March 2004 Archives

An exercise in observation

Below is something I wrote for a workshop. The assignment was to stand outside for 15 minutes and note everything that you percieved with your senses.

The loudest sound I heard was a sound between a plop and a plunk that came from my shoulders. Some of these sounds were louder than others. It was rain hitting my jacket. The larger drops made an almost popping noise as they hit the wet canvas surface of my coat. In closer to my ears was a sound of a different pitch. It sounded like droplets of water hitting urethane foam. This was the sound of water droplets hitting my fleece hat. I took my hat off for little while and there was a huge change in the soundscape. The higher pitched noises of the drops on the hat were gone. The rain hitting my hair made no sound that I could hear. But then I could feel the cold of the water; not right away but slowly, gradually, as enough of it got through the hair and down to my scalp. Eventually enough collected to start running down my forehand. At that point the water was already warmer. I put my hat back on.

I noted six separate birdcalls. They were repeated at varying intervals. Sometimes one bird called simultaneous to another (I saw several dozen birds). One bird called regularly with the same short burst of sound, repeated nearly a dozen times - then a pause. Others would call one phrase, and then wait. It was not possible to determine whether the various calls came from the same bird, or if another bird was answering or imitating. There was no larger pattern to their calling that I could discern, no identifiably rhythm or superstructure to their voices; the sounds were unpredictable.

The sound of the running water formed a background to the other noises. It was regular, almost rhythmical, except it was entirely structurally chaotic. White noise is what they call it - the differences in sound are so subtle that and so close together - with so many layers of randomness - that the ear hears it almost as a single tone. With effort it was possible to isolate one blurble or gurgle that was discernibly louder or more prominent than the others, but mostly they blended one into and over the other so that they were featureless.

Occasionally I would hear a car on the road (about 600 feet away). These were heard mostly by the sound of their tires as they moved through the water on the street; the engines were inaudible. Once I heard a truck. This I identified by the sound of the engine - a diesel - as it strained on the downshift. It was faint - mostly drowned out by the stream and the steady plop of raindrops on my shoulder - but it protruded enough to be noticed.

The wind hit my left cheek more than my right. Every once in a while it would shift for a moment, but mostly it came from my left. Even after I had been indoors for fifteen minutes, I could still feel my left cheek to be cooler than my right when I put my hand to my face. Otherwise I was comfortably warm - my three layers and down jacket saw to that, plus my wool long underwear and wool socks inside insulated boots. The wind did not blow strongly enough to be felt under my clothing, or even to move my clothing perceptibly. Only my face felt this (my hands were in the pockets of my jacket).

I did not smell anything worth noting. The air was fresh with scent rain, and my jacket gave off a certain faint scent released by being wet, but otherwise there was nothing my nose could pick up.

I did not feel much beyond the wind on my cheek. The typical effort at standing was involved, but the ground was level, and nothing disturbed my balance. My clothing stayed warm, and my hat kept the rain off my face. My hands stayed in my pockets the whole time.

I saw many things: to my left a branch was dripping. It was one of a pair. It was broken, so that the end was sudden where the branch was still fairly thick. Its twin continued, and had an upward direction towards the end. This one ended in a more general direction. Water dripped off of it at a rapid rate. No sooner had one drop fallen than immediately another would form, and this one too would fall; perhaps five or six per second. Yet the drops remained distinctly formed up to the release. A little more water, and the drops would have formed in the air as the water streamed off the branch, but this was not yet the case.

The stream was higher than usual. The ripples from the raindrops formed a complex pattern of interaction with the ripples from the submerged rocks. The whole surface was in constant motion; it was not possible to fix it conceptually even for a moment. It flowed from one shape to another in every fraction of a second. The general contours remained fixed within certain limits, but the specific shape changed continually. The water was a dirty grayish color. About half way across the stream the color of the sky was more visible than the color of the water ? a pale but intense light gray (perhaps a 10% gray in a printer's intensity chart). This color merged into the dark gray along the contours of the ripples; the closer the ripple was to the horizontal the more it took its color from the sky; the more the surface tilted to the vertical, the more it became a dark gray. Parts of the bottom of the stream were visible ? the near side where the water was shallower. Smaller and larger rocks made up about half of the surface area, and were light gray to medium gray. The soil on the bottom of the stream was partly dark brown, and partly a yellow ochre. This was muted by the gray of the water.

The dominant color of the whole scene was a reddish brown. This was the color of the trees, as well as the wet and rotting leaves left over from last autumn. There was actually very little color contrast between the various types of trees; in the rain they were all slight variations of the reddish brown. Their barks differed; some had ridges that ran more in a horizontal pattern, others more to the vertical. Some had more smooth areas, others were completely ridged. A tree to my right had water pouring down one small section, from high up all the way down to the ground. The water made a thin sheet over the bark, which was mostly smooth with some horizontal striations. The water rippled over the striated portions, and the rippling made long vertical bulges in the surface of the streaming water.

Polemic and history clarified III

After "discussing" history with Peter Staudenmaier for several weeks on the Anthroposophy Tomorrow e-mail list, I wrote an article on polemic and history summarizing my views on the matter. Peter Staudenmaier excerpted two sentences and responded. I replied:

In the essay I wrote wrote:
"In such true historical research, contrary viewpoints would be first and foremost interesting, and therefore included, rather than distained and dismissed."

