Friday 19 October 2018

Entertaining the idea of Christ's second coming in the 'etheric' realm

I have blogged before on the strange revelation or prophecy from the early 1900s onward and standing at the heart of Rudolf Steiner's entire (vast) corpus - and therefore - presumably, although I'm not sure - that also of Owen Barfield.

You will need to read that post first...

Now; I find that I cannot just put this prophecy aside and move-on, but I keep returning to think about and consider the matter. Because if it was true - this would, of course, be the most important fact in the world - and, although Steiner (in his later works) was often/ usually wrong in detail, he was nearly-always right in essence.

Thus I shall entertain the thought that Rudolf Steiner was factually correct that the Second Coming of Christ has by-now already happened, and not as an incarnation of the bodily Christ but in 'the etheric'; and I shall further assume that while the core revelation is true, the details are mistaken - so that there needs to be a clarification.

Then, I shall see where this experimental-assumption gets-me; and whether it makes any kind of sense...

1. If Steiner genuinely knew that Christ was to return in the Etheric; my understanding is that this was not a chronologically exact foreseeing of the future - because I believe such predictions to be an impossibility.

So that in reality Steiner's prophecy was actually an announcement of a current state of affairs; and it meant that the Second Coming had already happened, which is (I infer) how Steiner knew about it.

So instead of something going-to-happen circa 1933, let's assume instead that there was a return of Christ from circa 1750 - in other words from the beginnings of the movement called Romanticism.

This is how Steiner could sense the event; sense it both directly - as an ongoing reality; a fact of daily life; and he could also sense it from his profound studies of Goethe and the other German Romantics, and the change that had come over their thinking.

2. What about the Etheric? What does that mean?

Translating Steiner's categories of The Self (as I understand them) the Etheric comes in-between the Physical Body and Consciousness (the Astral Body) - so Christ's return is not in his body (i.e. he is not incarnated), and it is also not in a way of which people are conscious.

The Etheric implies that Christ is felt; a transformation of Life, an unconscious feeling, at the level of instinct.

The presence of Christ in the Etheric is known as an instinctive feeling.  

3. Does this make general sense? Yes, it does.

The impulse of Romanticism came upon Western culture beginning from 1750 - affecting poetry, literature - including the invention of the novel almost exactly in 1750, music, visual arts, philosophy...

Romanticism also affected Western culture, through several later waves - eg the 1890s, the 1920s, the 1960s-70s) in terms of a new and strong (often destructive) impulse of individualism, political radicalism and revolution, the sexual revolution, an assertion of the instinctive (and 'primitive', or 'tribal').

In religion and spirituality we could point to Quakerism, the US New Religions of the middle 1900s, New England Transcendentalism, Walt Whitman, DH Lawrence, the Beats, the New Age... Every movement (good, and - mostly - bad) that contains a theme of instinct, personal revelation, intuition, utopia, altered consciousness, hopes of transcendence or higher evolution; all such could be interpreted as having some degree of unconscious awareness of the new possibilities deriving from the actual felt presence of Christ. 

We could posit that there was indeed a second coming of Christ perceptible at an unconsicous level; but distorted, and indeed twisted to evil by such factors as adherence to materialism; the pro-instinctive, short-termist and hedonic theories of the sexual revolution; consumerism; and by the cultivated spite and resentments of the various Leftisms and, in general, politics conceived as primary.

Probably the main evil-tending distortion is that Modern Man will not allow himself to become conscious of Christ. 

In other words, we could ascribe the malign phenomena of Steiner's own amazing 1918 true-prophecy to Western Man's failure to respond properly to the Second Coming; indeed, by our wicked choice to have perverted and inverted our instinctively-felt urgings of Christ.

4. What would be the implications? (Continuing to entertain the notion that this understanding is correct.)

Well, one implication would be that we need to become conscious of Christ's presence... This needs stating more strongly: we must become conscious of Christ's presence in this world, and of his direct influences on each of us, individually.

To become conscious of an instinctive-feeling means that we each need to do 'scientific' work - because that is the core nature of science: to do science is to become explicitly conscious of phenomena.

Therefore we each need to become scientists of our-selves.

And that is exactly what Steiner and Owen Barfield (and, of course - following them, myself) have argued is the primary task of Modern Man; which is to embark on a 'scientific' introspection, to develop a clear knowledge of our own thinking, to make intuitions both primary and explicit; and to do all this is the Christian context of its being done in light of the first and second commandments to love God, and neighbour.

5. Does this kind of 'Second Coming' even make sense to a Christian?

Well, maybe. I am more inclined to think so than before I embarked on this exercise.

