I went around in my head a lot about how I was going to approach this subject because I think it's a serious one, and yet I didn't want to be too serious about it. However, it is serious. The issue of what we could call occult discrimination is always the step forward that a Mystery school makes, and it's always the seed of destruction of that same school. The very gift of perception that is developed in the school becomes the weak link that causes it to fall. If you read the history of the Mysteries you will find it again and again. And the symptom of that is that the teachings of the teacher become splintered into splinter groups. Basically that's what happens, and then there is internecine warfare among the sects, and then new cults grow out of that and the teaching moves on.
The difficulty with Mystery training is that it is not really recognized by the regular world; it is sort of an undercurrent that carries the creative impulse that is going to be the "hardwired" impulse for the next couple hundred years. That's the task of the Mysteries. In the regular world they say the soft science of today is the hard science of tomorrow. So the real task of Mystery training is to create creative protocols, creative methods of working that incarnate ideas that need to be incarnated in the culture, but that the culture basically can't accept yet because they require a shifting of the paradigm that's too radical for the general culture.
So the Mystery schools are always a kind of undercurrent in that activity, providing a kind of yeast that the general culture will then take up and codify until it becomes rules. The very things the Mystery schools are crucified about become the rules in the next couple of hundred years. It's because there is a kind of lurching forward that happens in creative activity that creates a backlash from the Pharisees who annihilate the person making the step forward, and then adopt what has been brought forward and codify it into dogma. If you read about the Mysteries and Mystery training, that's the way it happens.
I’d like to sketch for you two different streams of how that happens and try to reference them to events that are happening in the anthroposophical movement today having to do with certain states of consciousness that I will call "the King" and "the Queen" as an alchemical idea [Rudolf Steiner called them the "King consciousness" and the "Shepherd consciousness"]. And these two oscillate with each other in the biography of the Mystery schools. The "Shepherd consciousness," the "Queen consciousness," is a nod toward mystical union, mysticism, and the "King consciousness" is a nod toward the dogmatizing of what has been a creative act. And so today in the world we have a tremendous rise of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a shadow of the "King consciousness." No matter what the fundamentalism is, behind it there's a kind of yearning, and this yearning we can actually find in the physiology of the human being: a great gift that's been given to humans is that once they have a sense experience, the sense experience is taken away from them so that they don't have to keep repeating the same thing. Hierarchies are designated to make that happen, that’s called your ether body. But sometimes certain sensory experiences are brought back again by us, and we call that memory. But in memory we have to make a certain attempt to override the dissolving the hierarchies are trying to do. The hierarchies are trying to protect us from what a psychologist would call a "fixed idea". In fundamentalism-no matter what the stripe-there is always the mood of what we could call "the dilemma of being born again." That is: once you are born again, there's no chance to get born again. It's like: "One to a customer, sorry." If you've been born again, the rest of your life is spent remembering how it was when you were born again. If we think about that, it's very depressing because what that means is: for the rest of your life there's no possibility of peak experience in the spiritual realm. That is a tremendous dying of experience into memory. When that happens, the experience dying into memory loses some of the enthusiasm of the will that's trying to find its way in the unknown to discover something, to seek something, to look for the Christ. We meet the Christ, and the rest of the time Christ is just the memory. If you look at that with your heart, it's very sad. And so in order to get some kind of energy I have to form a club of the people that once knew Christ. If you want to be in my club of “We used to know Christ," then you're in that club and if you’re not in that club, then, well, "Hey, sorry! There's no hope for you because you're not part of our memory." In Islam, for example, it might be trying to remember the outrage at having the Prophet's body tied to a camel and then his brother-in-law usurping the space where the camel stopped, the place that was supposed to be the center of the new religion-that's what the civil war in Iraq is being fought over right now. You look behind the Sunnis and the Shiites, and their struggle-that's the issue.
Who took over when the camel stopped? A memory of the experience that was had by the grandfather of the grandfather of the grandfather of the grandfather of the grandfather of the grandfather. Because that happened in my memory, it's no longer in my experience. I form it into a dogma and then I start a civil war with you because you were the guy who had the other view of the camel. If you think I'm making this up, check it out.
