rosicrucian wisdom

Diana has embarked on an impressive project — a kind of study group –, together with anyone who wants to join. The intent of this post is to make you want to join! Hopefully you have the book, but if you don’t you can read it online. It’s the Theosophy of the Rosicrucian (later renamed, as in the edition from Steiner Books that I’m waiting for: Rosicrucian Wisdom). Diana wrote, on January 13:

I urge newcomers to join, or Waldorf parents who would like to know what goes on in Steiner faculty meetings. This is *not* a dense read, it is very lively and fun. It requires no previous background in anthroposophy. In no time you will be discoursing on the seven-fold human and the nine-fold human, ancient Atlantis, the human being in Devachan, and our future lives on Venus and Jupiter.

I will throw this out to whet your appetite. The introduction explains that Rosicrucianism is the spiritual “stream” personified by Christian Rosenkreuz, a “lofty” spiritual being who “incarnated” in the 15th century. This individuality, he explains, incarnated “again and again in the same body.” He assures us that the meaning of this mysterious image will become clear later. I personally have no idea what the meaning of this might be. I’ve read this book at least twice, but I don’t remember (normally, of course, one reincarnates in *different* bodies!!).

Since then, she’s posted a summary of the first lecture. She also formulated a question for discussion:

Steiner states that although we cannot all be clairvoyant, we can all learn spiritual truths from those who do possess this ability. He presents this as anti-authoritarian: the student need not take anything on faith from the teacher, but if he/she is of normal intelligence can understand all the teachings with his or her own reason. Is this really anti-authoritarian?

One poster — Luz — then compared Steiner’s higher worlds to Spain. This is kind of clever — and quite witty — until you remember that there’s plenty of evidence that Spain actually exists. Pete suggests that Vulcan, whose existence is more uncertain (!), might be a better comparison. I’m sure tourist guides to Vulcan would be fun though. Tourist guides to the higher worlds, even better. Read Diana’s reply to the travel agent who’s been to Spain. Sorry, attempted to travel through the higher worlds. Or has friends who did it.

Here’s the thread expanded to show all posts. Still a nuisance to read in that shape (dreadful yahoo), so I encourage you to sign up and receive posts as emails instead; it’s much prettier. Most of all, I urge you to join the discussion. I hope I’ll have more to say in the coming days. I spent this day worrying about some things that are not worth worrying about and some things that are. So my attention is a bit off at the moment. I’ll try to wake up. Although it’s midnight, so maybe waking up is better postponed until tomorrow. (I hope these lectures will say something about sleep. Steiner had some interesting ideas about sleep.)

(If someone absolutely does not want to join the list, but has interesting ideas or viewpoints to contribute, please post them, and I’ll forward them to the list. But I do think you should join.)

22 thoughts on “rosicrucian wisdom

  1. This is EXACTLY what I need at the moment, Diana’s summaries are just great. But do you remember the Super Intellectual Gnomes you can’t count? On what planes can you find them? Somewhere in the mineral kingdom?

  2. Yes, the gnomes!! That’s a very good question… They work a lot with the mineral kingdom, actually. They’re like the miners of the elemental world.

    Diana’s summaries are excellent!

    I finally got the book yesterday, and could read the printed version of the second lecture last night. Actually, mr D and I read it as a good-night story. Not the best choice; Steiner mentions big cats. There were a few things to object to…

  3. Yeeesh, Mr. Dog must have had nightmares! Group souls of Big Cats wandering the astral plane … must be terrifying! Ordinary cats are bad enough, but to meet the soul of ALL the cats collectively?!

  4. WE KNOW!! It was horrifying! Finally, after some canineosophical meditation, mr Dog was once again convinced that mr Steiner must have been wrong. But it was still a horror story, even if utterly unrealistic.

    Mr Dog wonders if it’s not, after all, appropriate to burn some pages in some Steiner texts. (What do you think, Jan?)

  5. Relating to the Schieren fondness for “essentialism”, here is a long quote involving both cats and dogs, Plato and Thomas Aquinas:

    “To illustrate, when we see a dog we recognize it as a dog. This is despite the fact that there are various breeds, varying in size, shape, and color. Yet they all belong to the class we know as dog. What makes a dog a dog? If one were to include in the definition of a dog, an animal with four legs, then how is it that we instantly recognize a three legged dog as a dog? According to Plato, there is a Form known as dogness. It is the perfect Form of a dog. We recognize specific dogs as participants in the Form of dog. The same is true with catness and treeness as well as all objects of sensible reality.

