in the place of God, the free human being

130929aFear God! Honour the king!

Asked about his motto in 1892, Rudi — who was about to turn 31 — replied:

‘An Gottes Stelle den freien Menschen!!!’

This was several years before his turn to theosophy. (We might discuss, one day, whether in practice this ideal stayed alive in anthroposophy; or if it had to be abandoned in favour of dissemination of some other belief — veneration for a guru, for example — that also in some sense incapacitated human freedom. But not today.)

During his youth, he was quite adamant that religion was man-made. (We might discuss, one day, whether he ever stopped believing this. But not today. In any case, some of his followers certainly took own his creed religiously.)

I lay awake last night, unable to sleep. I’ve been thinking about how dearly missed Christopher Hitchens is. I don’t know who else, today, speaks the way he spoke, with that force and eloquence.

Following debates lately (and mostly from the fringe), I’ve been struck by the inexplicable naivety shown by people who put respect for religious nonsense in front of respect for human freedom. I’m not sure what this is a consequence of: shitty education that fails to teach history properly or so called social competence taken to the extreme. I am, however, convinced it is a huge problem. It’s like the enlightenment didn’t happen. Or wasn’t really worth it. Or that it wasn’t such a revolutionary thing. People seem to take for granted — despite what the world looks like — the freedom of the individual and, perhaps most importantly, women. As if this freedom did come for free, and not through struggles we should be eternally thankful to our ancestors for.

It is as though we don’t understand what privilege it is not to have to bow to our knees praying to deities or to cover our hair in subjugation to a power supposedly higher than man. Because that is what it is: submission. Even done freely, that’s what it is. And it frightens the hell out of me that people don’t question it: not so much the individual’s choice, but the phenomenon itself.

Perhaps this is good or perhaps it is bad, I don’t know (my hunch is that it’s bad, although of course it’s jolly we’re in this position and not living in Saudi-Arabia): but it seems to me that people are privileged enough to eschew loyalty to those who are still oppressed by theocratic silliness and instead to side with those who want to preserve a lighter version of it, albeit under a banner of freedom (subjugating yourself to a god or putting on a veil is, after all, for many in Western societies, done in freedom; not so in other parts of the world, and, it should be said, not by all here either). Even a lighter form of submission to whatever god is an assault on human freedom, and it matters what we say about these things, because admitting that submission to any gods could be a decent thing, opens up a whole box of nasty things, including people who wish to mete out punishments on behalf of whatever god they happen to fancy and who is, supposedly, on their side. (To mention one problem only.) And, again, whatever these gods happen to demand of us, all their demands were conceived by men. So why not simply conceive of our own ideals, and live by them?

I do want to emphasize the profound importance of those words: an Gottes Stelle den freien Menschen. It is the one thing, possibly the only, that (if taken seriously) entirely prevents theocracy. It is incompatible with submission to any of the gods or their earthly creators.


On a slightly different topic (I’m not going to write a lot of blog posts, so I’m taking the chance to get this out of my system), my reading lately have convinced me of a few things, among them the woes of shallowness. I think, in some ways, it relates to the above (if only very subtly). I’ll try to explain. If we don’t take any ideas seriously, or if we believe that all ideas are equally good or kind (or promoting the same amount of freedom, for that matter), it is, of course, difficult to reject ideas that run counter to all the ideals we should (in my opinion) cherish. (I think we should remember that to those who believe themselves to be the envoys of various deities — for exemple the God of the monotheistic religions — all ideas are emphatically not equal. And they have very little patience for social competence or the other niceties taught in schools, possibly instead of actual knowledge.)

I’ve been struck by the peculiar phenomenon of spirituality that aims at the depths (and towards the heights) of human existence but accomplishes nothing but unbearable shallowness. Everything is surface. But maybe I’ve misunderstood? Maybe, for example, the guardian of the threshold is someone other than I thought: a heartening character who’s there to sow roses on man’s path. Maybe Ahriman serves raspberry lollipops and Lucifer hot tea. (Whatever you want, you decide.) Maybe we’re all supposed to sit around, feeling cosy and congratulating ourselves for being so nice and good (despite the facts of the world). And everybody is getting along, except those sourpusses who keep talking about what is right, and who keep insisting, in the most unacceptable manner, that there are ideas that are better than other ideas.

People appear to think anthroposophy can be anything you want it to be; pick and choose in the shiny department store of spiritual blingbling. A ridiculous — and false — position. But apparently it — anthroposophy — defies definition. It’s life itself, bigger than life even, oh dear. Funny how it looks like an amusement park. You can settle for one of the attractions or all of them — and have a lovely ride. Or perhaps a nauseating one. I can’t tell.

I’m quite weary of this assumption though: that everything (every belief, every idea) is equally good — and nobody should be preposterous enough to question your choices (unless everybody who is ‘good’ have decided that somebody else is ‘evil’: then let the hunt begin!) or putting them in a wider perspective. No, you assume that nobody should question your choice. Even if it’s dictated not by freedom (as you think) but by naivety and ignorance that leads straight to hell, even if by detour.