This is fundamentalism. It's a memory of an experience, and the memory gets codified into a structure of beliefs that mirror the experience of the original founder. As anthroposophists maybe you can see where I'm going. What those experiences do is create a yeaning in the soul to recapitulate the experience of the founder, the aspiration toward meeting the spirit and yet "Can we get there?” I don't know. “Is it possible?" Well, Rudolf Steiner left many trails and said, "Don't do this just in memory of me, do it and do it. Don't just Alchemical King and Queen remember it. Do it." This is a science, and in science we have a faculty that needs to be brought into the world, one that's new; the ability to say: "I don't know if I really understand that, but I think I'm going to transform that experiment and do it myself and see if it lives in me the way it did. And if I can, then I am a pupil in the Mystery School; my teacher has helped me towards a better life." If I simply read about what the teacher has said and don't actually strive to recapitulate or re-form it in myself, then the label of fundamentalist can be leveled at me because I'm speaking a dogma rather than out of my own experience. I can tell you I deal a lot with young people, and they're extremely sensitive to this element. They know the time is short, and they want Mystery training, they don't want a codification of what already exists. They want to be taught to touch what is new in their life through the work of Rudolf Steiner. There's ample opportunity to do that if we can structure our institutions to allow that to happen.
So that's the one side. We could call it the shadow of the King side or the Jehovah side: if you don't do it the way I say you do it, then you are out of he club. Rudolf Steiner said many times that that has changed. Something has changed, and what has changed is that we now have a new faculty to bring to bear on the relationship between memory and experience. We have the possibility as Western people to follow a path given by Rudolf Steiner and do what in the ancient Mystery teachings was called metanoia, changing our thinking.
A fundamental root in Rudolf Steiner's work is that you must change your thinking. If you change your thinking, not just simply absorbing dogma and facts-spiritual facts-but if you actually change your thinking, your thinking will lead you on your own destiny, using Rudolf Steiner as a guide, of course. But you need to recapitulate the experience so you can have an authentic faith rather than dogmatic faith. In dogmatic faith you are told to believe because you will never be able to experience the knowing. In authentic faith, you believe it because you've experienced it. Rudolf Steiner was a champion of authentic faith. You must experience anthroposophy, not just remember it. So, that's the one side. As I said, the young people are hoping that things change regarding that issue.
The other side is mysticism. Mysticism is the experience that the images that arise in me have come to me from the spiritual world, so that I, as a seer, can share them with others.
There is a hitch in that. Rudolf Steiner says it in kind of a funny way. He said, "Hildegard of Bingen had a beautiful stomach." What he's speaking about is his distinction between what he calls "belly clairvoyance" and "head clairvoyance." The belly clairvoyant works in such a way that they teach themselves [or they have natural gifts] to remember the pictures that arise off of their life organs and their digestive organs. Rudolf Steiner calls those "imaginations." In the ancient world, clairvoyance was based on the ability of human beings to monitor the images that arose out of their viscera, off of their liver, lung, kidney, heart, intestines, gall bladder, etc. Those imaginations are the actual functions of our organs. Whether we know it or not, through sense experience the configuration of those life organs, the tonus of the organ, the ability of it to secrete or not secrete, is constantly being impacted by sense experiences coming into it, flooding into it all the time. The organ responds as a result of those glandular secretions and the sensory experiences, and it releases images. If I fast, or if I drum for power, or if I dance till I drop, or if I chant until I zone, what happens is that I become able to monitor the stress images arising from the organ because the organ gets locked into its life response. I can learn to read the images that rise up, rising consciousness, like a code. I can stress a particular organ by fasting or I can hit my heart and go "Ya La Lu, Ya La Hu" for hours, and that heart starts to be entrained and release images that I train myself to remember. I call it spiritual experience.
Much of the ancient world had that as the door into spiritual practice. It is the stressing of an organ through ascetic practices, particular asanas, putting your body in a particular place so a gland would fire off; if you stayed there for two hours, this gland would fire off so you could read it. Eating only certain things, eating only at certain times, not drinking, tying yourself to a corpse to watch it rot for months until you finally transcend it and realize that you had nothing to do with the corpse-things like that. All this was part of Mystery training. The last practice is called nedi nedi- and that's not it. Take the grossest thing you can see-and that's not it. The purpose of nedi nedi was to put you in mind of what was it. What was it was everything that was different from that "that's not it." The only thing that's different from "that's not it" is you. Rudolf Steiner calls that an I experience.