Peter Staudenmaier:
Why do you say "rather than"? The proper approach is to include contrary viewpoints and then criticize them and explain why you think they are mistaken. There is nothing wrong with disdaining and dismissing arguments that you think are erroneous, especially ones that you think are silly and pointless.

Daniel:
It is all about intentions again. And attitude. If you find contradictions interesting, you are more likely to try to understand each viewpoint on its own merit. If you find contradictions stupid, it is unlikely you will spend much time trying to properly understand them, and your chances of succeeding are slim. And it all goes back to whether your goal is truth or power. Peter Staudenmaier is particularly interested in criticising and distaining Rudolf Steiner's philosophy, and is so fixated on this exercise that he fails to realize he has not actually understood Steiner. This becomes truly pathetic when so many people try to help him and he ignores them all and repeats his silly claims.

Polemic and history clarified II

After "discussing" history with Peter Staudenmaier for several weeks on the Anthroposophy Tomorrow e-mail list, I wrote an article on polemic and history summarizing my views on the matter. Peter Staudenmaier excerpted two sentences and responded. I replied:

Peter Staudenmaier:
Thanks for your thoughts, Daniel. I think you still have a shaky grasp of what objectivity means to a historian and what role it plays in historical writing. I also think that a large chunk of your argument depends on the notion that persuasion is a kind of coercion. I think that idea is entirely wrongheaded. The part of your post that struck me most was this:

Daniel:
Peter, my essay on the subject suggested that the determining factor in whether persuasion is coercion is the intention of the writer. This is consistent with a number of schools of thought in the fields of ethics. I am applying it specifically to polemical writing here.

It surprises me not in the least that you would claim my solidly grounded discourses on objectivity are "shaky" to your eyes. It is entirely consistent with your agenda, and I would expect nothing less of you.

Polemic and history clarified

After "discussing" history with Peter Staudenmaier for several weeks on the Anthroposophy Tomorrow e-mail list, I wrote an article on polemic and history summarizing my views on the matter. Based on some responses, I wrote the following clarifications:

True, polemic alone does not equate automatically to dishonesty. But the polemical approach is one that offers many temptations to dishonesty, especially to the historian. Some may be able to navigate the road with their integrity intact. Others fail. The reader should be aware of this in reading a polemical writer.

Further, it is hard to remain an effective polemical writer and at the same time remain an honest historian. As a historian, it is your responsibility to consider objections and additional complementary material that is brought to your attention. As a polemical writer, it is not in your interest to consider these objections and additional complementary material. Doing so weakens your argument. One way out of this is to "play dumb" and not actually "hear" any objections. That is the path Peter Staudenmaier has chosen. In his mind, his integrity is intact, because he has never met a serious objection to any of his work. At this point that game is starting to look utterly ridiculous. It also demonstrates that he in no measure can claim that he is an honest historian trying to understand a phenomenon of the past. He is merely a polemical writer with no interest in hearing anything that doesn't support his hypothesis. In as much as he claims to the contrary, his is impinging his own integrity.

Another way of approaching the question would be to ask, "Who would Anthroposophists recognizes their own?" Those who qualify would be those who in general accept the greater portion of Rudolf Steiner's teachings, or at least are among those who don't actively reject significant portions of it. This disqualifies those who pick and choose and make their own philosophy of racial superiority out of bits and pieces of Rudolf Steiner's work, for in doing this they reject Steiner's central principles. This also disqualifies those who go through a shorter or longer phase of their life in which they are enthusiastic supporters of Anthroposophy only to reject it later, either from neglect or by actively turning against it. These can be said to have had an anthroposophical phase in their life, but the description 'Anthroposophist' cannot be applied to describe their life as a whole. This excludes Max Seiling and Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, among others from the ranks of "Anthroposophists".
We have a clear and solid definition of an Anthroposophist if we limit ourselves to those students of Steiner who have exhibited an enthusiastic support for the whole (and not just a part of) Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner's teaching from the moment they accept them up to the end of their life.
By this definition the list of historically tainted personalities becomes much shorter. Rudolf Hess is not an Anthroposophist. Ernst Uhli still qualifies, and I have to examine the facts upon which he is supposed to be a racist and Nazi more closely. I should also note that if we focus only on the small circle of personalities who are guilty of the historical sin of supporting aspects of National Socialism during their lifetimes and neglect to look at the anthroposophical movement as a whole during that time period we will build a distorted picture. Looking at just a few examples could misleadingly create the impression that there was widespread and enthusiastic support for Nazism among Anthroposophists. In reality the vast majority of Anthroposophists deplored the developments in Germany under Hitler's regime. This was the regime, after all, which banned the Anthroposophical movement and seized all its assets in 1935.

The case of Rudolf Hess raises the question of what constitutes an Anthroposophist. The first point is to consider who is applying the term and what they hope to accomplish with this. In the case of polemical authors attempting to tarnish the Anthroposophical movement as a whole by the actions of a few individuals, an excessively broad definition will serve well. Such a broad definition might define as an Anthroposophist as anyone who finds value in Steiner's work. This definition is overly broad since it would include many people who might disagree with Steiner in many areas despite finding his work valuable in some contexts. Defining as an Anthroposophist anyone who is a consumer of the practical results of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual insights is also overly broad, as it includes anyone who regularly buys Demeter brand produce or Waleda and Dr. Hauschka brand cosmetics, as well as all Waldorf parents and anyone who happens to be treated in an Anthroposophical clinic. Even if their patronage of these practical results borders on fanatical, as in the case of Rudolf Hess, I don't feel that this is sufficient to consider them an Anthroposophist.
To me an Anthroposophist is, at the very least, someone who studies Steiner's work actively. But even this is not a final definition, for a number of very hostile critics arguably also fit this criterion. Whether or not a person is an Anthroposophist is as much a question of inner attitude towards Steiner's work as it is whether or not they actively studiy it. If the reader feels a sort of warm enthusiasm when they read Steiner, then they are part of the way to meeting my definition.

