Thursday 8 October 2015

Understanding Rudolf Steiner's remarkable 1918 prophecy of the twenty-first century

If it is accepted that Rudolf Steiner was inspired in the remarkably exact and accurate prophecy of 1918 about which I posted recently

Then it is worth thinking for a while about the causes.

I will attempt here to explain what I think Steiner was saying, in some mere generic version of his frame of understanding - rather than my own beliefs; and I think this exercise may be worthwhile given the validity of his prophecy.

To summarize (as I understand it); Steiner was arguing from a belief that humanity is supposed to move towards a new kind of consciousness - that is a new relationship between Man and the world - one which combined the 'immersive' awareness of spiritual realities that characterized the most ancient human societies (think about the shamans of hunter gatherers), with the alert self-consciousness of more recent eras (think about an archetypical scientist skeptic).

One intended mechanism for this evolution was the work of angels operating on what Steiner terms the Astral body - which I understand to mean the alert, awake consciousness... I think this means that we are supposed to know, explicitly, about this change of consciousness and to choose it.

The spiritual problems of our day are said to derive from the fact that instead we consciously fight, deny, and reject spiritual evolution; and instead of working on the Astral body, the angels are forced to work upon us while we sleep - and cannot resist them.

But this means that the angels are forced to work on us at an unconscious, inexplicit, instinctive level - they 'show us' (I presume he means in dreams, mostly un-recalled but still having an effect) images and simple ideas about the future goals.

I think Steiner is saying that the deep problems of our day derive from unspiritual attempts to enact spiritual goals - so that we actually enact in modern unspiritual society something like a hideous parody of spiritual goals.

The spiritual gaols which angels are attempting to communicate are threefold:

1. Brotherhood of Man - a sense of direct empathic communication between all people.
2. Divinity of Man - a direct appreciation of the divinity of all Men which will render formal religious practice unnecessary because all of life will then become a sacrament.
3. Final Participation - the change in consciousness whereby Man will be able to relate with spiritual realities through alert, conscious thought.

The effects of consciously rejecting this step includes, according to Steiner, the threefold consequences of disordered sexuality, the deployment of medical knowledge to harm and manipulate, and the abuse of powerful physical forces.

How do we get from the spiritual goals to the consequences? My understanding is that what happens is that good instincts are perverted by a culture which is spirit-denying.

So, for instance, the good and necessary spiritual instinct to regarding all Men as brothers is taken by modern society and made, on the one hand, into the utterly un-spiritual indeed anti-spiritual form of political and economic organization that used to be known as socialism, or Leftism.

In sum; in the un-spiritual context of modernity, spiritual brotherhood is re-made into social equality.

And this is made the focus of existence - as if it was a religion.

But on the other hand, spirituality cannot in practice be expunged from humanity - and the goal of brotherhood works at an instinctive level via the sexual instincts; to drive the sexual revolution - an incremental expansion of ever-more disordered sexual possibilities and practices.

In a sense, the sexual revolution can be regarded as a distortion of the impulse to universal Brotherhood - an impulse towards a kind of utopia of universal unrestricted sexuality.  

And this is made the focus of existence - as if it were a religion.

The direct perception of the divinity of Man, and the goal of a world where spiritual realities are so immediate that 'the church' is not needed, is something foreseen in the Book of Revelations of The Bible - but that is in The New Jerusalem, on the other side of death, and as Heaven.

The unspiritual parody of this unconscious impulse is anti-clericalism (a major feature of early communism), hostility to the Christian church, and the dismantling and destruction of 'organized religion'.

The church is discarded, but not because Man has moved to a higher level of spiritual consciousness and the need for formal structures has been transcended; not because Man no longer needs the church, being spiritually-perfected; but because the church is seen by modernity as something which is preventing progress to the ideal state of divinity of Man.

So, instead of the divine impulse that church organization will at some point disappear because Man has spiritually progressed to the point that the church is no longer needed; in modernity the church organization is destroyed because it is regarded as preventing spiritual progression.

This is part of the inversion-of-the Good which Steiner also predicts, in an exact description of our times:

Man would pride himself upon the growth of his instinctive knowledge of certain processes and substances and would experience such satisfaction in obeying certain aberrations of the sexual impulses that he would regard them as evidence of a particularly high development of superhumanity, of freedom from convention, of broad-mindedness! In a certain respect, ugliness would be beauty and beauty, ugliness.

In sum - the prophecy presents an interpretation of our current malaise which suggests that the evils of modernity can be seen as unconscious, un-spiritual and instinctive parodic distortions of Good impulses - impulses that are, indeed, being divinely encouraged and inspired (which perhaps explains their near universality, their simultaneous occurrence in many cultures).

Modern Man chooses consciously to reject these Good impulses by believing only in anti-spiritual rationality on the one hand and the unrestricted expression of instincts on the other hand - therefore the impulses emerge in horribly distorted forms; and yet their Good origins and benign intentions somehow make these evil distortions very difficult to defend against or to attack: our culture seems somehow helpless to resist them.

The answer? (Using Steiner's frame, more-or-less.)

We must (presumably) acknowledge the badness of our current situation, including the inadequacy of our consciousness; we must stop resisting the divine impulses so that they do not merely influence us against our will and during sleep, but also in our awake state; we must acknowledge spiritual realities - and allow ourselves to acknowledge, think about and experience spiritual realities in a state of full, alert awareness and in public discourse.

In sum, we need to stop fighting God's plans, and admit that God does have plans - and that we already-know enough of what these plans are (because this knowledge is built-into us); indeed, we need to stop actively denying the truth of God and of the spiritual, divine realm of reality - that would be a first step!

And the personal test of our success in moving towards this goal would - I think - be the advent and development of direct conscious experience of spiritual realities - including some kind of perception of the work of the angels.


Matias F. said...

The nuclear bomb. An unspritual attempt to relate with the basic forces and realities of the universe through conscious thought.

Bruce Charlton said...

Matias - yes,I think that would be right.