esoteric temptations, and pearls for swine

Tom H. Shea in Minnesota sent a letter to that most seductive of online journals, Southern Cross Review. Southern Cross Review, as you already know (because I told you, if nothing else), publishes the First Class lessons, the fourth lesson is available in the latest issue) in Frank Thomas Smith’s own translation. It worries some people, and some of them write to him. I’m not sure if I should be flattered by this, but my choice is, well, I will be. Thank you, Tom Shea, it was lovely! He writes:

On ‘The Ethereal Kiosk’, a blog by a very intelligent young Swedish woman, you can already find humorous remarks occasioned by her reading of your published translations. This young woman is a Steiner critic whom I have a great deal of respect for. She can be intellectually rigorous and is quite passionate in her exposing of what she sees as the weaknesses and fallacies in anthroposophy and its institutions. She purports to be a complete skeptic about spiritual matters but nevertheless has read Steiner widely and deeply in the original German. She is painfully truthful about herself and how she sees the world. These are qualities which are rare nowadays.

[…]

If you read ‘The Ethereal Kiosk’ on  Class Lessons, it is not reverential. it is humorous without resorting to ridicule, but through the blog it is now available to people who will and do ridicule Steiner.  You have put this temptation in their way.

You must view the entire letter for his other arguments against publication (scroll down, it’s the last one on the page). It’s worth noting that Tom Shea is not too keen on Frank’s seductive women pictures either. We could discuss that. It’s tempting, frankly! (I kind of like them, most of the time. But I’m odd.)

Anyway, I’d like to say some things, of course. No, it’s true, I’m not reverential. I don’t think it’s necessary. Displaying reverence would be even more unnecessary. I know Steiner put emphasis on reverence, in some contexts at least. As a non-anthroposophist — and complete skeptic… well, hm… — it would be silly to be reverent. I try to understand what he’s saying — to the best of my ability (sometimes, when writing, humour is more important than displaying one’s level of understanding) — not to be reverent. But, in some ways, I think that trying to understand is a kind of reverence, you know. Not the big gesture reverence or the undue respect kind of reverence. I don’t believe that the ‘truly human response is a reverential one’ as Tom Shea puts it.

Well. And as for the ‘wrong’ people reading the esoteric lessons. I don’t know — I say with a little sadness — if I’ve managed to influence one single individual to read the lessons. Unfortunately, people — non-antroposophists — are just not all that interested. That’s the sad truth. No harm in trying again though. Read read read! Perhaps I need to add some seductive art that you could all revere; properly, thoroughly, deeply.

39 thoughts on “esoteric temptations, and pearls for swine

  1. this is really for everyone, not particularly for anthroposophists. But I thought some seductive music would be appropriate, since I have to leave you for a few hours now…. as if you cared! ;-)

  2. I can assure Mr Shea that my mockery is very serious.

    If the emperor has no clothes (and I can’t see a shred on him) nudity is not always such a bad thing.

  3. I thought anthroposophy was an empress. Or are we talking about Steiner now?

    This made my day. Truly. I had to walk mr Dog while laughing. I assure you, that doesn’t do wonders for your deep and serious appearance. And neither do you look reverential. ‘I can’t pee if you don’t look reverential!’ he barked at me.

  4. You forgot to quote the “pearls before swine” part… “In the bible we find this phrase, ‘Casting pearls before swine.’ What I understand this to mean is that giving spiritual treasures to those who cannot appreciate what they are, potentially evokes a response of the lower self – ridicule. Whereas the truly human response is a reverential one.”

    And, of course, we must consider that one man’s pearls may be another man’s pig slop.

  5. I didn’t want to quote too much, so I chose the passages in a completely self-obsessed manner and hoped people would click on the link for the rest!

    I enjoy to throw pearls and slop — in equal measures? — to pigs and humans and, well, everyone else.

  6. I think we could get the whole of Blandings into the kiosk, no problem. In fact I do believe the Empress should become a fixture.

  7. ‘She usually lies, except when she can cause chagrin by telling the truth.’

    now that is really human.

  8. Reading about Blandings, I felt intuitively a certain comaptibility with the kiosk. Definitely.

    Here’s the quote in original:

    ‘Hon ljuger helst, i allmänhet; men då hon kan ställa till någon förtret med det, talar hon gärna sanning.’

    Google messes it up. It goes something like this: ‘She prefers to lie, in general; but when she can cause some chagrin with it, she’s happy to tell the truth.’

    I’m not saying that that is anything like me, of course… I’m always honest exccept when I make things up ;-) (Working on my bad reputation here, it’s a suitable thread for such pursuits. Having been semi-endorsed by an anthro and all.)

