It isn’t easy loving Rudolf Steiner
During most of my first seven years in this body, I was studying my “self” using Franz Bardon’s three remarkable texts on the Hermetic Science (magic) of the ancient Egyptians (all of my Bardon books have magical adventure stories, as to how they came into my possession). These works include a practical training in the mystery of the four elements, and I had reached the level of being able to pore-breath the elemental fire (will), when I met RS through his books.
The year was 1978, and because of Steiner the center of my practices then began to shift. My first three lecture books were: Agriculture, The Gospel of Luke, and The Gospel of John.
I experienced myself to be living in a magical school, literally. Divine Providence ran It. I lived in the San Francisco / Berkeley / Marin area for almost 14 years. An aspect of the school was the existence of posters everywhere. Wooden telephone poles were the place of choice for these ads, about … politics, spiritual gurus, dance studios, and more.
U.C. Berkeley had a south entrance, Sproul Plaza, down the middle of its length ran a dozen upright two-sided wooden poster opportunities – each was about six by 4 feet, and on posts that made it all at eye level. Some people made money going around everywhere, putting new posters up, and covering over what was already there.
I prowled bookstores. Lived in unfinished basements. For a long time, I didn’t have keys to anything. I tried to do Psycho-Tarot readings on Telegraph Avenue, which runs all the way from central Oakland to Sproul Plaza. Near the University, street vendors were everywhere. At Christmas time, folks came from their farms and such, to sell high quality “objects” for reasonable prices. So many, that during that season the City of Berkeley sold permits, and tried to organized who got to set up where.
I had been reading RS for about three years before I ran into a poster advertising an “anthroposophical” event. Two Christian Community priests were to give a pair of individual lectures in SF one night – first Steiner folk I met. I later met the mother of my last two children, at a study group in the Berkeley hills.
I had the good fortune to have discovered a remarkable bookseller. He named his very small place: Sunshine Books, and worked there alone. Far from Sproul, probably for better rents. Once I started being an irregular regular customer, he’d buy books – I’d never heard of – he thought I might like.
Met Owen Barfield there. Bought Whicher’s Projective Geometry there. Got a rare collection of George Adams’ essays there.
One day when I was broke and out of work, my new love (mother of four and five) gave me three twenty dollar bills and said go across the Bay to SF, hang out with my younger brother, and get stoned. On the way, I stopped at Field’s Book Store on Polk Street, and found used copies of Lehr’s “Man or Matter”; and Hauschka’s “The Nature of Substance”. I still have them.
It was my birthday.
A riddle: Are anthroposophists capable of admitting that Steiner was ever wrong?
Did Rudolf Steiner ever admit he was mistaken about anything? If human beings have a common serious flaw, it is the fear to admit error. Yet, his students seem obsessed with his perfection.
My experience, over 40 years of meeting his students, is that many cannot even entertain such an idea. I had a friend, a curative eurythymist, who I asked whether or not she thought him capable of error, and she said: “Maybe he cut himself shaving, but otherwise no.”
When more than a few others meet us, they can sense the “guru” mystique in our minds, because of our endless need to quote him … so they turn away because that habit is to them a failing – so many gurus crashed and burned since the ‘60’s: “Not rational”.
We say we do a spiritual “science”, but science is in part rooted in doubt, not belief. I think it was Eric Hoffer who wrote of the dangers of the “true believer”.
Irina Gordienko’s repressed book, “Sergei O. Prokofieff: Myth and Reality”, exposing in detail the weaknesses in his works, had this to say in the introduction:
“When a false or non-proven assertion appears in the scientific press, this is taken as a signal for the opening of a scientific debate, which continues until the matter is resolved, even if further research has to be carried out. It is quite a different situation in the Anthroposophical media. There one can write whatever one likes, provided no interests are put at risk and the familiar terminology is used. Any attempt to criticize such printed assertions is condemned out of a false ethical principle: tolerance towards a person is confused with tolerance of his mistakes. [emphasis added, ed.] The ideal of brotherly love comes to mean little more than the maintaining of ‘diplomatic relations’ with ones neighbor, while remaining indifferent to his spiritual destiny.
“This is, in our opinion, by no means a sign of irresponsibility – this is only secondary – but is rather the expression of a materialism that is deeply rooted in the unconscious, inclining one to experience inter-personal relations in the present as absolutely real, while the working of the counter-forces which stand behind every lie is ignored or is at best passed off as an abstract theory, about which one can hold clever discussions, but which, as soon as one returns to the reality of life, will be forgotten. “An incorrect result of research in the spiritual world is a living being. It is there; it must be resisted, it must first be eradicated” [R.S. (22.10.1915, GA 254.”