The ancient Mysteries were going at the I-Being because they were trying to incarnate it. But they were looking sort of through the glass darkly because they were watching the I-Being come towards them.
Now the I-Being has come into the flesh, and we have all these teachers who've been teaching "The I-Being was in the flesh; now this is the way we have to work," and we're still back saying "You were the camel guy and I'm on the other side, and . . . ." That's where we still are, even though the work of the Mysteries is radically changed.
So we have people today even in our movement who are still using belly clairvoyance to find out that they were some important personage in a last life. Well, Rudolf Steiner has a very pithy comment about that. He said, "I had the great fortune to have known twelve people who were Mary Magdalene in their last life." He was working in the Theosophical Society, and I'm sure there were a lot of Mary Magdalenes there, and I’m sure they let the great Doctor know that. So that's the other side, that's mysticism. The difficulty with mysticism is that your liver image may seem very accurate to your experience, but your liver may be bad.
How can we rely on that? And you may be having a lung imagination that's very, very beautiful, but it may be because you have a pathology. How do we know that? Well, you have to take some elements from the King stream and apply them to mysticism, and some elements from mystical experience and apply them to the problem of the King stream. When we do, we get anthroposophy as meditative practice.
What l’d like to do is to sketch for you a somewhat alchemical way of looking at what a practice is, and I'll try to bring in the idea of discrimination because all along, at each stage of the work, this faculty of discrimination must be built by each person, or it is not built at all. It is not built simply by listening to people like me talk. It can be enhanced by that, but it has to be built by each person. And then, if you do build it, when you're listening with that organ, other things are happening. Unless you are actually working on yourself in a practice-it doesn't have to be Mother Teresa; it can just be a very moderate practice--over time that moderate practice is the very thing that gives you occult discrimination.
I’d like to outline some of the steps of what we could call a practice and put them in the context of the relationship between Rosicrucianism and Manichaeism in anthroposophy.
This is right from Rudolf Steiner's research; it's a very interesting look at the path to the future as pupils in Rudolf Steiner's Mystery School.
So, here I have a Mandala [see illustration above]. Those of you who've been down to California are going: "Oh, this again?" But it's my favorite teaching tool because it never fails me. This is a mandala of the elements.
The elements are really states of consciousness; if you move through the elements-earth to water to air to fire-you're actually going through a path of inner development that is the basis of what we could call a modern esoteric practice, or even a post-modern esoteric practice.
Here on Earth we have freedom. Now that sounds like a paradox, but almost every day I tell my students that higher truth can only be expressed as paradox. If it's a truth that doesn't smack of being paradoxical, it's only sort of a local truth. Higher truth must be paradoxical so that you don't lock in with some kind of dogma. It has to be paradoxical, and so the real test here, or the real task, is to build an organ that can stand living in paradox. How can we do that? What would be the steps?
If we come to earth, we have freedom. Well, that sounds like a paradox because if your life is anything like mine I don't feel like I have any freedom at all here on Earth. I'm only free when I kind of go into the spiritual world. But if we really read The Philosophy of Freedom, freedom is the ability for human beings to correct themselves when they find they made a mistake. Metanoia---change your thinking!
You are free to connect any thought with any other thought, and if you've connected one thought with another thought, and then you think it again, and you find that maybe that's an error, you have total freedom to change it because you can connect any thought to any other thought. This is freedom.
And the only place we actually can do that is here on Earth, because here on Earth the tendency for one thought to link to another thought is so pervasive that we are prone to think that whatever sequence of thoughts we think is the correct one. In order to develop ourselves, Rudolf Steiner has given us The Philosophy of Freedom that says you must learn how to monitor your thinking.
There's an old alchemical saying: "A master is the one who is self-limiting." If we strive to be masters on an esoteric path, we have to be able to limit the way our thoughts connect to each other for a certain period of time each day in order to establish a rhythm in the way our thinking monitors itself, or limits itself, or checks itself. That's really the purpose of the concentration exercises. Many things that Rudolf Steiner gives are concentration exercises; their purpose is so that you can marshal certain forces in your thinking to focus on a given thought for a certain length of time that is determined by you. And that is the most fundamental force in the Mystery schools. Without it there is no esoteric practice.
