tenth esoteric lesson

Anthroposophy, at least not in these advanced stages, is not exactly for people who question things. It’s for people who are already convinced about the eternal truths contained in it.

… the person hears about anthroposophical truths, lets them work on him and considers them to be self-evident. It is obvious that everyone sitting here today belongs to that group. For if someone who does not belong to that group wishes to participate in a lesson as a member, it would not be honest of them.

There’s yet another esoteric lesson available in english, this time the tenth lesson. It promises to be exciting:

Today I would like to again provide an indication of how you can leave the body – if only by means of so slight a jolt that you don’t even realize it.

Then he goes on about the darkness of the earth, and the light of the stars and so forth — materialism vs anthroposophy, basically. I tend to find the stars comforting. But I’m sure it’s not for the right reasons. Don’t miss the lesson’s meditation and Steiner’s explanation of it.

The brilliance of the stars awakens me.
I am brought back to what I was in the previous incarnation as though awakened in it. My karma arises before me, the connection of destiny arises before me, it arises before me from the other side.

Read.

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from the ‘dark domain of the earth’

the ninth lesson, and a few words about other things

To live up to my new (well, perhaps it isn’t exactly new) and bad reputation as some kind of weird crypto-esoteric, and also to behave in a suitably mysterious manner in general (I always aim to), I’ll recommend to you that you read Steiner’s ninth esoteric lesson for the first class, providing of course you’ve read the preceding eight, which I’ve recommended to you before. I trust, of course, that you have. Anything else would be highly neglectful. To set the scene for cosmic flights:

It would be easy to convince people about the spiritual world if for example a table from the spiritual world were to approach them. But there are no tables in the spiritual world, there are only spiritual beings in the spiritual world, and they must be perceived with what is spiritual in man. But spiritual is what we can read in the stars, what we can feel in the movements of the planets, what we can experience in the forces which hold us to the earth and make us people of the earth. Therefore whoever desires to understand in the right way must do so inwardly. With common sense we can understand all of anthroposophy, but to understand inwardly means to transfer more and more what is understood to inner life. Whoever wishes to do this must decide to undertake a really intimate exercise of these three sensations – or experiences, it doesn’t matter what we call them.

Continut to read all. I like everything about stars. And Steiner’s unintentional (or possibly intentional, who knows) humour.

*

As for everything else that happens and that doesn’t happen: You have to forgive me for being a rather passive blogger lately. I still have that sense of obligation or perhaps a misplaced respect for this blog’s (albeit unintentional) tradition or perhaps we should call it its fate — that either I should blog about waldorf topics, or I should be quiet (so as not to bug you with too many ramblings that are unimportant to you — whoever you are?). So I remain silent most of the time. I think that’s seriously got to change; I’ve got to shed that awful waldorf thing and do something new. (I know I’ve said so before. I’ll keep saying it, until the intention has properly matured. And then, more and more, I’ll be doing something else. I’m sure it will be like that.) Another day, soon, I will write a few words about a book I read recently — Mulisch’s The Discovery of Heaven. It’s a book you should read too. Speaking about the blog, the book is even on topic. Sort of.

I’ve added a number of new links to my post about the wonderful Hilma af Klint exhibition. If you haven’t seen it, you should. If you can’t, you should at least read and look at pictures. Look at the links or google, there’s a lot online now. I read the other day that Gertrud Sandqvist is writing a biography about Hilma, but unfortunately I can’t remember where I saw the news. It should be an exciting read when it’s published. But mostly to swedes, I’m afraid.

Winter remains faithful to us and fights to stay around, a fight against an increasingly warm sun, but I’ve run out of enthusiasm for winter. There’s still snow on the ground, it’s still relatively cold. Not beautiful, just dreadful late winter. It should be spring now. I’m not too fond of spring (I prefer autumn) — but three months of snow and ice and cold and darkness seems enough.

Comments on the blog will remain moderated; I thought it was to be a temporary inconvenience, but I have realized it will (most likely) be for good. I thought I’d tell you the reasons, but I guess that would be tedious and unnecessary.

reading esoteric lessons

I continue to read Frank Smith’s translations of the esoteric lessons for the first class. I’ve come to lessons 7 and 8. Here’s a snippet from lesson 7:

If on seeing the head from the other side of the threshold one recognizes how will goes through the head and how the senses represent will, then he will realize how the heart contains the soul and how one can feel the soul within the heart just as he can will the head’s spirit when observing the head. And now we know that when thinking is not considered as a function of the head, but as a function of the heart, of the soul, we realize that thinking does not belong to an individual, but to the world; then one experiences cosmic-life, the music of the spheres.