It may make sense if our understanding is that this mortal life is about experiences from-which we need to learn in order to become more divine. If, in other words, our main task (as mature adults) is theosis rather than salvation - because salvation, while not universal, is by-default; and Hell must positively be chosen.

On such a basis, it is imaginable that a return of Christ at the level of unconscious instinctive awareness may be a means to this end.

In sum; I am surprised what good sense can be made from making the contingent assumption that Steiner was correct-but-with-errors when he announced the Return of Christ in the Etheric...


Chiu ChunLing said...

It makes sense, but what is not acceptable is to refer to this as a Second Coming of Christ.

Christian tradition does support the idea that Christ will send a series of spiritual manifestations and angelic messengers prior to His triumphant return. But the idea that Christ is going to return "in spirit" Himself is implying that He ever left in that sense, which is not the case.

Christians mostly innately believe that Christ has been directly present and active in human affairs since the Ascension. Often even physically, for those who accept the doctrine of the Resurrection. But this ongoing intervention on Earth is not the triumphal Second Coming prophesied, it is something that has been occurring more or less continuously ever since Christianity was established.

The thirties were a pivotal time in developing the sense of need for Christ's Second Coming and Millennial reign on the Earth. Previous millennialism had been an anticipation, but not in response to any worldly condition which required large scale divine intervention in the view of ordinary people. What started to become apparent almost a century ago and has continuously become more evident is that humanity is doomed utterly if Christ does not return 'soon'.

The part that requires spiritual discernment is realizing that this means that Christ will return, rather than seeing it as proof that He cannot.

Epimetheus said...

Interesting! My father is something of a quiet spiritual visionary, and he believes Christ's coming will involve (among other things, maybe) a sort of "washing" of the entire human race with a new divine awareness. That word, "washing" - he always uses it. A baptism of all living souls, he says. He refers specifically to that phrase "And you shall know that I am the Lord" - he says that phrase is the ultimate promise of Man's destiny.

Bruce Charlton said...

@A - Maybe. I am always aware, however, that people may reject or misinterpret such awareness - as happened when people were confronted with the bodily Jesus himself.

@CCL - Some good points - especially the last sentence. It may be that Second Coming is a translation, or a term used by those who summarise his thought, I'm not sure - Steiner usually says return or reappearance. But I think Steiner meant more than a continuation, he meant some new possibility; or, at least, a large quantitative enhancement of a process.

As for timing - I don't accept the 1930s as a time of qualitative change; because National Socialism was not a primary phenomenon in world history - it was a reaction to the Russian revolution. And the generalised awareness of spiritual need did no happen until the middle 1960s, and then quite suddenly - between 1966 and 1968.

William Wildblood said...

I think that Steiner may have confused a general spiritual stimulation from above which affected human beings in different ways according to their receptivity and and purity with the second coming. This stimulation may have been initiated by Christ but did not represent his reappearance. It may, on the other hand, be part of a necessary preparatory work.

Chiu ChunLing said...

It's true that the response to the early part of the 20th century (of which National Socialism, being evidently defeated, was only a minor development) was mainly materialistic rather than spiritual.

That is what is implied by the real nature of the phenomenon only being understood by the spiritually sensitive.

The later outbreak of interest in spiritual alternatives to the general materialistic view was a result of the prolonged failure of materialism for an entire generation. Sadly, most of this interest was directed away from serious Christianity, which was labeled as being subservient to the failed materialism.

Still, the general awareness of the essential hollowness and transience of materialism was a relatively new phenomenon. This awareness had never become general throughout society before, it had always been limited by the unavailability of materialism as a plausible refuge from despair for the vast majority throughout history. Even for those who attained what could be considered a comfortable life by 20th century standards (who were already extremely rare), it was difficult to fight off the general social consensus that they had attained all that human existence could hope. So their personal experience of the lack of meaning in their lives was rarely admitted.

This development is probably a crucial precursor to the Millennial reign of Christ, when people on the Earth will have all their material needs met without becoming dependent on the service of their lower needs.

Freddy Martini said...

Bruce, Thanks again for your contributions. It is insights like this that I think you bring refreshing perspective to those of us in the same spiritual families. Keep up the good work. You are on to something, which, of course, I know that you already know! Thanks again!

Bruce Charlton said...

My current, considered, view on this issue - is that the best way to consider what happened wrt our relationship with Christ since 1750 (or more recently) is that there has been a qualitative chaange (along the lines described above); and that it is a result of a change in people (specifically Western people) rather than something The Son did; specifically it is a change in our consciousness that enabled us to become newly sensitive to what had, in a sense, potentially been there since the ascension of Jesus.