Understanding without effort?

Someone asked how to present this type of biblical interpretation to people who are unwilling to read a serious book on the matter. Presenting these ideas to people unwilling or unable to make the effort to read Bock or Steiner is generally not possible; I find that you can at best plant a seed that might one day lead them in that direction. You can do this easily if you memorize Bock's arguments for his (and Steiner's) interpretation. For example, Genesis must be allegorical because the sun was not created on the first or day second day. If these were literal days, how was the time they measured? After all, we measure time by the earth's rotation around the sun. There are several such "hummm" points that Bock brings up, such as the difference between "God" the Elohim (plural in the Hebrew) mentioned at the beginning of Genesis and "God" Jehova (singular masculine) later. I don't have the book handy, but you can find them. Bringing them up in conversation, as questions can be interesting.

Sources?

I've been asked how I came to the understanding of the Bible that I expressed in previous postings. In all modesty I must confess that I came to this understanding first through Emil Bock. The Bible frankly made no sense to me before then. I had lived with the pictures from childhood, and they were beautiful, but when I tried to understand them with my literal and factual mind, I was only frustrated, and the more so because I trusted my reason over the beautiful pictures. When I read Bock's book on Genesis it was an epiphany. Later I read piece by piece in Steiner the parts that inspired Bock's book, and my understanding was further enhanced. I read the Bible carefully after that, and found myself agreeing with what I had learned.

From my own understanding of Steiner's Christology, the importance of the Jesus child of the Gospel of St. Luke (also referred to as the Nathan Jesus, because Nathan is the ancestor where Luke's genealogy diverges from Matthew) is the special quality of the ether body that he brought. Because the Ego of that Jesus was incarnating for the first time, it had no karma, and therefore no consequences of sin. Being, as it was, without the consequences of sin, it was undamaged and possessed none of the weaknesses that sin causes. Only thus could it even hope to contain the immense power that a God would bring to a human incarnation, and allow a divine ego inhabiting it to work in the world without hindrances and distortions. Were Christ to attempt to inhabit a human being with a less perfect ether body (say, mine, or for that matter any other random person you might imagine), one consequence would be that the intentions of the divine would not be able to be properly expressed, because the instrument, in this consideration specifically the etheric body, would be forever getting in the way. I should note that in such a hypothetical case, the astral and physical bodies would of course also be hindrances. To really understand these things, you have to go into the details from every angle.

For references to the above, see Rudolf Steiner's lecture cycle on The Gospel of St. Luke, especially the 7th lecture (September 21st 1909), and From Jesus to Christ, especially the 8th lecture (October 12th, 1911) As to there being no more souls, I think this concept too is best understood out of a deeper understanding of the being of man as presented by Rudolf Steiner. In An Outline of Occult Science (or Esoteric Science as it is being translated today) Steiner describes the processes that have created the human being as she/he is today. This is an incredibly long process, beginning as it does, at the near edge of eternity, and is already in the 4th major phase of development. If the process, as described there, makes sense to you, it should also become evident that more ego's could not simply pop into existence at divine whim. Now if we are dealing with a finite number of egos, who were all present in the beginning with God, then the question becomes how they all subsequently developed. Steiner describes the process in great detail, summarized in the book and Outline of Esoteric Science, but filled out to a complete picture of extraordinary richness in his lecture cycles, with virtually every lecture between 1904 and 1911 adding at least some new details. To shorten it all to one sentence, once the earth became suitable, the egos started incarnating on it, some sooner, some later, so that by the start of recorded history almost all had been incarnated at least once. At that point, the few that were still coming down for the first time bore extraordinary tasks, and the very last to come down was the Jesus of the Gospel of St. Luke.

Ways of looking at the Bible

The stories in Genesis can be read from a number of different levels. Thus, for example, a day of creation is not one rotation of the earth around the sun - the sun had not even been created at the end of the first day. So day is just an indication for a period of time. Likewise, from one level, the story of the creation of Adam and Eve is an expression of the experiences that everyone went through at that time period, not just two individuals. The requirements of the earth and of cosmic evolution necessitated a division of the human form into two genders. As a consequence, the egos wishing to incarnate had to limit themselves to just one aspect of the human experience for one lifetime, and through reincarnation alternate so as to balance and complement the experiences gained as one gender through those of the other. The spirit has no gender, only the body (physical and etheric) has gender. The spirit moves from body to body (with rest in between) from male to female and back. Eve is contained within the unfallen Adam. In Emil Bock's translation of Genesis: "In the Image of God they created him, male/female they created him." (Another mystery - in the Hebrew version of Genesis, God is plural, so it reads: "During the beginning, the Elohim (plural) created the heaves and the earth..." Jehova, singular, only comes later.) There is much profound knowledge hidden in plain sight in these texts.