Lesson 7 also contains an intriguing section on sleep, which I quoted back when I had only the german text to quote from. (The old blog post is here; they’re some fascinating quotes.) One might also ponder Steiner’s words about truth. If one is that way inclined.

In the most recent edition of Southern Cross Review you’ll find the 8th lesson. Steiner first talks, at some length, about the movement, membership (and the laborious task he has: signing membership cards! no, he doesn’t want to get a stamp instead, and says why), the Vorstand, the school of spiritual science, et c. It can be skipped, but it is quite interesting in its own way. (Most fascinatingly, he dismisses esoteric school members who think that it’s better to remain silent about anthroposophy and about being its representative. He says, also: ‘Those who continually claim that you can’t confront people with anthroposophy immediately, that you must somehow talk them into it gradually, may choose to exercise their opinion outside the School.’ I wonder about how to interpret this.) But to proceed to the actual lesson, where he teaches, among other things, that feeling is ‘a waking dream’. In the beginning of it, however, he says this:

My dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers, there exists no knowledge which is not closely tied to the spiritual world. Everything we call knowledge which is neither investigated in the spiritual world nor imparted by those who are able to investigate in the spiritual world, is not real knowledge. We must be clear about the fact that when we look around in the world, in the kingdoms of nature, see the colors and the radiance manifested, see what lives above in the shining stars, in the warming sun, what springs up from the depths of the earth – it is all sublime, grand, beautiful, full of wisdom. And we would be very mistaken to ignore this beauty, sublimity, this wisdom. If one wishes to become an esotericist, if he strives for real knowledge, then he must have a sense for the world around him – an open, free sense. For during the time between birth and death, during his earthly existence, he is obliged to absorb his strength from the forces of the earth, and to return the results of his work to the forces of the earth.

Go on reading.

sixth esoteric lesson

I have continued reading the english translation, so here’s another one of the important lessons, the 6th esoteric lesson for the first class, published by Southern Cross Review (sporting a naked lady on the front page as usual):

‘And when we feel our relationship with the world’s water, with the water elements, then we realize: as far as water is concerned, we should not be human, but vegetables.  And our feelings, which have a dream-like nature, as I have often explained, our feelings have a continuous tendency to be vegetable-like. Just try to think seriously about your innermost feelings and you will feel the vegetative nature of the life of feeling. And then you will have the feeling that you are not only in danger of descending to animality, but also of living on with a lamed consciousness, like a vegetable – sleeping, dreaming. But this feeling of lameness, which lies deep in the [sub]conscious, must be transformed into the feeling of awakening to humanity. Fear of animality must be transformed into the courage to raise yourself to humanity. The feeling of vegetable lameness must be transformed into an awakening call to inner strength, to develop into a fully awake person in the world.’

It’s partly odd, odder than the previous lesson. I wondered how we’re going to square that Steiner says that man, on earth, is an animal. So, alright, man is more than animal, more than plant, more than what’s present in the other ‘kingdoms’ of nature. But some anthroposophists seem to object to the idea that man is animal at all. Have I misunderstood this? It’s been discussed on the critics list, I believe, this anthroposophical difficulty seeing the human as an animal, related to other animals.

But the human is still not a dog, mr Dog reminds me. Or even related to dogs, infinitely superior as they are. Perhaps the human is a kind of dumb cat or perhaps a lazy cactus. Chasing bunnies, mr Dog often complains I’m duller and slower than a vegetable. He agrees with Steiner:

‘There is something in you that is as sleepy and as dreamy as the plants.’

‘Your running ability and your predatory instincts’, he adds (mr Dog, not Steiner, who, to my knowledge, never chased bunnies or cats, only other spiritual entities). Well, straying off the path here and into the dreamy jungle, so I’d better stop. Though, of course, canineosophy is the one true path. (Also for anthroposophists in Minnesota.)

‘man is as great as the universe’ (esoteric lesson five)

I’m behind in reading the english translation of the first class esoteric lessons. Here’s a nugget.

‘For the person who really stands before the Guardian of the Threshold this is not speculation, but experience. And this is what constitutes spiritual progress, that man integrates with the surrounding world. It is of little use to speak of these things theoretically. It is not particularly profound mystically to say that you are one with the world by merely thinking that you are, if you do not begin to experience the fact that when you are thinking you are living in the entire earth’s light, are becoming one with the earth’s light, and how by doing so, by becoming one with the light of the earth, you go out of yourself – go out, so to speak, through all the pores of your skin into a divine-spiritual being – you become one with the essence of the earth itself and with the other elements of the earth’s being. This is something which must be understood in all seriousness by anyone who strives toward relationship with the spiritual world.’

