Saturday 5 March 2016

The absolute necessity for a change of consciousness, a metaphysical metamorphosis: Further reflections on Rudolf Steiner's great 1918 prophecy

Continuing from:
and the reference cited therein:Steiner's prophetic essay called (in English) 'The work of the angels in man's astral body':
I have been pondering further the great prophetic utterance of Rudolf Steiner from 1918 - which has worked on me in the way that prophecies surely are intended to work in retrospect - the truth of the prophecy serving to validate the interpretations and reasoning which led to it.

My understanding is that it was during the 1960s that there was the decision time: men then knew what was required of them - but for this to happen it was necessary that there be a change in consciousness so that Man's 'destiny' was accepted at the highest level of alert, conscious awareness. What was needed was a metaphysical restructuring; a transformation in fundamental beliefs and assumptions underpinning daily, routine practice - such that Man began to work towards a situation in which the spiritual perspective (in this fully 'awake' sense) became the primary, daily, habitual mode of thinking to a greater extent for more and more people.

The point is that there was a choice presented - and a choice was required and unavoidable - Man (and individual men and women) could accept or reject this plan. It was decisively rejected.

The choice was made (by almost everyone) that the habitual mode of everyday thinking would be to sleep. And as a consequence, the new impulse would remain at the unconscious, instinctive, irrational level.

So our lives and our cultures divided - between a rational anti-spiritualism - which can be seen in the expansion and universal invasion of pseudo-scientific bureaucracy and the world of 'careers', work and 'official' discourse; and on the other hand an irrational, instinctive surge of animalism which is most evident in the mass media and leisure, daydreams or fantasy.

These two strands are both very powerful, uninegrated, and in opposition. The semi-awake rationality fences in life and drains all meaning; the hardly-awake instinctualism is almost wholly selfish and destructive and negates all purpose. We cannot behave rationally, not even with self-ineterst - because this is contradicted by the anarchic irrational impulses; we cannot behave according to our urges and hedonism because we our under increasingly-total survellance and encaged with laws, rules, regulations and managed-consensus.

The result has been - very exactly - the situation that Steiner prophesied. The situation is now one in which the reality of empathic identification between Men has been perverted into a political tool of self-hatred and suicide; in which the sexual impulse in pernicious forms has invaded and configured conscious social life, such that this is seen as a higher moral state; in which medical and therapeutic reasons are given for creating sickness - and such sickness is regarded as desirable; in which the interaction of human minds with physical technology is a pervasive daily reality. 

The only way out from this spiritual nightmare is by a fundamental change in the way we think, underpinned (necessarily) by a change in the basis of our thinking.

This necessity applies equally to Christians as to non-Christians - if your Christianity has been merely a change in the set of propositions which you believe - a change in the set of moral rules you endorse, a change in a checklist of propositions, then this is not enough.

What is required, is that we interpret our lives as the primarily a consequence and product of spiritual forces - by restructuring our primary beliefs (ie. metaphysical assumptions); and - building upon this and symbiotic with it - by incremental steps trasnforming our actual, moment-by-moment thinking to an alert, fully-consicous, fully-rational, awake and aware higher consciousness of these spiritual realities.

This means (among other things) rejecting political, economic, sociological, scientific explanations as (in essence) post-hoc ratioanalizations of the underlying spiritual warfare and evolutionary-change.

Steiner suggests that we start with our own life - in recognizing that the miraculous is everyday: that we could not get through a day without such occurrences. As often as not, the miraculous is what did not happen, rather than what did - the disaster that was prevented more than the reward which was given. That important things did not today - contrary to our expectations and perceived trends - get worse; but rather than that, they remained the same.

Above all we must not sleepwalk through life, must not dissipate our lives in unconsciousness (whether from addiction to media, causal time-killing or emotion-stimulating socialization, sexual or political fantasy, unthinking obedience or unthinking rebellion, intoxication or self-indulgence or whatever form of 'sleep' is most troublesome and pervasisve in our lives)...

We must instead strive to live for (and to increase in number and to extend) those moments of alertness, clarity and awareness of our agency that are the first fruits of evolution of cosnciousness, of metaphsyical metamorphosis.

And we must, by whatever means are possible to us, strive to elicit the same in others; whether Christian or not - everyone needs this.


David said...

You are right on the money again Bruce. As your 'Post - Phaedrus' self, you have gone down the path less travelled and are proclaiming 'the way.'

"The only way out from this spiritual nightmare is by a fundamental change in the way we think, underpinned (necessarily) by a change in the basis of our thinking."