The Feminine in the Bible V

Answering another question:

While I don't doubt that there is a force running through human history intent on thwarting the feminine principle, I somehow dislike the idea that specific souls are consistently (through a series of incarnations) on one side of the issue. Firstly there is Steiner's statement that the greatest number of instances that he had ever observed of one (soul is the wrong word, with soul we usually refer to the astral, it is the spirit that is eternal) individual incarnating in the same gender repeatedly was seven, and that was an exceptional case. Steiner was quite specific that everyone, yes everyone, in all cases, incarnated alternating between male and female, with only very exceptional instances of even two back to back incarnations of one gender. If anyone thinks that they are equal to Christian Rosenkreuz and therefore can go multiple incarnations in the same gender, I will certainly abstain from judging them from my limited insight.
The force working against the feminine principle I would consider similar to the forces working against other progressive human strivings: one or more Ahrimanic or Luciferic beings (or perhaps a combination of both). Their task is to mislead the incarnated human on this issue, and by all accounts they have been quite successful. As I see it, the eternal ego of any specific individual, once they have passed beyond death and Kamalocha is beyond the influence of such beings, and thus incapable of carrying these impulses in Devachan. So for the greater part of life between death and rebirth, an individual is beyond masculine and feminine, and beyond taking sides on the issue. Once they incarnate again, they are again subject to all manner of temptations and errors, and may even make the same mistake as they made before and find themselves again alligned against the feminine. However, I would argue that this is not because they carried the impulse with them as an integral part of their being from one life to the next, but because they fell into the same error as they had in their previous life. So I would caution against personalizing impulses and forces in history. Usually the forces are far greater than the individuals who find themselves representing them.

The Feminine in the Bible IV

Answering a question I received from yesterday's post, I see the actual stream as being the responsibility of a spiritual being. The individuals that are involved with that stream, even the most important individuals, are involved for only a limited time. Unnamed freemasons were involved in their effort for only a limited time. They have moved on, and are now working in other ways. Christian Rosenkreuz will evolve, his tasks will change, and he will take on new things as they become necessary for human advancement. This individuality is notable for being on the forefront of development, but even he does not work by exactly the same method each incarnation. If something veers to the left, you must push it to the right to get it back to the center. The masculine principle in spiritual striving was weak, and needed reinforcing. For a while, a force for the masculine was necessary. This was true starting about 3000 BC until by the early 18th Century (according to Steiner) it was no longer necessary (same lecture, October 23rd 1905). Anyone still pushing to the left, as it were, is no longer working progressively in human development, but in a regressive manner. Evil is good at the wrong time.

The spiritual being responsible for Freemasonry has moved on to other tasks, and any strivings in that old manner are now animated by beings who work as hindering forces (Luciferic and Ahrimanic) and not as progressive ones [I should note that that last sentence is strictly my interpretation]. Thus any individuals still working in that manner are under the influence of hindering forces.
I have already stated my case for why I feel that the individuals do not carry the impulse of Freemasonry from one life to another. Indeed, I feel that those still working to this day in the manner described are actually different individuals than the original Freemasons.

The Feminine in the Bible III

Another recent conversation concerned how the feminine principles of spirituality have been repressed in Western culture over the last 2000 years, with reference to some lectures by Steiner in "The Temple Legend". That the Freemasons were aligned on one side of the conflict ? against the feminine - was quite clear in Steiner's presentation. As such, to me they represent "individuals who find themselves representing... forces are far greater than [themselves]". I feel we must see the forces (such as Freemasonry) as separate and above the individuals who work in that stream. That an individual freemason may have incarnated to a specific destiny with specific anti-feminine goals is probable. However, I don't see that same individual reincarnating again as a Freemason and again with the same goals. That individual would likely have some karmic balancing to do, and probably would be working in a pro-feminine manner in their next incarnation. Others would be continuing the work of Freemasonry, and the former Freemason might even find himself opposing them!

The Feminine in the Bible II

Following up on yesterday's posting?
The writers of the OT and especially parts of the NT didn't emphasize the importance of the feminine. However, in as much as they recorded the facts, the feminine is definitely to be found. They might not place Magdalene on center stage and praise her role, but since she is mentioned it becomes possible for us reading the Gospels to reconstruct the scene and put the emphasis where we feel it belongs. Many of the personalities described in the Old Testament and New Testment definitely had an understanding of the feminine stream. However, the writers of those texts generally placed little emphasis on this. I find it a very interesting question to consider how the personalities of the Evangelists colored their retelling of events. Another question much discussed is how Paul's personality formed the outer structures of the Christian church and how that does or does not represent what Christ actually intended.

The Feminine in the Bible

Someone asked me recently why the feminine mysteries were so buried in the Bible. My answer:

The Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, was written primarily by men, and (especially for parts of the New Testament - the Epistles) arguably by men who had little understanding of the importance of the feminine. Hence, what is found there concerning the feminine tends to be "between the lines" as it were. Important allegorical supplementary material is available in the form of the Classic Jewish Folktales. Micha Josef Bin Gorion collected these in central Europe in the mid to late 19th Century much in the same manner as the brothers Grimm. There is much true in these tales, and they expand upon the creation stories, Cain and Abel, etc. Steiner referred to them occasionally. I would look there for an understanding of the feminine in the Old Testament. A translated version of these tales is available from amazon.com.