So the beginning of the work is some form of concentration. My students say to me when they leave: "What should I do when I get out of here and you're not up there all the time talking and making us do exercises?" I say, "Find something you're very keenly interested in where you can prove yourself wrong. You must be able to find a study that is very keen for you personally, but in which you can prove to yourself that you had an erroneous conception." It's extremely valuable as a tool for esoteric practice-being able to prove yourself wrong, especially before somebody else proves you wrong. When you do that and they try to prove you wrong, you can just say "Ha. I already did that. You don't have to try to prove me wrong! I know I'm wrong, but I don't care!" You can say something like that.
So I've placed freedom on the Earth because the challenge of the Earth is that you live with all this stuff, but none of it is you. It's like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland: Who are you? You are the one that says it's all stuff, and it become stuff when you think it is. It's kind of a reverse magic we do. With the action of the hierarchies, we turn it into stuff. We do it through a thinking that is connected to the way the stuff reacts when we put it into a form. It's a thinking that runs along with the way the stuff reacts.
When we try to drag that kind of thinking into the spiritual world, there's a problem because, as Rudolf Steiner says, in the spiritual world a cause can be after an effect; an effect can precede a cause. The rule in the spiritual world is: Every logical thought that you can think about the way stuff operates has to be completely reversed in order to enter into the spirit. You have to be able to think just the opposite and not have your wings fall off, not feel really perplexed or anxious. What happens when you do that is you’re emulating probably one of the most irritating things about Rudolf Steiner i.e., he seems to contradict himself in every second paragraph.
He's constantly going like this and moving around an idea to teach us that the most important thing is flexibility of soul. My thinking has to be so flexible that it can also include your point of view, even though I don't believe it. I have to be able to include it, and if I can't, then I'm a dogmatist.
So, on the Earth we have been given this great gift of freedom to change the way that we think about something.
And if we practice that, then we start to notice that the things we think about get a little "wiggly" because as we think them they start to turn into the opposite thing right in front of our eyes. We can't judge other people the way we used to. You know, there's an old saying: If I point one finger that way, then I've got three pointing back at me. We start to experience that in the forming of judgment, there is something that is being stuck in my soul, and yet I need to be able to form judgments.
If I don't form judgments, I can't really live in the world. The real question is: Can I form judgments without being judgmental? "Judgmental" is a habit of forming a judgment. The forming of a judgment is applying will to the thinking so I can reverse an error; there's a difference in the will.
When we want to go from Earth to the next element, Water, we need to have a different kind of thinking that is not just based on cause and effect, judgment and judgmental. We have to have a kind of thinking that moves through processes that are still unfolding rather than just saying: "This is what it says on page 27!" That's what the people who are the enemies of anthroposophy do when they take us to court. "Well, on page 27, he said this!" That's a fundamentalist speaking. Not "What's the context of it; what was his development as an initiate that led to the process of the images that he was putting together?" It is: "Oh, no, no, we don't do that type of thinking here. Page and verse!" If we want to transform the thinking in such a way that our occult discrimination becomes higher and more labile and more fluid, we have to practice what Rudolf Steiner recognized as a great gift from Goethe: phenomenology.
That is forming - actively forming - inner pictures of whatever we are trying to study, forming them in sequences so that our mind starts to move along with the unfolding of the thought rather than the corpse of what has been thought. This is a great force Rudolf Steiner recognized in the work of Goethe. He told many people that they need to work with this as a kind of research tool to form the underpinnings for the new Mystery School in anthroposophy. Can you make your thoughts follow along the sequences where one form is morphing into another and morphing into another and morphing into another, so finally by the time you get to the end it doesn’t resemble the first one at all, and yet you know that it's part of that morphing because you've gone through the process? Unless you go through the process, you’re just taking snapshots of the corpses along the way. Rudolf Steiner has a funny way of describing this. He said in modern science there's what he calls "the flea on the corpse approach." He says "There's the corpse out there in the middle of the field, and a flea scientist leaves his laboratory, goes out in the field, and finds this corpse. He takes his little flea pick and takes a piece of bone off the corpse and brings it back to his flea laboratory, and then he tries to deduce the inner life of the being that created this bone." That's the way we study the Earth when we study it in reductionist ways. Just take a little chip of the bone and try to determine what the life of this being was when it was young.
