Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Spiritual Science as a Goethian Science

If Man's destiny - the one thing needful for our era - is (necessarily within the Christian frame, which is primary) to move towards that higher form of consciousness (Final Participation) variously described or embodied by Coleridge, Goethe, Steiner, Barfield and Arkle - then the question is how? The answer seems to be some kind of Spiritual Science - to adopt Rudolf Steiner's phrase; but not that activity described by Steiner in terms of method, sequence, procedure or protocol.

In writing about 'how to do' spiritual science, Steiner failed to apply his own deep knowledge of and insights into the nature of science as articulated and done by Goethe; and instead lapsed into a positivistic model of science-as-method.

Consequently, Steiner was himself misled by assuming the validity of information gained by applying this method (leading to great masses of nonsense cluttering his writings), and his legacy was subverted by the ineffectiveness of Steiner's own recommendations for 'initiation' such that his followers have utterly failed to reproduce, correct and extend Steiner's original insights. Viewed from nearly a century after Steiner's death; the ability to do Spiritual Science seems as absent from Anthroposophists as from almost everyone else.

The answer, however, can be found in Steiner's own, earliest, work - which is the understanding that true science is not based upon any method, but upon a sustained and loving consideration of phenomena.

Since our task (as aspiring Spiritual Scientists) is - in Barfield's words - Thinking about Thinking, or to study our own 'persona' (i.e. our functional self that interacts with nature) as the phenomenon under consideration - our general attitude is as clear as the specific methods are undefined.

This attitude entails that we study our Thinking Persona as a phenomenon that is eternal in both directions - it has existed eternally, is active now, and extends into an eternal future. Through this span it undergoes developmental evolution, growth, metamorphosis - while retaining its eternal identity. In sum, the phenomenon is that process of being and relating extended across time.

So, Spiritual Science is not some kind of paradoxical attempt to grab and hold-onto our present thinking as it continually sweeps past us into the past - it is the recurrent, lifelong activity of our true and divine selves empathically seeking understanding of our eternally changing 'public'/ interactive personae - by whatever means is most effectual, as established by trial and error, clarification and struggle, sympathy and self-criticism, openness and discernment. 

This is not a thing to be achieved in an instant of enlightenment - although there may well be such moments of grasping - but a long-term (and delightful) project of imagination: the aim is to grasp in imagination our eternal persona. The aim is not to 'understand' ourselves in terms of making a simplified 'model' of our persona - but in imagination to grasp the whole eternal phenomenon.

As I wrote yesterday, this is much like the way that we imaginatively grasp the eternal essence of someone we love - most characteristically a mother or father, brother or sister, spouse, son, daughter or other close and beloved relative. (At best, in our highest and ideal moments) we know and love them not for what they were, are, or will become - but altogether and at once.

(We know them as a 'process' - or rather, as a destiny.)

This is exactly how, in Spiritual Science, we (as our real and deepest selves) need to know our own Thinking Persona; that is the meaning of Thinking about Thinking - and that is what we should strive for.