In the Old Testament the feminine stream is represented by Abel - not Abel as an individual person, but Abel as a pictorial representation of a certain type of human being. All of Genesis is to be read as an allegory, and not as literal fact. Names are indicative of tendencies that many individuals manifested at one point or another (even and especially Adam and Eve). After the Flood the Old Testament moves into the historical. Solomon - an actual individual, and thus simultaneously both archetypal and factual - is also representative of the feminine stream.

Steiner's Last Words?

In a discussion recently, someone wondered what Rudolf Steiner's last words were. The discussion started when someone remembered that someone said that Steiner's last words were on the relation of John the Baptist to Lazarus, or something to that effect, and that the attending doctors had this notarized. It seemed incorrect to me, so I did some checking. My Christoph Lindenberg biography of Steiner (1000 pages in German - usually considered the most comprehensive) states that Steiner, on his deathbed (that is, on the night he died) said nothing in the way of "last words" only a few "nice things" to Ita Wegman before closing his eyes, folding his hands and passing, in what seemed to those present a conscious manner (page 980). Present were Dr's Ita Wegman and Ludwig Noll, and Guenther Wachsmuth. It was about 5 AM, Monday, March 30th, 1925. Wegman described the passing as something that seemed decided only in the final moments. Just the day before Steiner was making plans to work on his sculpture "the representative of man" the following day. Though mostly bedridden for the previous six months, Steiner remained quite optimistic about overcoming his illness, read quite a bit, wrote a number of articles, and did work on the plans for the second Goetheanum. His passing struck many as quite unexpected.

So perhaps the "last words" came from a few days earlier. I looked back a bit. He spoke to Albert Steffen on March 28th in the evening. Earlier that day Steiner wrote his last "To the Members" article, titled "From Nature to Sub-Nature" covering "a preview of the 20th century" per Lindenberg (the article can be found in Volume 26 of the complete works, page 258). Access to Steiner was strictly controlled, since by his own diagnosis the illness was caused by exhaustion from personal interviews, so the only people he really saw were Steffen, Wachsmuth, Wegman and Noll, and of course Marie Steiner (who had been away from Dornach attending to the business of the Society since February 23rd).

In the end I am as curious as anyone to know what Steiner's "last words" were. However, the largest, most comprehensive and most recent Steiner biography (published 1997) don't speak of any last words, much less notarized last words, so I have to be somewhat skeptical of their existence. Further I have to wonder how they could possibly have been notarized. While I am not familiar with the process in Switzerland specifically, most countries require a notary public be physically present to certify that the words (usually written) are the express will of the author. At best Dr's Noll or Wegman could have their own statements notarized after the fact. These, however, would not be Steiner's words, but Wegman's or Noll's words, that are notarized. Yet as I have already stated, even these are not known to Steiner's most thorough biographer. Perhaps the mistake is considering Steiner's final lecture cycle "The Book of Revelation and the Work of the Priest" to be "deathbed comments." But in the end, it appears that Steiner did not die leaving any "last words" or final message.

Cultural Epochs II

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The epochs of the "the theosophical-anthroposophical theory of evolution" are cultural, and not racial. The word "Aryan" for example, originally was a linguistic term for all cultures whose language derived from the Indo-European. It has nothing to do with racial characteristics. The term was borrowed by racists starting a little bit before the beginning of the 20th Century, and by the end of the Nazi era had completely lost it's original linguistic meaning, such that even linguists no longer use it. The "Aryan" epoch, lasting 21,600 years and starting about 15,000 years ago was renamed the "Post-Atlantean" by 1906 (as Steiner noticed that the word "Aryan" bore less and less it's original meaning) and only in older documents will you find that term used. I think it is historically ignorant to call all 19th Century linguists who used the term a racist, and likewise its use in most early Theosophical literature was not intended racially. The smaller epochs are named after the culture (culture, not race) that is most prominent during that era. However, it is explicitly clear that these are not the only cultures of importance during that era. Every culture is an important part of the whole, just as every individual is an important part of the whole of humanity. If critics of Anthroposophy spent more time studying the system that they are already sure they understand, these things would perhaps become clearer.

Cultural Epochs

I have noticed of a number of critics of Anthroposophy on the Internet that (wonder of wonders) they have not actually understood that which they attack. For example, to an Anthroposophist, to say that "humanity" has evolved means that a group of individuals, collectively called "humanity" has incarnated in different races at different times, and each individual has grown and learned as a result of their experiences. The same individuals, different races. To take a hypothetical example, let us imagine any person currently alive, and imagine that an individual had lived his last life as a Chinese around the time of Marco Polo, previous to that she lived in Africa, before that in pre-Columbian America and before that in Palestine as a shepherd in the time of King David. Now in this hypothetical situation, however improbably the average critic might find it, our hypothetical individual would hopefully have learned a few things, so it could be said that he/she evolved. Taking the racial characteristics into account, it could be said that this individual "evolved through races." However it is not to imply a hierarchy, that the individual is now at some peak of perfection (which implies - with nowhere to go but down) either in his/her racial characteristics or any of his/her personal characteristics; it only implies that he/she has lived in different races, and grown as a result of what he/she has learned. Anthroposophy recognizes that there have existed in the world, and continue to exist different races. Anthroposophy does not categorize the races into a sort of hierarchy, with one race at the bottom, and another at the top. Some critics, with a heightened sensitivity to racism, read this into the statement "humanity has evolved through races" inferring the hierarchy and every other backwards misconception that they so despise. But were they were to take the time to understand what is meant, as opposed to instantly finding that which they would so righteously attack, they would perhaps see that the statement is to be understood differently. Reincarnation and Karma are THE central beliefs of Anthroposophy. If an Anthroposophist talks of evolution, it is ONLY in this context. And if some Anthroposophist says that he believes in the Anthroposophical theory of evolution, a critic would do well to understand that theory before attempting to lynch an Anthroposophist on account of it.