  9. Recently I saw the Waldorf three Rs – rhythm, repetition and reverence on an ad for a school, and wondered what the reverence would be for, if a parent asked.
    After thinking about it I decided the school would probably say it is for ‘nature’ or ‘the planet’ but having read this, I guess the reverence is to be directed at Steiner.
    What do you say?
    Glad your talents are being recognised, by the way.

  10. Helen says, ‘I guess the reverence is to be directed at Steiner.’
    I don’t find that in this post. Steiner never wanted to be revered. In the context of the First Class the reverence is for ALL beings, the integriry and sanctity of EVERY human being.

    Alicia says,’But, in some ways, I think that trying to understand is a kind of reverence, you know.’ I agree with this – the effort of really giving your attention to something difficult, even if it is so you can see what is wrong with it, shows a kind of reverence.

  11. We differ profoundly Falk on the idea of sanctity of humans,assuming we mean the same thing by sanctity of course. I am learning we often do not mean the same things at all.
    As for Steiner not wanting to be revered I will take your word for that.
    By reverence you could just mean respecting something, but to me it means much more than that, and with its religious connotations I find it mostly a negative concept.
    In terms of spirituality it seems to be to do with being sacred so I think we are off on different tracks again.
    I will ring up the school and see what answer they give.

  12. Yep, did he not say he wanted to be understood, not revered. Or was it something else, did he mean something more akin to lazy idolization?

    Because, in a way, I think he enjoyez to be revered. Or he would have acted differently. But I also think it annoyed him.

  13. I did not mean reverence for the man himself in my previous comment, but for his work.(I know that’s not what I said).Tom Shea demands reverence for the work of Steiner which he says is the’ truly human response’. He is obviously upset that anyone can now read the lessons, not just the special people who are qualified, like him. Perhaps they should be fitted with microchips to prove their eligibility.
    You are certainly displaying respect for his work by reading and trying to understand it, a respect which in my opinion it does not deserve, I would no more try to understand Steiner than to understand what Joseph Smith was on about. They were equally deluded. (oink)
    Once again we find that according to the faithful, to be human is to be initiated in to their particular sect. It shows contempt for anyone outside the circle.
    Disappointingly the seductive women do not seem to be on view. I quite like Schiele’s works and don’t find they are demeaning, I suppose they were included because they were of the era. Or is there another connection?
    .

  14. I have hurt your feelings in revealing my contempt for Steiner. Sorry for that. You made me care about anthroposophy and the way it affects on people, and it has been interesting.
    But I will leave you in peace.

  15. Please — Helen, both Rudi and I can take it. You contempt him, I’ll serve him more cognac. He’s in the higher worlds, after all. (Still. Not reincarnated. Despite what some anthros would like to tell you.) I’m tired, take this comment for what it is, deluded, tired drivel.

    In canineosophy, we have a different situation. It’s not said that someone isn’t worthy of reading the canine esoteric lessons, no. ‘You’re not worthy to sniff my butt!’ the canines say to each other. With a growl. No microchip. The ‘microchip’ is the smell of your butt. Really. I know it sounds bizarre, but I have consulted the guru. Yes, there’s a certain contempt for those outside the circle. Those dogs who have not yet reached enlightenment.

    It’s nothing to worry about, to return to anthroposophy, these first class lessons. If anthroposophy is all it’s supposed to be — no ridicule, by irreverent people, will ever affect it. If it isn’t — then, well, that’s just as well to know. In my opinion, and in this regard, the Tom Sheas are worried about something that they needn’t worry about. The first class lessons have been available — to the unqualified — in german for a long time, and countries where german is spoken are still the most anthroposophically vital.

    As for the seductive women, I always thought their presence meant only that Frank likes seductive women ;-) I have no idea if there’s any other connection. The esoteric lessons don’t have seductive women though — it’s his other articles.

  16. It’s saturday, and I’m cracking open a bottle of champagne and, from the ethereal freezer, taking out a box of the best ice-cream you could ever imagine. For my favourite Minnesotan!

    Everyone is invited to join in — Melanie, Pete, Falk, Helen (do come back Helen!), Diana, Ulf.* You better hurry before mr Dog and Rudi have consumed all the ice-cream! (Oh, I remembered, I must send Michael out for more.)

    * and others! In case I forgot someone ;-)

  17. here we have an ice-cream called ‘Salcombe mud’. So I’ll bring some of that. And I have a new frock I can’t wear yet due to freezing weather. At least in the ethereal kiosk Mich-ael’s dragon provides underfloor heating and we have one of those lovely Swedish stoves, tall and white, it’s entirely charming.