Regular scientists laugh at Rudolf Steiner’s descriptions, but if you really want to take the time to link those descriptions up with regular science, you see they are speaking the same language; they're just using different terminology. With those works, with Occult Science: an Outline and all the other works, Rudolf Steiner was taking Goethe's work and moving it forward into a spiritual context so that he could set the underpinnings for a new kind of Mystery School, one in which people participated in a living way with forming inner pictures that lived. He called it "living picture imagination." The living picture imagination is the panacea for the fundamentalism and the mysticism. Mysticism is fantasy, fundamentalism is dogma. Living picture imagination is the healing of that.
When you work with it, it develops in you a capacity to understand not just the dogma, but the context of things.
You train yourself to see contextually, not just the facts. Of course, you can't just blow the facts away, but that's what you have freedom for. If you find you make an error, you go back and put a new fact in there. But the process is where you put your attention. An alchemist would call that "Water consciousness." It's a kind of healing of the shadow of the Earth consciousness. The shadow of freedom is abstraction; the shadow of freedom is intellectual abstraction and dogmatism. If we want to develop freedom, we have to train our thinking to become more fluid. You have to enter into Water consciousness.
These two stages, Earth and Water, freedom and phenomenology - I would like to call them the Rosicrucian element in anthroposophy. They are the struggle of the Mystery pupil, the Mystery student, to encounter the Earth, to change his thinking through metanoia, to begin to form a world view that today we would call ecological. Ecology just means that it's not a corpse; it's in a community, and you have to think of the community it's in. That stream of ecology is a totally Rosicrucian idea in the modern world. It's a creative force being brought by certain souls. They might not call themselves Rosicrucians, and among the friends with whom I have late-night phone calls we all consider that the best-kept secret in anthroposophy is that Rudolf Steiner is a Rosicrucian alchemist. He was an incredible alchemical adept. All his medical work and his biodynamics are just pure alchemy. He was asked by Walter Johannes Stein: "What's the source of knowledge of the higher worlds?" He said, "Basil Valentine," an alchemist.
These two streams - change your thinking and make it mobile; do phenomenology - that's what we could call Rosicrucianism. Rudolf Steiner gives the picture that Rosicrucianism is not the end of the work; it's just the beginning. We have to move to community. But before we move to community, we have to go through a very critical step to transform Rosicrucianism. That step is the epitome of the Mani stream, silent practice. We have to take the thinking process that now we've made mobile, and sacrifice it on the altar of higher wisdom. We say to ourselves: "I know that I do not know, but I know that when I need to know, I will know." When I work with the inner work in that way I have to practice taking living picture imagination and systematically release it into a very potent, pregnant silence, rhythmically.
Rudolf Steiner has given - it seems to me - probably one of the most creative exercises, and probably one of the most misunderstood: the Rückschau [review] . If I wish to enter into the realm of Air and silent practice, the difference between today's silent practice and what it was in past times is that in my silent practice I have to have my cognition incredibly focused. I have to have myself very strong. I don't want to get rid of my self. I don't want to obliterate myself by repeating "Om mani padme hum" until I zone. I need to be present and awake in the excruciating loneliness of the silence of the spiritual world. Until I can do that successfully, I will have the experience down here [see drawing] while working as a Rosicrucian that Rudolf Steiner describes when he says entering into the spiritual world is like sticking your head into an anthill. When you're trying to control your thoughts down here, it's anthill city. But if you can finally control your thoughts, and you can get them to move in sequences that seem to be reasonable, then the next step is to think them backwards into silence.
But that silence is very different from the silence of the ancient Mystery pupils. This is silence that's permeated with the will of what you have attended to [to use the words of Georg Kühlewind]. When I form mental pictures of sequences for some phenomenon, I am attending to the spirit that stands behind that phenomenon. I am saying to that phenomenon: "I will walk with you." But I have to release the expectations and needs I have that the work I do is going to yield a spiritual power to me. I have to resist that to live in silence, feeling bereft and lonely and basically ignored. If I can tolerate that, I can learn how to communicate with the dead - to me the most pressing need of our time. When he talks about working with the dead, Rudolf Steiner says: "This takes a lot of patience." It's not the hotline to God.