Objectivity in History

I think that the problem with objectivity in history is similar to the problem of objectivity in journalism. Everyone agrees that objectivity is the aim, but it has also been shown that objectivity is not technically possible. So what do we do with this paradox? One response is to celebrate the inability to be fully objective by not even trying. If we can't achieve the goal, then why make the effort? The other response is to say, well, we may never be perfect, but that won't stop us from trying! What we would desire from our journalists is that they strive for objectivity, in full knowledge of the fact that it is technically impossible to ever be fully objective. I would argue that the same effort makes a good historian.

Bias is not directly the opposite of objectivity. But a bias is a hindrance to objectivity. If it is a known bias, then it is good to acknowledge it up front. If it is an unconscious bias, well, then you'll have to wait for your readers to point it out to you. But to indulge your biases to their fullest is to abandon any pretense of writing history (or journalism). Instead, you are simply writing polemic (or a polemical editorial, if you are a journalist). It may be historical polemic, but it remains polemic. Yellow journalism was deplorable, and "yellow" historicism would be equally so.

So no, I don't believe that a bias is a good thing for a historian to have. It may be inevitable, but it is not good. Affecting a posture of neutrality is no more desirable (emphasis on the word affecting).

Judging Authors

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I was discussing recently with someone how to find truth. The question was how an "ordinary" person could judge whether Steiner was likely correct or incorrect in some of his more far-out descriptions of spiritual beings. It was suggested that we could start with the things we could easily verify, namely how Steiner treats other authors. Is he fair to other authors? That is, in agreeing or disagreeing with another point of view, does he present that which he is opposing in a manner that fairly describes what the original author intended before beginning with his objections? Steiner wrote a considerable amount on philosophy and the history of philosophy (for example, his book "Riddles of Philosophy") so a person knowledgeable about philosophy in general could establish whether Steiner was generally trustworthy by how he treats other philosophers.

This type of test is useful for writers beyond Steiner as well. Take any of his critics, for example. Are they fair to other authors? That is, in agreeing or disagreeing with another point of view, do they present that which they are opposing in a manner that fairly describes what the original author intended before beginning with the objections? Do they pass this basic test of trustworthiness?

What is anti-Semitism?

Anti-Semitism has many forms. Some are blatant, others subtle. Defining an anti-Semitic statement is not always easy. Here are some preliminary thoughts on working towards a definition:

A pro-assimilation stance is sometimes anti-Semitic, and sometimes not.
Apparently it depends on:

Who said it.
When they said it (micro context as well as macro context - that is, the
immediate context as well as the historical context).
Who the speaker or writer was (what other views they held, either when they made a statement, or prior to making the statement, or afterwards).
What nationality or ethnicity the speaker is or was.
What the speaker or writer intended (though innocent intentions are not enough escape the charge of anti-Semitism).
What the speaker or writer "meant" (by whatever standard the accuser decides to apply).

From this point of view, it is hard to defend any pro-assimilation stance against charges of anti-Semitism. The definition appears to be so ambiguous that it boils down to, "Anti-Semitism applies to any pro-assimilation stance that the accuser chooses to apply it to."

Terms and their meanings

My previous posting brings up the interesting question of whether, when two people use the same terminology, they necessarily mean the same thing. Especially in the area of spiritual beliefs, and involving authors whose work is prolific, it may actually be that they refer to different concepts under the same name. That this is in principle possible is evident in the fact that numerous and very different conceptions exist under the name "God" and with this example, it should be very evident that "God" will have a very different meaning in different religious texts, even among such a narrow spectrum as protestant theologians, despite the fact that the same word is used. I would like to suggest that words like "Lemurian" will have very different meanings to different authors, and the simple occurrence of the term in a text is not sufficient to establish a similarity of outlook, either in the narrower area of that concept alone, or in the broader area of over all outlook.

Anthroposophy vs Theosophy III

Yesterday's quote was written while Steiner was still General Secretary of the German section of the Theosophical Society, and would continue to be for another 6 years. Pages 61-64 of the same book also contain a discussion of Blavatsky from a letter written in 1905. It appears that Steiner's opinion of Theosophy was more or less unchanged from 1902 up to his death, and is hardly unflattering.

Potentially confusing to the researcher is the fact that Steiner was very hesitant to indulge in criticism, generally favoring a tendency to emphasize the positive aspects and remain silent on what he considered negative traits. Most of his direct criticisms such as the one above come from private correspondence. This silence on negative traits has lead a number of people to misunderstand Steiner's relationship to Haeckel, for example. Steiner gave his reasoning for this in the following manner:

"An affirmative attitude is always enlivening, while negativity is exhausting and deadening. Not only does addressing the positive aspects of the situation require moral strength, but positivity always has an enlivening effect as well, making the souls forces independent and strong."

Rudolf Steiner. "First Steps in Inner Development" Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1999. Page 52.