    There is debate about where or in what form these Forms actually exits. Copleston rejects the idea that the Forms themselves are sensible objects: “It is absurd to speak as though the Platonic Theory involved the assumption of an Ideal Man with length, breadth, depth, etc., existing in the heavenly place.”(9) What is clear though, is that Plato believed that the way we actually come to know these Forms is through our pre-existence. According to Plato, Forms, matter, as well as our souls, are eternal. Plato maintained that we had direct knowledge of these Forms before our birth, but through the trauma of birth, we forgot them. Life is the process of trying to regain that knowledge that we lost during birth. His theory also involves the belief in the immortality of the soul and reincarnation. We are basically a soul that inhabits a body. Our body is a hindrance to true knowledge. When we die, we return to the realm of the Forms where we await another rebirth, and thus the process begins again.”

    Now where did I see that kind of thinking before? Thomas Aquinas, the catholic thinker, has another view:

    “For Plato, we start with the universal and abstract the particular. For Aquinas, we start with the particular and abstract the universal. For instance, according to Plato, when I see my dog spot, I know it is a dog because I am aware of the universal concept of dogness and that spot participates in the Form of dogness. So I am able to go from the universal dogness to the particular spot. But for Aquinas, I start with spot. I recognize spot as spot and I am able to abstract from spot the form dogness. Thus I know that spot is a dog. But I start with spot, not with dog.”

    This is also relevant for the holism/reductionism issues.

    More at http://www.givingananswer.org/articles/platoandaquinas.html

  6. Ulf, did you know that anthroposophists believe Steiner was Aquinas reincarnated? (Prior to that, he was Aristotle.)

    Also, I’m not sure if you got in that passage that “Spot” is the dog’s name (a common, really stereotyped name for dogs in English, like “Fido” or “Rover” or, well, I don’t know what stereotypical names you use in Swedish).

  7. “It is much like a dog’s attitude toward human speech. A dog hears human speech and seems to hear it as barking. Except for particularly intelligent performing animals (such as the one that excited a lot of interest a while ago among people concerned with such useless tricks), a dog does not understand the meaning of sounds.” The new essential Steiner: an introduction to Rudolf Steiner for the 21st Century.

    Funny, my dog attached meanings to all types of sounds… dog bowl clanging, car keys, whistles. Funny, whenever I said “sit” – he would… coincidentally, of course.

  8. ‘… there is a Form known as dogness. It is the perfect Form of a dog.’

    and it’s name is mr Dog!

    We don’t like the thought of catness. Otherwise, splendid quotes! I have some dog quotes from Steiner on the blog; he talks about Schopenhauer as dog, writing The World as Will and Smell. (https://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/canineosophy-vs-anthroposophy-round-ii/)

    Diana — Fido works in Swedish but not Rover or Spot. I had these English children’s book when I was younger, about a dog named Spot. Apparently they were good for non-native English speakers because they were simple. That’s an irrelevant side-remark… (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spot_the_Dog but I only had the first one Where’s Spot? very funny.)

    Pete — nasty quote. I suspect he was just babbling junk. But mr Dog is growling; he’s not sure he can forgive Steiner for this.

    Melanie: ‘They certainly have evolved to ‘read’ us, in various ways.’

    Yeah, well, we couldn’t wait for humans to evolve to understand us. Would have taken too long. Slow learners… /mr Dog

  9. Why (one reason why) the Rosicrucian thread is important to waldorf parents:

    ‘“The forces which give rise to this phenomenon lie in a very lofty spiritual world … When the occultist speaks of higher worlds, he means worlds that are around us all the time, only the senses for perceiving them must be opened just as the eyes must be opened for the perception of colours. When certain senses of the soul, senses which lie higher than the physical senses, are opened, the world around us is pervaded by a new revelation known as the astral world. Rosicrucian Theosophy calls this world the Imaginative World — but ‘Imaginative’ here denotes something much more real than the ordinary implication of the word. There is a constant flowing and ebbing of pictures; the colours that are otherwise chained to objects are involved in myriad transformations within the astral world. In the movement that has linked itself with Rosicrucianism this world is also called the ‘Elemental World.’ These three expressions therefore: Imaginative world, Astral world, Elemental world, are interchangeable.”

