Sunday 6 November 2022

How oneness spirituality is supportive of mainstream materialist-atheist-leftism: traditional mysticism versus the 'primary thinking' of Rudolf Steiner

I regard Rudolf Steiner as having first made explicit one of the core tasks of modern Western Man: which is to become conscious of the thinking of our real-divine selves, and to make this the basis of a modern and unprecedented kind of 'spirituality' (or, by a new definition: mysticism). 

Or, in other words, our task is each to develop a spirituality of conscious thinking (which I have termed 'primary thinking'). 

Steiner's was a complete break with, almost a reversal of, the traditional and ancient aim of 'mysticism' - which was directed against thinking; against consciousness and 'the self' or 'ego'. 

Both traditional mysticism and Steiner are united in deploring the mundane and meaningless materialism of modern consciousness; but their suggested answers to the problem are almost opposites; and their interaction with materialism is also in stark contrast - with mysticism de facto sustaining, but Steiner's spirituality opposing, materialism. 

The traditional mystic attempts to return to the ancient state (and early childhood experience) of ceasing to be dominated by thoughts, ceasing to entertain 'ideas', discarding the self, losing individuality: ultimately immersing oneself unconsciously in life/ the divine - without separation, restoring primal oneness. 

At the end of his life; Steiner wrote a biography in which he attempted to reconstruct the movement of his thinking through the 1890s, when he realized that the revival of traditional mysticism would be mistaken. 

Steiner was convinced that the fullest and broadest possible awareness of the world of our ideas, of what is here termed the 'ideal' world could be the basis of a new spirituality or mysticism. In this passage 'ideal' thus means of the nature of 'ideas'

(I have somewhat edited this passage, hoping to enhance brevity and clarity.)  


At the close of this first stage of my life it became a question of inner necessity for me to attain a clearly defined position in relation to mysticism. 

As I considered the various epochs in the evolution of humanity - in Oriental Wisdom, in Neo-Platonism, in the Christian Middle Ages, in the endeavours of the Kabalists - it was only with the greatest difficulty that I, with my different temper of mind, could establish any relationship to it. 

The mystic seemed to me to be a man who failed to come into right relation to the world of ideas, in which for me the spiritual has its existence. I felt that it was a deficiency in real spirituality when, in order to attain satisfaction in one's ideas, one plunges into an inner world void of all ideas. In this I could see no road to light, but rather a way to spiritual darkness. 

The mystics desire living contact with the sources of human existence. And yet it was also clear to me that one arrives at the same kind of inner experience when one sinks down into the depths of the soul accompanied by the full and clear content of the ideal world, instead of stripping off this content when thus sinking into one's depths. 

By contrast; I desired to carry the light of the ideal world into the warmth of the inner experience

The mystic seemed to me to be a man who cannot perceive the spirit in ideas and who is therefore inwardly chilled by ideas. The coldness which he feels in ideas drives him to seek through an escape from ideas for the warmth of which the soul has need. 

As for myself, the warmth of my soul's experience increased in proportion as I shaped into definite ideas the previously indefinite experience of the spiritual world

I often said to myself: “How these mystics fail to understand the warmth, the mental intimacy, which one experiences when one lives in association with ideas permeated by the spiritual!” 

The mystics seemed to me to strengthen the position of the materialistically minded observer of nature instead of weakening it

The materialist objects to the observation of the spiritual world, either because he does not admit the existence of such a world, or else because he considers human understanding adapted to the physically visible one. He sets up boundaries of knowledge at that point where lie the boundaries of the physically perceptible. 

Yet the ordinary mystic is of the same opinion as the materialist as regards human ideal knowledge. He maintains that ideas do not extend to the spiritual, and therefore that in ideal knowledge man must always remain outside the spiritual. Since, however, he desires to attain to the spirit, he turns to an inner experience void of ideas. 

If anyone enters into the interior of his own soul without taking ideas with him, he thus arrives at the inner region of mere feeling. Such a person then says that the spiritual cannot be reached by a way which is called in ordinary life a way of knowledge, but that one must sink down from the sphere of knowledge into the sphere of the feelings in order to experience the spiritual. 

With such a view a materialistic observer of nature can declare himself in perfect agreement. He then sees in his system of ideas directed toward the things of sense the only justifiable basis for knowledge. For the materialist, the mystical relationship of man to the spirit is something merely personal, to which one is either inclined or not inclined according to one's temperament, but of which one can never speak in the same way as one speaks of the content of a “positive knowledge.” 

For the materialist, therefore; Man's relation to the spiritual should be relegated entirely to the sphere of “subjective feelings.” 

While I held this before my mind the forces within my soul which stood in opposition to the mystic grew steadily stronger. The perception of the spiritual in inner mental experience was to me far more certain than the perception of the things of sense; to place boundaries of knowledge before this mental experience was to me quite impossible. 