Steiner recommended positivity for his students in a number of places, and generally followed this himself. When he did feel it necessary to stake out a position different from mainstream Theosophy, he tended to be quite subtle. Paying attention to these subtleties is crucial to understand how Steiner differed from mainstream Theosophy. And by "how" I mean the method as well as the details of doctrine. In the end, I find in many examples much to substantiate Steiner's claim that he discovered Anthroposophy entirely out of himself, and used only the vocabulary of Theosophy where it suited his purposes.
In summary: There are many similarities between a variety of spiritual streams. There is a significant overlap between Anthroposophy and Theosophy on a number of points, and this is especially evident in the terminology. But there are very significant differences in the meaning of common terms, so researchers need to be careful not to confuse an understanding that is valid for Theosophy as applying equally in Anthroposophy, even if the same word or phrase is used. This is true of such basic phrases as "astral body" and "akasha chronicle", and even more so in other areas.

Anthroposophy vs Theosophy II

The criticism by Steiner of Blavatsky that I posted yesterday is from 1923, that is, after Anthroposophy parted ways with Theosophy. But this type of criticism was hardly new for Steiner. Writing for Eduard Schure in 1907, Steiner said:

"The Theosophical Society was first established in 1875 in New York by H.P. Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott, and had a decidedly Western nature. The publication "Isis Unveiled", in which Blavatsky revealed the large number of esoteric truths, has just such a western character. But it has to be stated regarding this publication that it frequently the great truths of which it speaks in a distorted or even caricatured manner. It is a similar to a visage of harmonious proportions appearing distorted in a convex mirror. The things which are said in "Isis" are true, but to how they are said is a lopsided mirror-image of the truth. This is because the truths of themselves are inspired by the great initiates of the West, who also inspired Rosicrucian wisdom. A distortion arises because of the inappropriate way in which H.P. Blavatsky's soul has received these truths. The educated world should have seen in this fact alone the evidence for a higher source of inspiration of these truths. For no one who rendered them in such a distorted manner could have created these truths himself. Because of the Western initiators saw how little opportunity they had to allow the stream of spiritual wisdom to flow into mankind by this means, they decided to drop the matter in this form for the time being. But the door had been opened: Blavatsky's soul had been prepared in such a manner that spiritual wisdom was able to flow into it. Eastern initiators were able to take hold of her. To begin with these Eastern initiators had the best of intentions. They saw how Anglo-American influences were steering mankind towards the terrible danger of a completely materialistic impregnation of thinking. They - these Eastern initiators - wanted to imprint their form of spiritual knowledge, which had been preserved through the ages, on the Western world. Under the influence of the stream the Theosophical Society took on its eastern character, and the same influence was the inspiration for Sinnett's "Esoteric Buddhism" and Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine". But both of these again became distortions of the truth. Sinnett's work distorts the high teachings of the initiators through an extraneous and inadequate philosophical intellectualism and Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine" does the same because of her chaotic soul.

"The result was that the initiators, the eastern ones as well, withdrew their influence in increasing measure from the official Theosophical Society in the latter became an area of all kinds of occult forces which distorted the great cause. There was a short phrase, when Annie Besant entered the stream of initiators through her pure and elevated mentality. But this phase came to an end when Annie Besant gave herself up to the influence of certain Indians who developed a grotesque intellectualism derived from certain philosophical teachings, German ones in particular, which they misinterpreted. This was the situation when I was faced with the necessity of joining the Theosophical Society."

Source:
Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner. "Correspondence and Documents: 1901-1925." New York: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988. Pages 17-18. (Translated by Christian and Ingrid von Arnim).

Anthroposophy vs Theosophy I

From a distance the similarities between Anthroposophy and Theosophy will be the first thing a researcher would notice. This is especially true because of the shared vocabulary. Approaching the question from another angle, I have noticed that Steiner repeatedly distanced himself from Theosophy. So the question naturally arises, was Steiner attempting to rewrite history after the Anthroposophical Society parted ways with the Theosophical Society, or did he really feel that there were significant differences from day one?

To answer this question, it becomes necessary to dig really deep into the minutiae of Theosophical doctrine and compare it to a large body of Steiner's work. I have been working on this for a while, but I do not feel competent to offer the final word on the matter.

Another thing to note is the amazing amount of similarities shared by virtually all approaches to spiritual questions. Believers tend to take this as a sign that all religions and other esoteric movements are viewing different angles of the same truth. Cynics claim that a form of literary "borrowing" lies at the root of this. In viewing Steiner, it is possible to say, "Steiner said many things that are similar to Blavatsky because he blatantly ripped off her 'Secret Doctrine'." Or it is possible to say, "Steinerlooked into the spiritual world, and many things he saw there corresponded to aspects of Blavatsky's 'Secret Doctrine', hence the similarities." Now I haven't had a chance to do a detailed comparison, but having looked at Blavatsky recently, I am actually amazed at how many things are in 'The Secret Doctrine' that are not in Steiner. The question "why?" naturally presents itself. An explanation is offered by Steiner:

"Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism was soon recognized as of the work of the spiritual dilettante, a compendium of old, badly understood esoteric bits and pieces. But it was less easy to find access to a phenomenon of the period such as Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. For this work did at least reveal in many places that much of its content had its origins in real, powerful impulses from the spiritual world. The book expressed a large number of ancient truths which have been gained through egotistic clairvoyance in distant ages of mankind. People thus encountered in the outside world, not from within themselves, something which could be described as an uncovering of a tremendous wealth of wisdom which mankind at once possessed as something exceptionally illuminating. This was interspersed with unbelievable passages which never ceased to amaze, because the book is a sloppy and dilettantish piece of work as regards any sort of methodology, and includes superstitious nonsense and much more. In short, Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine is a peculiar book: the great truths side-by-side with terrible rubbish."