    So: Astral = Elemental = world of Imagination

    This connection, introduced early in this lecture series, is important for Waldorf parents to understand. “Imagination” has this very specific spiritual meaning in anthroposophy, pertaining to the astral realm, and when the Waldorf teacher speaks of encouraging “imagination” in children, she may well be evoking the Steiner term.’

    Parents (and everyone else involved or wanting to get involved or involve money in the waldorf world) need to understand these words, and to understand that when waldorf teachers talk about imagination, they may not talk about what non-anthroposophists would assume they talk about.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/22516

  10. I really think it unlikely that, ‘when the Waldorf teacher speaks of encouraging “imagination” in children, she may well be evoking the Steiner term.’
    Unless she is quiet a devoted anthroposophist, and not so many waldorf teachers are (it is actually a problem in some Steiner schools how ignorant some staff are about anthroposophy), she will not know the meaning of ‘imagination’ the way Steiner uses it when he means the astral or elemental worlds.
    A Steiner teacher will definitely not be trying to awaken clairvoyance in the child – that is for adults who choose to seek it. It would be regarded as an unethical thing to do.
    So if your Steiner teacher says that are trying to develop imagination it means exactly the same as for most other people. ‘Ordinary’ imagination is still regarded as highly desirable because it promotes flexibility in thinking and helps develop empathy.

  11. Some schools have quite a lot of devoted anthroposophists. At least when I was in school it seemed that way.

    But I agree to a certain extent — there are waldorf teachers who are less devoted anthroposophists and perhaps even some who don’t know that devoted anthroposophists mean something different from ‘ordinary’ language when they speak of ‘imagination’.

    BUT, again, teachers who go through waldorf teacher training study Steiner’s work. Not this particular collection of lectures perhaps, but I’m quite sure they read about Steiner’s conceptions of, among other things, imagination, the astral, the elemental and so forth. (Also, as a side-note, I think if they don’t know they ought to know these things — yes, ignorance is a problem then.)

    An other sign (well, sign might be the wrong word, but I can’t come up with any better right now) that they mean something else than ordinary language is that so little imagination — in the ordinary sense — is developed… relative to how often the word is used. Unless we substitute imitation for imagination.

    ‘A Steiner teacher will definitely not be trying to awaken clairvoyance in the child – that is for adults who choose to seek it.’

    Obviously not — the child is too young. They might in a way prepare the child in the sense that the developmental ideas they work with would enhance, in their view, the child’s capacity (or simply likelihood) to develop in such a way that is spiritually appropriate and thus, later in life, may have certain consequences. It’s more like, to compare with mainstream education and to randomly invent a very simple example, a child who learns to read at 7 might write a dissertation by 30 and become a professor by 40. It’s still essential that, at one point in time, this child learnt how to read. But there’s no doubt that waldorf education is supposed to, from an anthroposophical viewpoint, endow the child with better spiritual conditions than mainstream education would (if teachers don’t know this, they’re ignorant about what Steiner envisioned), for example by avoiding intellectual pursuits ‘too’ early. Not to speak of eurythmy and everything else that has anthroposophical significance.

  12. @ Diana
    Thanks, it’s hilarious that Steiner should have been Aquinas! You don’t happen to have more on his incarnation adventures? Where is he now, when not visiting the kiosk? Is there anywhere I can find out more, not demanding a black belt in clairvoyance? I feel the distinct smell of a good story here …

    BTW in my schoolbooks ages ago, the typical dog was called Karo, etymologically related to the english word care. Nowadays Karo seems to have passed on to a higher plane of existence as a Perfect Form of Caring Dog, most frequently appearing in swedish crossword puzzles. For another materialized form, fit for a small home altar, see http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Kan-du-inte-tala.jpg

    @ All
    I think all attempts to make the basics of anthroposophy accessible to non-anthros are invaluable! I guess even some anthroposophists would benefit from seeing a more “holistic” picture.