I objected with all positiveness to mere feeling as a way into the spiritual. 

I sought association with the spirit by means of spirit-illuminated ideas, whereas as the mystic seeks the spirit through association with the non-ideal. I also could say that my view rests upon “mystical” ideal experience.


My note:

Here we can see that Rudolf Steiner, writing about himself 130 years ago, was already aware that traditional (oneness-type) mysticism was compatible-with - indeed complementary to - the materialism of modern life. 

We can nowadays see that the 'oneness' spirituality of the kind extracted by Westerners from Eastern Religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism (known to Steiner from Theosophy) - and as now espoused by by New Age gurus, 'Perennialist' philosophers, and the 'mindfulness' trainers of corporate bureaucracy - comfortably goes-with and supports modern atheist-materialist-leftism. The 

Thus, on one side, the oneness spiritual people are nearly-all leftists who fail the Litmus Tests and thus support major strategies of the totalitarian-evil agenda... 

While on the other side; the leadership class of the leftist globalist totalitarians quite often espouse mystical/ oneness forms of "feeling but non-thinking" spirituality (King Charles being a prime, and topical, example).   

Therefore, Steiner enables us to understand how it is that generic 'spirituality' is insufficient either to resist, or to provide a positive alternative to, the crushing bureaucratic-media Matrix of these times. 

Indeed, it actually makes matters worse!  


Chent said...

Sorry to be impolite again, but this does not seem right to me. I am no fan of mysticism spirituality but this seems a misrepresentation. I don't know if you are going to publish this comment, but you said the other day that you read all the comments. I have written it only for you.

For years, I have thought that many of your posts are comments to "The Master and His Emissary " book. I really think that you would benefit immensely if you read it, because your ideas are similar. It is a long book but there are some summaries at the Orthosphere to begin with.

The book explains that there are two ways of understanding reality: the left hemisphere's way is a view focused on logic, language, ideas, coherence, dividing the reality into pieces and analyzing it. This is what we activate in all these intellectual activities: such as reading, thinking about ideas, writing, etc. The inner monologue is part of this.

The right hemisphere sees reality in an non-linguistic, holistic way and focuses on correspondence instead of coherence between different ideas. Contemplating a picture or a landscape without inner monologue is an example. Listening to classical music without trying to understand it and analyze it. Mysticism. This can produce feelings (as logical thoughts do) but it is not a set of feelings.

Both hemispheres are part of the neocortex and are different from feelings which are mediated with more primitives parts of the brain - the limbic system (disclaimer: I am a dualist: I don't think that mind reduces to the brain, but the brain influences the mind. I also think that I am giving a simplified view and there are a lots of caveats, but this is a combox, not a book)

The thesis of the book is that the right hemisphere was once dominant and the left hemisphere was called to solve intellectual problems. I see this in the old peasants of my country: they don't think much, they contemplate a lot more.

But Western civilization has been the history of the coup d'├ętat of the left hemisphere to the right hemisphere. You see the increasing importance of the left hemisphere throughout the time. Aquinas is more brainy than St. Augustine, where you see the thirst for God but Aquinas reads like a textbook (he had personal contemplation before the Eucharist but he does not reflect this in his texts, so the two hemispheres are separated while they were more integrated in Saint Augustine).

Then, the left hemisphere separates itself from reality and the right hemisphere, rejects contemplation, creates a virtual world and thinks it is the real world. The so-called Enlightenment thinks "all men are equal", for example. Then, in our times, you can be labelled a hate criminal if you report what is before your eyes, instead of the virtual world created by the left hemisphere of our intellectuals, where gender is fluid.

Mysticism aims at disconnecting the left hemisphere for a while to enjoy the holistic perspective of the right hemisphere. It is like closing your eyes to concentrate on listening to music. This is more necessary because, in our lives, the left hemisphere has total control and it takes a lot of effort for it not to drown the perspective of the right hemisphere. It is not about feelings, although it can produce feelings, as ideas do. It is about the holistic understanding of reality.

For you, Steiner and me, who are "brainy" people, this is very difficult. I admit I find it very difficult to contemplate, to stop my inner monologue, my analyzing of things. I can maintain it only for a few seconds. I don't know about you but your spiritual activity seems to be writing in notebooks, thinking about ideas, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but there are other ways to spirituality and we should not reject what we cannot understand or replicate.

This is too long. I follow in another comment.

Chent said...

--- Follows from previous comment ----

Then, why is Eastern mysticism a support to our modern nihilistic materialism? The key word is "Eastern". If you want mysticism, you don't have to travel to cultures that are the most alien to Western culture. You have mysticism in the Christian tradition. In the Middle Ages, we have several examples of Christian mystics we can rely on. Afterwards, we have Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross and more. Even the Sufi mysticism of Islam is closer to home than Eastern spirituality.