There are all kinds of mistakes and beliefs that we bring to this, like the Mary Magdalene scenario of "This is what they said to me, so I have to do this." We have to fight and struggle against determining within myself what the answer is. The practice is that I take what I think I know, and I think it backward until it's actually silent.
If you actually do that practice you find that as soon as you think it backwards into silence, it goes into fast forward and then you have to think it backwards again, and then it goes into fast forward again, and you think it backwards. It's like a little tug of war across the threshold until finally the being that keeps kicking it back and wants you to believe that, gives up and you get to silence.
If you can actually work that tug of war out, and you do it over time, what will start to happen is that the people in your community will start to speak to you about the images you are working with. They will start asking you questions about the things that you are releasing into the silent practice. Basically, you are dying when you do that. That's Mani.
You're dying to your expectation that this practice is going to yield a spiritual insight. What that does is to stabilize your power to discriminate in the spirit where there is no "download" or there is a "download" but it's in a gestural language that's pre-eurythmic. It is the gestural language that's there before eurythmy happens. And that gestural language has a lot to do with the movement of the planets and the stars and the spirits and beings that help them move, and elemental beings, and hierarchical beings who have created the world in such a way that it's a primer for our own development if we learn how to read it. We have to learn to read it backwards in total silence.
If we do that, then our silent practice in Air starts to lead us towards Fire. We can divide the drawing this way: Air and Fire, silent practice leading to dialog and community, we could call Manichaeism. Freedom of thought leading to phenomenology and the forming of living picture imagination we could call Rosicrucian. And together they heal the split between the King and the Queen. They allow us to form a cohesive practice that eventually will include the members of the community because we’re listening to them to hear what it is that we are dissolving. A kind of "M" is there as a eurythmy gesture. What I give away starts to move towards me. If you read the way Rudolf Steiner talks about communicating with the dead, this is what he's talking about. Your question is their answer, their answer is your question, but it's not something that happens immediately. It happens over time, over time, over time.
So then we're up here in Fire. Dialog means I have the patience to sit with you asking questions to try to help you clarify your questions. I have to give away what I think are the answers to try to enable you to clarify your question.
That's dialog. It's excruciating, because you want with every fiber of your being just to give the answer. But if you practice this, you start hearing and seeing through gesture and through nuance of tone the whole world of creative activity that your friends and relations and loved ones are bringing to you from the other side. This is the way the dead communicate with us. Not directly through hotlines so that we get a download in our mailbox. If it comes through the gestural life of another or through some question that they have, then I start to speak with them. My sense is enhanced that we are linked in the spirit outside of when we meet.
This is the greatest force we can build with each other: the sense that we really, really are being helped by spiritual beings, and we are connected with each other in a deeper community than just sitting in the same room giving answers to each other. To me, that is the real community because it involves those on the other side in a meditative practice and an approach to healing the problem of mysticism and dogma.
This is the core of the course I teach at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks. We have many exercises that we go through daily to try to bring this to the fore, so to speak. A lot of them are in my new book, Seer's Handbook, published by the Anthroposophical Press or Steiner Books. I wrote that book feeling very vulnerable because these are exercises, and we seem to have a horror of shared exercises in the movement. I don't know why, but we do. It's a caution that people will take them and do crazy things with them. That's absolutely true, so I have no illusions about that. But if we don't start actually sharing the inner work that we do with each other or including the dead on the other side as ways of helping us communicate, then the great jewel of anthroposophy, of reincarnation, will be lost. Reincarnation will heal fundamentalism. Basically, a fundamentalist is saying: “We’ve got one shot at this and I want to be in the club that's winning." If only we actually understood the incredible implications of reincarnation for modern people and what it means about community with the departed - that we are like a planet in different parts of the loop, that's all. We're in the same orbit; we’re just in different parts of the orbit. We need to learn how to place questions in the orbit so that they run into them, and then I hear them echoed out of the people who are still here among the living. I bring this at this time because the end of October is a really good time of year to bring it.
It's my understanding - and my expectation, I guess; I don't like to use that word - but it's my understanding that there are great riches waiting for us in that work, but we have to make a distinction between mysticism and dogma at this level, and then have a practice that leads us through the Mani stream into an actual dialog across the threshold where we include each other as participants. Not just me in my own cell writing down what has been said to me. Instead, I listen into your soul to hear my own questions come back to