    One of many reasons is that it sheds light on a very fundamental question about waldorf pedagogy. “What are the most important motivations for waldorf pedagogues?”

    I think Diana mentioned “incarnation support” somewhere. Alicia described a teacher finding signs in her drawings that she hadn’t incarnated properly. Add to this the discussion above about the more occult meanings of words like imagination, inspiration etc. Even considering falk’s valuable perspective on this, for me the evidence so far says that ordinary teaching or the type of knowledge parents expect is only a secondary priority.

    I have been searching for an explanation for the poor performance of waldorf education. Why isn’t it superior to ordinary schools? With all these bright ideas, all these committed teachers, all these years of continuous development, why? To be fair, I’m not that impressed by the swedish school system as a “learning organization” either, but at least they are doing a better job than waldorf.

    Of course this is a question where you should distrust any simple answer. Let me try anyway: “Waldorf teachers have always been more interested in spiritual goals than in ordinary teaching”. And, inspired by falk’s post: “This applies especially to those who have studied Steiner in a deeper way”

    And I guess some of you could have told me that already. But sometimes it’s more fun to imagine that you find out things for yourself ;-)

  13. Sorry, dashing around this morning, but prior to Aquinas, Steiner was supposedly Aristotle.

    — no, not joking …

  14. Falk wrote: Of course this is a question where you should distrust any simple answer. Let me try anyway: “Waldorf teachers have always been more interested in spiritual goals than in ordinary teaching”. And, inspired by falk’s post: “This applies especially to those who have studied Steiner in a deeper way”

    I might add, Waldorf teachers are more interested in the success of Waldorf education than they are in the success of individual students. Waldorf is of primary importance, the students, come second. Waldorf teachers tend to put the needs of the school above the needs of the pupils. Just like Steiner told them to do.

  15. I knew there should be an interesting story about Steiner’s former and present whereabouts! Searching for Steiner, Aristotle and Aquinas turned up this: It is quite weird stuff.

    Here: I found something interesting, connected with my concerns about the motivations of waldorf teachers:

    “In Socrates theory of knowledge when we know something we are merely remembering
    what we knew before our birth (“the living word of knowledge which has a soul,
    and of which written word is properly no more than an image”), reconnecting to
    the heavenly world of ideal forms. Writing it down interferes with this
    spiritual sense of recollection and increases the chance of mis-understanding.”

    Seems there might be more to the practice of delaying reading and writing in waldorf, than just waiting for the astral and ethereal bodies to develop. So books can directly interfere with the incarnation support work …

  16. Yes Ulf there is absolutely a connection, reading and writing are indeed delayed in Waldorf for spiritual purposes.

  17. “BTW in my schoolbooks ages ago, the typical dog was called Karo, etymologically related to the english word care. Nowadays Karo seems to have passed on to a higher plane of existence as a Perfect Form of Caring Dog,”

    Interesting! I think if I ever get another dog, I’ll call him Karo, in honor of the group soul of Swedish dogs.

  18. As it happens, Melanie and I were talking about this the other day:

    ‘Where is he now, when not visiting the kiosk?’

    He’s actually still in the place between death and rebirth. They send boring people back to earth quickly. But they’ll want to keep him for as long as possible, together with Hitchens and other funny and interesting people. That’s why we see so much dullness on earth and also why there are no reliable sightings of the reincarnated Steiner (the people who presently claim it are the least likely to be him, actually).

    ‘Alicia described a teacher finding signs in her drawings that she hadn’t incarnated properly.’

    Well, I don’t think the teacher is supposed to have said that explicitly. I think there was complaints about me doing this, but the reasons are my interpretation — knowing what I know now. Why otherwise have a problem with drawings from above?

    ‘Of course this is a question where you should distrust any simple answer. Let me try anyway: “Waldorf teachers have always been more interested in spiritual goals than in ordinary teaching”.’

    Yes.

    Pete added:

    ‘I might add, Waldorf teachers are more interested in the success of Waldorf education than they are in the success of individual students.’

    Unfortunately, yes, that’s my impression too. Not every teacher, but the overall feeling is that waldorf itself is the priority for many (and anthroposophy, although paradoxically simultaneously the desire to distance waldorf from anthroposophy).

    Karo is a wonderful dog name; I remember it from older children’s books.

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