Rudolf Steiner. "The Anthroposophic Movement." Bristol: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993. Page 23. Translated by Christian von Arnim. (Lecture of June 10th, 1923).

Essentially, Steiner had his own, independent grasp of truth, and then looked to see how the works of others did or did not correspond with his own understanding.

The case of Rudolf Hess raises the question of what constitutes an Anthroposophist. A broad definition might define as an Anthroposophist as anyone who finds value in Steiner's work. This definition is overly broad, as it would include many people who might disagree with Steiner despite finding his work valuable in one or another aspect in the world. Defining as an Anthroposophist anyone who is a consumer of the practical results of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual insights is also overly broad, as it includes anyone who regularly buys Demeter or Waleda or Dr. Hauschka, as well as all Waldorf parents and anyone who happens to be treated in an anthroposophical clinic. Even if their patronage of these practical results borders on fanatical, as in the case of Rudolf Hess, I don't feel that this is sufficient to consider them an Anthroposophist. To me an Anthroposophist is, at the very least, someone who studies Steiner's work actively. But even this is not a full definition, for a number of very hostile critics arguably also fit this description. Whether or not a person is an Anthroposophist is very much a question of inner attitude towards the work of Steiner's as they actively study it. If they feel a sort of warm enthusiasm, then they are part of the way to meeting my definition.
Another way of approaching the question would be to ask, Who would Anthroposophists recognizes their own? Those who qualify would be those who in general accept the greater portion of Rudolf Steiner's teachings, or at least are among those who don't actively reject significant portions of it. This disqualifies those who pick and choose and make their own philosophy of racial superiority out of bits and pieces of Rudolf Steiner's work, for in doing this they reject Steiner's central principles. This also disqualifies those who go through a shorter or longer phase of their life in which they are enthusiastic supporters of Anthroposophy only to reject it later, either from neglect or by actively turning against it. These can be said to have had an anthroposophical phase in their life, but the description 'Anthroposophist' cannot be applied to describe their life as a whole. This excludes Max Seiling and Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, among others.
If we limit our definition to those people who have exhibited a lifelong enthusiastic support for Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner's teaching, in whole and not just portions thereof, then the list of historically tainted personalities becomes much shorter. Ernst Uhli still qualifies under this definition, and I have to examine the case against him more closely. Finally, if we focus only on those personalities who are guilty of the historical sin of supporting aspects of national Socialism during their lifetimes, and neglect to look at the anthroposophical movement as a whole during that time period, then we will build a distorted picture, for the great majority of Anthroposophists deplored the developments in Germany under Hitler's regime.

Assimilation = Anti-Semitism ?

This is something I have been puzzling over for some time. Given:

1. It is not anti-Semitic if "assimilation" means integration into mainstream society without loss of separate ethnic identity.
2. If assimilation results in a loss of separate cultural identity, whether inadvertent or intentional, then it is anti-Semitic.
The next question is what to think if someone says (either then or now) "It would be nice if the Jews lost their separate identity and merged completely with mainstream culture."
By most definitions, this is an anti-Semitic position, whether or not it is intended with an element of compulsion or not.

What are we then to make of the following fact? In modern US society many Jews have lost their separate identity and been assimilated into mainstream culture, becoming non-practicing agnostics. Does that make US society anti-Semitic? If you find this development good, does that make you an anti-Semite? Are such Jews themselves anti-Semitic? If the definition of anti-Semitic is stretched so far that the freedom of an individual Jew to choose to abandon their heritage becomes anti-Semitism, that seems inimical to a humanist view of individual freedom of conscience.
On the other hand, if there is no objection to an individual choosing to abandon their heritage, why is it wrong for someone to say that they feel, in principle, such an occurrence would be desirable? It seems like a catch-22.

Steiner an atheist?

"atheism - (from Greek a theos, 'not god') The denial of the existence of any god or supernatural being."
The OXFORD WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA 2003 Edition.

Occasionally I have come across the claim that Rudolf Steiner was an atheist in the 1880's and 1890's, before he founded Anthroposophy. By the above, the standard definition, I think it is clear that Steiner never an "atheist". Steiner himself claimed that in the 1880's and 1890's he was anti-clerical, not anti-spirit, and his objection was to salvation from without and not to the basic existence of a spiritual world. As a self-professed idealistic philosopher during this time, he would have to believe in some form of a "spiritual" world, almost by definition. A critical review of his writing from that time period does not, to my knowledge, find evidence to contradict this. Clericalism and Anti-Clericalism were significant trends in Austria during that time, and I do not think that every person who was Anti-Clerical was pro-atheism, especially since many who were Anti-Clerical were Protestant ministers.

That Steiner regarded natural scientific training as valuable is evident from the following quote:

"The main point is that spiritual science, with its methods of research, only begins where modern natural science leaves off. Humanity is indebted to the view of the world adopted by natural science for which I would call a logic which educates itself by the facts of nature. An important method of training has been introduced, amongst those who have concerned themselves with natural science, with regard to the inner application of thinking."

Rudolf Steiner. "Approaches to Anthroposophy." Sussex: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992. Page 11. Translated by Simon Blaxland-de Lange.

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