All billions of us humans are engaged, in trials – hopefully – creating the true and the good out of the own heart’s mind. We, who love RS, risk dependence upon Steiner’s work. We tend to think we know something because we read it in a book. This is actually a problem resolved via his The Philosophy of Freedom, … except so few go to that place in the mind, where: “One must be able to confront an idea and experience it, in order not to fall into its bondage”.
Emerson had an interesting take on this. The only purpose of a book is to inspire, and we lose ourselves if we place our own mind in orbit around another’s.
Years ago I found myself reading lecture series after lecture series, yet not at all satisfied. Something wanted was not happening. The time spent on reading did not develop the quality of my thinking. Only introspection – via the methods of natural science – unfolds the mysteries of thinking.
What are those methods? Their main quality is to seek to be empirical. Each of us walks the individual labyrinth of their personal days, following the maze of the own heart’s mind, both explored and unexplored.
Steiner pointed toward the basic riddle, in that in his books “Theosophy” and “Occult Science – an Outline” he uses – in the introductions of both books – the word “understanding” many times – to describe what spiritual effect the books will produce.
Not knowledge, understanding.
In my article with the title: “The least read most important book Steiner ever wrote”, I report on a remark made by Owen Barfield, when he was asked if there was a book he read that fit Steiner’s indication that it would be better if people read one book fifty times, rather than fifty books once. His reply was: “A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s world conception, the least read most important book Steiner ever wrote.”
In that article I also quote the contents pages of Steiner’s GA-2 A Theory … ; GA-3, his dissertation: Truth and Knowledge; and GA-4: “The Philosophy of Freedom”. http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/lrsew.html
These contents pages, in themselves, are very instructive, and Steiner wrote this in Occult Science, near the end of Chapter Five:
“The path that leads to sense-free thinking by way of the communications of spiritual science is thoroughly reliable and sure. There is however another that is even more sure, and above all more exact [emphasis added, ed,]; at the same time, it is for many people more difficult. The path in question is set forth in my books The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World-Conception and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. These books tell what man’s thinking can achieve when directed not to impressions that come from the outer world of the physical sense but solely upon itself. When this is so, we have within us no longer the kind of thinking that concerns itself merely with memories of the things of the sense; we have instead pure thinking which is like a being that has life within itself. In the above mentioned books you will find nothing at all that is derived from the communications of spiritual science. They testify to the fact that pure thinking, working within itself alone, can throw light on the great questions of life – questions concerning the universe and man. The books thus occupy a significant intermediate position between knowledge of the sense-world and knowledge of the spiritual world. What they offer is what thinking can attain when it rises above sense-observation, yet still holds back from entering upon the spiritual, supersensible research. One who wholeheartedly pursues the train of thought indicated in these books is already in the spiritual world; only it makes itself known to him as a thought-world. [emphasis added, ed.] Whoever feels ready to enter upon this intermediate path of development will be taking a safe and sure road, and it will leave with him a feeling in regard to the higher world that will bear rich fruit in all time to come.”
I have written this short article, because the future of Steiner’s works is in jeopardy, due to a kind of understandable spiritual laziness among his “followers”. What is this laziness? The difficult, and long time developing, work of empirical self observation of the own thinking. For too many, a good Steiner quote is what they offer on Facebook, but seldom their own thoughts.
I wouldn’t mind reading stories about folks lives, same as I offered above. You know how we say each book is its own universe, … each life is a library of unwritten books. Remembering and Forgetting is one of the four pairs of gates to Faerie. In the soul alchemy of the four elements, Remembering and Forgetting is the Earth element, which was for the ancient Egyptian priests the symbol for Consciousness.
When otherwise not occupied, our reverie includes past stories, and future plans.
The future is not yet written. Do you think for yourself, or do you let Steiner think for you? This last is also quite important, because Steiner is mistaken on a number of crucial spiritual realities, particularly the Realms of the Inner Earth, the relationship of those to the Holy Mother – Earth Mother, and the Mysteries of the Americas.
This is not my first rodeo, where people are struggling with this problem of the differences between belief, understanding, and knowledge. Sometimes when I post, folk respond by suggesting another way of seeing what I have been describing. They want to doubt my thought, as it were. Excellent. Follow what you feel.
I don’t know if this will be useful to anyone, but at one point a dozen years ago, I started – on occasion – examining the content of my mind, and asking myself, whether that bit of content was a belief, an understanding, or knowledge. This isn’t about doubting yourself, … it is about sharpening a tool for inner work. There is no right or wrong answer.
Emerson again: The American Scholar: “For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds…”
~!~!~!~!~!~~~!>+7=* is blockchain code for the mental world. There is only One Mind, yet so vast it takes the whole of the Creation to sing Its Songs. And we humans, well … She gives all of us just enough rope to hang ourselves. Whether or not we chose hanging, with the rope of carelessly knotted thought, or to zoom like an eagle on the winds of the imagination …
These are not opposites. Knot and Zoom, in balance make Art … one Now at a time.