  18. Yes, we had to fire-proof the floor from underneath. There’s a special coating under the wooden floor-boards. Quite complicated. Had to be custom-made. This is what happens when you have a dragon in your garden and it decides to move into the basement. Of course, we keep warm this way, so one can’t complain, but I am buying some extra fire-extinguishers, just to be on the safe side.

    That ice-cream sounds lovely. Cookies and chocolate? (I googled!!) Don’t let the dragon breathe on it.

  19. Sounds wonderful… I’ll bring my favorite ice cream… the name reminds me of Anthroposophy… it’s called “Dark and Devilish”.

  20. Sounds like it could be something black, like licorice. I hope it’s licorice! I love licorice! Ahriman does, too, I’ve heard. ‘But the christ impulse only eats vanilla!’ Ahriman complains, after visiting the impulse’s humble abode.

  21. Yes — those are the best kinds of stories, about Dog heroes! They always fit the atmosphere. And keep cats away, mr Dog would say.

    I always blame my spelling mistakes on mr Dog being asleep. But, he says, catching bunnies all day, he can’t be expected to catch *all* my spelling mistakes too… Sometimes he’s just got to rest. There are so many bunnies, and even more spelling mistakes floating about.

  22. Ulf – I long to hear your storytelling, I’m happy to hear you in Swedish, and I have whisky if that helps.

  23. It probably helps. It usually does.

    (Or not. I think wordpress has had some whisky again. Or rather, too much of it. Which is rarely helpful. It has begun to assume people want to be notified ‘of follow-up comments via e-mail’. That option seems to be default now, not the opposite. So instead of clicking on it IF you want it, it’s automatically on. So: either click it OFF or don’t enter an email address. (Unless you want the notification, obviously.) This is yet another improvement, I guess. It’s quite annoying. It means I get two e-mails for every comment when I don’t remember to un-click the box… I just want you to know these are wordpress’ antics, not mine… Sorry anyway.)

  24. … though, come to think of it, I’m not sure how sea nymphs feel about pirates? I know that gnomes don’t like it when roads and tunnels are dug through their forests, but I don’t want to lump sea nymphs in with gnomes. Or pirates with the local council. Or… you know. What’s the sea nymph take on pirates? (The old type, not the digital pirates.)

  25. I’d like to know that too! But what about the beautiful, sad and dark selkie (the seal-people) stories from Shetland and the Faroe Islands? Which makes me think of a poetic computer game called “Dear Esther” taking place on a probably fictional Hebrides island. It’s full of sorrow and mysteries and if you want a glimpse of what art using computer game technology can be, try it! But please don’t tell my more orthodox oral storytelling friends – and it could probably upset some anthroposophists too ;-) Here is a YouTube review from a gamers point of view:

  26. Actually, I’m quite enchanted by the selkies. Have been reading more stuff on this website here:
    http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/selkiefolk/index.html

    Also, out walking mr Dog a short while ago, I noticed that inspired pirates must have invaded my neighbourhood, discarding their empty bottles anywhere they see fit. I saw no sea-nymphs and, thus, have to draw the conclusion that they don’t like pirates, and have left. http://twitpic.com/9i5dbi I think it’s the first time I’ve spotted a rum bottle while walking around, but I’m probably more attentive now, thinking about all kinds interesting folks, whether they’re selkies, anthroposophists from Minnesota or pirates coming ashore after having sailed the vast oceans or at least the baltic sea.

  27. The pirate-nymph-selkie relations should be seriously explored! Using diving equipment, agents from the Occult Investigation Bureau and researchers from the Academy of Mythosophy. I personally blame Astrid Lindgren for my mistaken romantic ideas about adventurous pirates. If Pippi Longstocking could have a father who was a pirate, why couldn’t I be one? There is actually an older literary tradition using “pirate fiction” to describe democratic utopias. And here, Pippi singing about a sea-sick pirate:

  28. Yes!!!

    And the pirate thing is very exciting and romantic.
    On the island, I’ve seen pirate ships sail by. Boring people think they’re just ‘museum’ ships with ordinary boring people on or something, but mr Dog and I know better. We know they’re pirates. We always debate over whether to bring out the daggers to defend ourselse or whether we’d ask to join them and perhaps share their rum and their gold. Mr Dog, who likes that bones thing pirates have going, does not, however, want a wooden hind-leg and hook a for front leg, so he insists on us getting the daggers ready. ‘Drop a bottle of rum, will you!’ I yell. They never do. Probably afraid of mr Dog, who has a set of inbuilt daggers in his jaws.

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