a defence of mystery

He’s bothered by reductionists and ‘their lack of a sense of mystery.’ Oh well then. Here’s Emanuel Derman — eagerly imparting ‘unnecessary information’ perhaps? (I don’t know) — on the consequences of encountering Steiner and his ‘somewhat turgid’ writings:

I never became an Anthroposophist, but some of those perceptions still carry weight with me. Years later, when I read Spinoza’s Ethics, I came across a version of the same idea. Mind and matter, according to Spinoza, are simultaneous attributes of one underlying Substance. Or, in modern terms, mind is not an epiphenomenon of matter nor is matter an epiphenomenon of mind. Neurophysiology doesn’t explain psychology, and psychology doesn’t replace neurophysiology. Spirit co-exists with matter; spirit is an element, not a compound.

Read more. (Also available in German.)

So, ‘spirit is an element, not a compound’ — are we really getting closer to anything profound here…? I’ve read the text several times, and unfortunately it seems emptier each time. Mystery married with rather banal ‘truths’, sometimes of the self-evident kind.

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8 comments

  1. curt jansson · ·

    It is hard to formulate in (materialistically ballasted) words matter of this kind. You can, however, get a glimpse of R. Steiners version of the creation and the vanishing of materia in cosmos by reading a cycle (not a bicycle) of lectures from the year 1909, April 12 – 18 in Düsseldorf (I have no idea of any English edition or of the GA number). It is called “Geistige Hierarchien und ihre Widerspiegelung in der physischen Welt”, and toward the end deals with the phenomena that Materia seems to vanish in the center (the Black Hole) and reappear from the periphery. This in the year 1909. Modern astronomers and physicists has since the late 1990ies confirmed this.
    As you may know (or not) I have studied Classical Archaeology and History of the Religions most of my adult life (also at Sthlm) and I encountered another remarkable Steiner thing in the late 80ies, The Doctor spoke (some time around WW I) about certain things in the Bible and other ancient scriptures, saying that in the future, modern Science would confirm much of it, as the Flood Myths and others. Then in 1985-6 (I think) I stumbled upon a paleoarchaeological report confirming a flood of tremendous proportions in the Black Sea area around 7500 BP, brought about by the melting of the inland glaciers in Europe, rising water levels in the oceans, especially the Mediterranian Sea with a subsequent collaps of the Bosporus mountain barrier then parting the Med from the Black Sea. A flooding that drenched everything up to and above 120 meters followed and gave the background for the Gilgamesh Epos and the Biblical tales. As early as 1908 in Oslo (then Christiania) Steiner spoke of floodings in the past in the North Sea area, confirmed by a group of European paleoarchaeologists as late as 2008 (The Dogger Landslide, Documenta Praehistorica XXXV (2008)).
    So the old Doctor does have a few hits in the Bull´s Eye too. Just to defend the guy a little!

  2. He did speak a lot! Even for a skeptic like myself it’s not entirely unbelievable that he was right every now and then — even about facts. He was quite clever and, well, he did speak about everything under the sun, more or less. That was a bad expression, though — he went to the sun and beyond. (Still, of course, lots of things he talks about are beyond what can be proven or disproven factually anyway.)

    Here’s the lecture cycle in English, by the way, in case someone feels tempted (I haven’t read it, although I think I’ve come across it before because the title is familiar): http://www.rsarchive.org/GA/index.php?ga=GA0110 (There are only 10 translated lectures, however, and the original GA might consist of 14, though I haven’t checked.)

  3. curt jansson · ·

    Right, GA 110 it is. And in my first edition of 1909 (blueprint as manuscript long before the idea of a GA) there is also only 10 lectures. I do not know whether there originally were 14 or for what reason the 4 should have been omitted, but I´ll try to do a little research on the matter.

  4. Oh — but then there are probably only ten. I was confused because I somehow got 14 lectures listed when I checked rsarchive.org. And then there were only ten translated. I thought perhaps they were lacking four in English. It’s also entirely possible that I was confused and got it all wrong (in fact, this might even be likely).

  5. curt jansson · ·

    Given the fact that the good Doctors lectures rate in excess of 5000, you have every reason to be confused. Comfort yourself that the eventual confusion doesn´t show in your writings. They are a delight, especially for the wonderful English (worthy of a Dickens or Scott) you write and your ability to clarify things I know many academics would stumble over.

  6. Thank you! Well, I actually think one reasonably needs more than one lifetime to stop being confused about those 5000 lectures.

  7. curt jansson · ·

    Isn´t that the reason for reincarnation?? ;))

  8. I’m sure it is. If the idea hadn’t existed previously, Steiner would have had to invent it!

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