This was a clear insight of ZAMM which I found resonated with me quite clearly whilst I was listening to the audio book and constructing some flat pack furniture for my new daughters room. It is invisible in plain sight but most people do not follow it up to see how it connects with the rest of our situation. I found the book valuable and at times moving, poetic and enlightening. I understand, Pirsig has written a sequel, on moral philosophy that I have not yet read, but some brief googling and reading reviews by other readers has led me to suspect that he has eventually gone down the 'road less travelled' but to a dead end. The following quote from him is somewhat baffling given the previous ground he seems to have gained via much of his writing of ZAMM:

"When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion."

I find it curious that he should have so fundamentally revealed the deeper hidden metaphysical difficulties associated with western philosophy and explicitly defended the primacy of what he termed 'quality'; although that was a very difficult abstraction in itself and prone to misunderstanding. But if one substitutes 'meaning' or 'purpose' for quality, and specifically a fundamental assumption that this is dyadic in nature ie subject+object=meaning, then one can see that love is relational, meanings and values are both necessarily subjective (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) and simultaneously objective (eg the fractal patterns in the swirls of a rose are objectively, mathematically beautiful) and this is what consciousness researchers and quantum physics elucidates in respect to the primacy of an observer who perceives values in the apprehension of his/her reality. Anyway, perhaps I elaborate too confusingly. My point being, I understand Pirsig is still an atheist? How can he still be missing the gestalt and that the natural thing to do would be to fix his metaphysics and admit that the reality is more wonderful and full of divine meaning and purpose, instead of retreating into a very diminished and 'free floating' secularised set of values, that cannot really be supported by a philosophy alone? I can only infer that the high brow intellectualism of scientists and philosophers just cannot reclaim that 'childlike' nature necessary to apprehend the simple and powerful truth of love and it's design. Intellectuals feel it needs to be abstract and complicated and many don't want to be children again. I must add that I of course know nothing of this mans real reasons and am speaking only in terms of a general stumbling block to 'take a leap of faith.'

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I have been a keen reader of ZAMM over the past firty years

and published one of the earlier scholarly essays on it

I also had a personal letter from him, 'endorsing' this essay!

But I don't much like Lila (the followup) except for the bit about Dusenberry, the Indians and William Sidis. He was a one-book-man - but that one book a classic.

Sojka's Call said...

Forgive me as I have only a very rudimentary knowledge of Steiner and his book that this post is about. If I have any grasp of his thesis it is that we marry critical thinking skills with spirituality. Applying critical thinking skills to our everyday existence we realize that our reality could not exist without spiritual underpinnings.

If that very brief synopsis is in the ballpark, I would submit that possibly the integral philosophy articulated by Ken Wilber is trying to bring science and spirituality together. BC - do you think Wilber et al are on a productive path that could possibly yield the result Steiner was looking for?

Bruce Charlton said...

@SC - "we marry critical thinking skills with spirituality" - That doesn't seem like a correct summary. I don't think critical thinking skills have anything to do with the matter.

It is more a matter of achieving and developing a type of awake, alert, purposeful consciousness which can also perceive spiritual realities. What is wanted is that the kind of intuitive, inspired, visionary thinking which currently or usually occurs only in dreams, intoxication, when immersed in reading fiction, and in other altered, passive and in some fashion impaired/ lowered states of consciousness; must become a part of daily, working, active consciousness.

So that when we see a situation - people in front of us, current politics, a scientific theory or discovery - what is most evident needs to be the spiritual reality, causes, meaning of such situations. This needs to be primary.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Charlton, thanks for this linked series of posts about Steiner, and his theory of the angels working on us in our sleep. I have been working backwards through them today, and it seems to fit with my own experiences.

I have taken to sleeping with my ipad next to my bed over the last year. As I have gotten older, I find I often wake up around 3 or 4 am for various reasons (dry eyes, etc.). I seem to have my best insights in this period. So instead of trying to go back to sleep, I will try to follow the train of thought through and write down what comes to me. I wonder if we are more open to the divine at these times because we have been "emptied" to some degree of the prior day's cares and worries.

I read another article somewhere in the last year or so that it was very normal for our ancestors to have a 1-2 hour waking period in the middle of the night, and that the modern ideal of an interrupted block of 7-8 hour sleep is wrong.


Bruce Charlton said...

@Duke - I haven't heard that exactly, but clearly it happens to people with age, and you seem to be using the time very well - what could be better?

I agree, there is a special lucidity to that kind of awakening - unfortunately, I usually get the night awakening caused by a severe nocturnal migraine, which rather takes the pleasure out of it!