The five to ten passages following this one are fascinating and essential. There are also interesting things about colour.

What is perhaps more well known is that in waldorf education, the colour black is normally avoided. The blackest you get is dark blue, perhaps mixed with red, creating dark purple (make sure you read the part of Steiner’s lecture to find out about the role of blue and purple). What is less well known is that you aren’t supposed to leave white spots on paintings, and there is no white to paint with, only blue, red, yellow. The whitest you get is yellow (again, check what Steiner says!).

As a critically minded person — that one part of me that sits around in my brain and nags all the time — I’d like to advise you to remember, as you read this lecture, how Steiner in his other works relate the capacities of willing-feeling-thinking to the developmental stages of human nature.

That aside, if you can avoid reading it in the light (ha!) of Steiner’s race teachings (they tend to fuck things up, that’s the reason),* I wonder what would or could happen if the content of what Steiner conveys in these lectures was put in a different language shroud. If the same things were said in a more ordinary language, possibly poetic (that wouldn’t be a problem), ditching the linguistic esoteric garbage? What would happen?

(*What I’m saying is: if you entirely ignored that he connected certain capacities with human races. That connection is not essential to the thoughts he’s conveying here anyway.)

fourth esoteric lesson

It’s a bit late, but I’ve finally read the english translation of the fourth first class esoteric lesson. (I say sorry, before I even begin, to my reader in Minnesota! I’m throwing pearls for swine again, or perhaps roses for donkeys, which is another expression I recently came across in a similar context — that of esoteric wisdom being wasted on those who do not take it seriously… and reverentially…!) Here are a couple of quotes, to tempt and seduce you all:

‘A relationship with the spiritual world cannot take place without this understanding of the meeting with the Guardian of the Threshold, because the spiritual world is on the other side of this threshold.’

‘It is in fact true that whenever we are dealing with esoteric truths we should not think: Oh, I know that already. For the essence of the esoteric does not lie in knowledge, but in direct experience. And inwardly, in deeper levels of our souls than where memory has its roots, is where we should grasp and retain the esoteric.’

It is also about animosity in ordinary life (and thinking and feeling and such things in esoteric life), Skakesperean villains, esoteric couch-potatoes, the contemplation of trees, and more.

‘The esotericist must also use words, for he must speak.’

Well, yes, he must. And some of them certainly speak a lot!

It’s quite a nice lecture but I instinctly oppose, I think (with my earthly, materialistic brain), what he says about earthly, ‘sub-humanizing’ forces and the ‘true’ human being. Perhaps someone can explain why I should not feel alarmed by the thought of the ‘true’ human being rejecting the earthly in favour of the supposedly higher and perfect, an elusive utopia — denying, in effect, much of what (it seems to me) makes us human. Yes, ‘godly forces’ vs evil and all that — but I still can’t… fathom. And I can’t grasp how this idea makes it any more likely that you experience yourself as ‘one with the world’, which he talks about. But then…:

‘Think, my dear friends, about standing outside in a field looking up at a star-bedecked sky. It becomes clearer when we have the opportunity to choose; it can also happen in daylight, but it is clearer at night. We feel at one with the world; we feel: that is you. But the point on earth we stand on, which we consider to be so important that it only encompasses our individual self, dissolves when we gaze up into space. It expands to the hemisphere.’

Read!

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.

reading esoteric lessons

Since my last post, Frank Thomas Smith has continued to publish two more of the esoteric lessons in his own translation. For anyone new to this: the esoteric lessons for the first class are very serious stuff, indeed, it is advanced anthroposophy! But don’t be shy. In the second lecture, Steiner speaks about lies, thoughts that are dead corpses (thinking is dead, materialism, et c), spirit-scoffers, Ahriman, and the role of the guardian. Among other things. He says, for example, that ‘Humor may be called for with respect to some aspects of life. But the humor must then be serious. When we compare earnestness with mere game-playing, it is not sentimentality, false piety or the rolling of eyes as opposed to games.’

Later he talks about truth:

In esoteric life there is no possibility of introducing what is so prevalent in life: interpreting lies as truth. If one tries to do this in esoteric life it is not the interpretation which matters, but the truth. In esoteric life only the truth works, nothing else. You may color something because of vanity, but what has been colored makes no impression on the spiritual world. The unvarnished truth is what is effective in the spiritual world.

Then there’s one part of the lecture I guess might be interesting to bark at:

Take one of the saddest – to the spirit saddest – occurrences of our times, my dear friends. When people think clearly they are citizens of the world, for they well know that thinking makes you human, even when it is dead in the present age.

But people are separated by their feeling into nations, and especially today they let this unconscious feeling dominate in the worst possible way. Because people feel themselves as only belonging to a certain group, all kinds of conflicts arise.

