Diction” …[Rhetoric] a gospel of the soul: “On Becoming an Alchemist” … [Arithmetic] a gospel of physics: Will – fire: “Man or Matter” … [Geometry] a gospel of organic chemistry: – Air – intellect: “The Nature of Substance” … [Music] a gospel of the nature of movement; Water – feeling: “Sensitive Chaos” … [Astronomy] a gospel of life: Earth – consciousness: “The Plant: vol I and II”
This arrangement was done instinctively, and somewhat arbitrarily. The reasoning is detailed in the article.
When, for the purpose of my reading list, I came to the art: Music, I felt a need to reread my books on chemistry. First Blattmann’s little wonder, and then Hauschka’s “The Nature of Substance”. My instinct was that there was a kind of music in the relationships of various kinds of matter to each other, and that the combination of elements (notes) into molecular compounds was a kind of “score”.
Parallel to these interests, I was still not satisfied with how I might “see” (with my thinking imagination), the manner in which the elemental kingdoms of salamanders, sylphs, undines, and gnomes, related to the chemical structures existing in our technology.
Plastics make up a good deal of the weight of your laptop. Plastic materials are used externally in the laptop’s body and internally in circuit boards, wiring insulation, fans and other components. Plastics have long chemical names like polystyrene or polyvinylchloride, but are mostly composed of two key elements, carbon and hydrogen. Some laptop plastics contain additional elements, such as nitrogen, chlorine or sulfur.
Many laptop bodies are made of the element aluminium, used for its light weight, strength and appearance. Steel is also a common material for structural support components and hardware like screws; steel is mostly iron, but also contains the elements carbon and nickel. Copper is a substantial component of laptops used in wiring on circuit boards and to connect electrical components.
One of the largest components in a laptop is the power source, which is typically a lithium-ion battery. The key element is lithium and other elements are used in the battery for the electrolytes and components. The most common lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt, oxygen and carbon.
Other elements are commonly found in laptops in small quantities. Silicon is used to manufacture microchips. The optical components in laptop screens can include indium, gallium and arsenic. Solder is made up of multiple metals, such as tin and bismuth. Internal motors contain tiny magnets comprised of neodymium. A few electronic components have minute quantities of precious metals such as gold or platinum.”(1)
A few years ago, I wrote a long article trying to work out the relationship between the four classical elements of antiquity: fire/will, air/intellect, water/feeling, and earth/consciousness; and, the four fundamental forces/transformations of modern physics: gravity, electo-magnetic, and the strong and weak nuclear interactions.
All of this is related to my more central thesis, which is that if we are to have a “moral” technology, we need to accomplish that by establishing a conscious communion-with the Beings that rule the work of the Elementals.
The Elementals have no free will, and their works therefore have to be organized from hierarchies above their “pay grade”, to borrow a common cliche`.
Rudolf Steiner, in both his remarks on “atoms”, “electricity”, and even the tiny organic “germs” and “viruses”, seemed to be of the view that the basic problem was that the “ideas” of scientific materialism were woefully inadequate in grasping the actual reality of the tiny world. He wanted/needed us – his students – to work at forming more consciously what is meant by the idea “atom” or “germ”, if we were to have any hope of understanding, and then – perhaps – evoking new knowledge (personal experience, not derivative from reading text) of the inner workings of such phenomena.
In my view, the great work of the individual in modern times is to re-ensoul material reality, by not treating physical objects as mindless things, but rather as representations of living spiritual works of art, all of which possess consciousness, even if it just the consciousness of the elemental beings.
As a suggestion, just try to imagine your computer/laptop/tablet/smart phone as having an interior inside, that can begin to be cognized by imagining the device backwards as to its journey into existence, in stages, all the way back to their “molecules” and “atoms”, and then forward, letting the imagination “feel” the evolution of our technology.
This is kin to the imagination of the “pencil” in Knowledge of Higher Worlds. It (this imaginative faculty) is a version of Goethe’s phenomenological approach to Nature. We recreate the changes over time, in the picture-mind, and if we are patient, the phenomena can begin to speak.
For a moment, consider “sunlight”. Goethe spoke of color as the deeds and sufferings of light. Rays of light, or better yet: the field of light, has an interior which we need to honor in our prayers of gratitude. Soul is everywhere, even in a keyboard.