The reason is that Buddhism is nihilistic at core, the same way as materialism is. Buddhism rises in an age of decadence, like ours. Buddhism denies gods as irrelevant, does not think that happiness is achievable (so the only goal is the elimination of suffering), does not think that individual persons are real so the only goal is to flee from reality (which is not real) and stop existing in a nirvana. There is only one non-nihilistic concept, which is the Ultimate Reality, the Absolute, but everything else is nihilistic. The nihilism of Buddhism reaches its limits in Zen Buddhism, where the Ultimate Reality is Nothing.

Buddhism is simply a non-materialist nihilism. It is nihilism when you don't believe in materialism. In fact, it is not compatible with our modern materialist nihilism, because of the difference of opinions in materialism. This is why it is adapted to Western modes of thought. If you have Buddhism and take the non-materialist doctrine, then contemplation goes FROM being a way to connect to Ultimate Reality TO being a psychological technique to get peace of mind. This is why Buddhism is converted into New Age thinking, mindfulness or other materialist adaptations to use it in our Western context. You never see Buddhism in pure form. "Eastern spirituality" used in the West should be called "Western materialist adaptations to Eastern spirituality".

But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The fact that Western materialist adaptations to Eastern mysticism are wrong and support materialism does not mean that every mysticism does it. This is why I think Steiner is wrong in this topic.

David Smith said...

I would greatly appreciate some information about your source(s) for your understanding of the "spirituality" that you are holding in opposition to Steiner's - particularly English Christian spirituality. What you are describing seems much more akin to my understanding of Asian (Buddhist, Hindu) as filtered through our common "hippy" worldview.

Bruce Charlton said...


To understand the implications of Steiner's analysis (which I regard as correct) one also has to agree to his analysis of the history and development of human consciousness. You don't - and believe that what worked 2000 years ago will work just the same now; so naturally this analysis doesn't seem right to you.

As for Eastern Western - I am using 'Eastern' as a shorthand, and I agree that the same aims have been a part of Christianity since the early centuries after Jesus; in particular the negative theology/ initiatory stream with its Neo-Platonic/ Gnostic roots, also associated with Dionysius the Areopagite.

But the main point Steiner argued remains intact. I would amplify it as being anti-Christian as of the modern era - since we need to strengthen our real-divine selves, and become more aware of them.

I have read and reviewed McGilchrist's book

It is good science; but (deliberately) not metaphysical - therefore TMAHE has zero relevance to this discussion. Indeed, I regard it as a major error to assume that it does!

Bruce Charlton said...

@DS - " the "spirituality" that you are holding in opposition to Steiner's"

What? This post is both influenced-by and supportive-of Steiner.

Chent said...

"You don't - and believe that what worked 2000 years ago will work just the same now; so naturally this analysis doesn't seem right to you."

Right. From assumptions so different, there cannot be an agreement. However, I think my point stands for the ones who share my assumptions.

"As for Eastern Western - I am using 'Eastern' as a shorthand, and I agree that the same aims have been a part of Christianity since the early centuries after Jesus; in particular the negative theology/ initiatory stream with its Neo-Platonic/ Gnostic roots, also associated with Dionysius the Areopagite."

But there has been mysticism inside Christianity too. It can be seen as a good or evil but not all mysticism is heterodox. Mysticism is a human activity, like writing. You can write Christian things or non-Christian things.

But this was not my point. My point is that none of these Gnostic mysticisms you refer to are peddled to the public in Western thought. No Christian, Gnostic, Islamic or other mysticism. Only Buddhism derivatives. This is because Buddhism is nihilistic and Western thought is so too.

"It is good science; but (deliberately) not metaphysical - therefore TMAHE has zero relevance to this discussion. Indeed, I regard it as a major error to assume that it does!"

I don't think so. I think science and any other field can inform the metaphysical and vice versa, because reality is united and the division in fields of knowledge is a human artifact so humans can study it better. But there is no point in discussing that. We must agree to disagree.

Beyond the book, the fact that logical ideas that are more and more separated from reality and more narcissistic have been taken over the Western civilization is a fact. You see this as a progress (an awakening of conscience that went the wrong way but it is good at its core), I see it as a decadence that is in the root of Western decadence (which you attribute to other causes: the awakening of conscience going the wrong way). But, good or evil, we can agree that this is a fact. I see the right hemisphere/left hemisphere that uses McGilchrist as a good shorthand but it does not depend on that. There are two modes of thought: verbal thought vs non-verbal contemplation. One is advancing and other receding.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Chent " I think science and any other field can inform the metaphysical and vice versa, because reality is united and the division in fields of knowledge is a human artifact so humans can study it better."

That is just wrong. Not a matter of opinion!

Metaphysics is prior to science, therefore science cannot 'inform' it.

If you dig down to your own metaphysical assumptions, you will know this from experience.