For example, one might in this context (and being a real critic, not a phony one, like I am these days) ask how thinking, feeling, willing relate to the human races. In which race do those individuals incarnate who are capable of doing the thinking… and of leading humanity in spiritual progress? So — what Steiner says sounds nice, but is it?

(Hell, you’re going to suspect I bring these things up only to wind people up. After all, I know what gets people going. And here he is, saying something that seems so nice, why am I trying to wreck it, just to agitate someone. Try figuring out which of the three beasts — which Steiner talks about in this lecture — is most connected to my spiritually deficient state of mind, and give me a diagnosis. Please.)

So let’s talk about the latest edition of Southern Cross Review. In addition the third esoteric lesson, there is among things a short story about a magician cat, which, given the canineosophical circumstances, I cannot possibly recommend to you. So don’t read it. Do not read it. (Mr Dog will hate you.) Then there is, as said, the third lesson. It’s about the spiritual world again, of course, and about the physical world, too; about reality and illusion, truth and error, and separating one thing from another. He talks about thinking, feeling, willing in the spiritual world and about memory.

And when one enters the spiritual world, he immediately senses that his feeling does not stay with him. Thinking at least goes out into the presently existing universe. It disperses, as it were, in cosmic space. Feeling goes out of the universe and if one wants to follow feeling one must ask: Where are you now? When you have become 50 years old, then you have gone back in time farther than 50 years; you have gone back 70 years, 100 years, 150 years. Feeling leads you completely out of the time in which you have lived since childhood.

And willing, if you take it seriously, leads you ever farther back in time, back to your previous earth lives. That is something which happens immediately, dear fiends, when you really come to the threshold of the spiritual world. The physical body ceases holding you together. One no longer feels within the confines of the skin; one feels split into parts.

He talks about the necessity of cultivating reverence for the spiritual in life. (I know — do you draw any educational conclusions?) He talks about honesty in meditation, but before this explains:

When a person begins to meditate, when he or she is really dedicated to the meditation, he would like to continue in tranquility. He does not want it to deprive him of life’s comforts. Well, this desire not to be deprived of life’s comforts is a strong producer of illusions and semblances. Because when you dedicate yourself completely to meditation, necessarily from the depths of your soul the question arises about your capacity for evil. One cannot do otherwise than to feel through meditation, through that penetration into the depths, everything you are capable of perpetrating. But the urge to deny this is so strong that one submits to the illusion that one is essentially a very good person.

The mantras and stuff you’ll just have to read for yourself. They are, in a very special way, quite enjoyable. (It is in the reading of the mantras that I find the biggest difference, I feel, between the German original and Smith’s English translation. Not in a bad way. Somehow, the English language suits the mantras better. Oddly, very oddly. But so it is.)

english translation of the first class esoteric lessons

Hitherto unavailable to non-class members in English, the lectures of GA270 are now published by Frank Thomas Smith online in his own translation, thus not the exact text used in class lessons in the UK or the US. Still, it might be the best alternative for those who don’t read German or who find Steiner’s talk a bit impenetrable in German. (For the German editions, see this website.) Because they’ve been ‘secret’ (ie, only passed on to class members), one might have easily been led to believe these lessons are more riveting — from the perspective of potential scandal or whatever one might gleefully expect — than they actually are.

The dreadful skeptics, who are always so eager to mock, might want to ponder the following texts about the beasts hindering spiritual knowledge ;-)

The Guardian of the Threshold characterizes the first beast, which lurks as fear in your will, as a beast with a crooked back and a bony face and scrawny body. This beast, with its dull blue skin, is verily what rises from the abyss and stands alongside the Guardian of the Threshold for today’s humanity. And the Guardian of the Threshold makes it quite clear to the humanity of today that this beast is actually in you! It rises from out of the yawning abyss which lies in front of the knowledge fields, and reflects what lurks in your will as an enemy of knowledge.

And the second beast, which is connected to the desire to mock the spiritual world, is characterized by the Guardian of the Threshold in a similar way. It emerges alongside the other monster, but its whole attitude is one of weakness and sleepiness. With this sleepy posture and gray-greenish body, it bares its teeth in a warped face. And this baring of teeth is meant to indicate laughter, but lies, because to mock is to lie. So it grins at us as the reflection of the beast that lives in our own feeling and, as the enemy of knowledge, hinders our search for knowledge.

(There’s a third beast, who I feel, applies better to anthroposophists themselves! So you’ve got to read the text to find out more. Read!)

You will also learn, unsurprisingly, there is but one true gate to knowledge. Well, to a certain kind of knowledge, that is.