Archive for June, 2015

The elusive I

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Is ‘I’ a pronoun, or the activity it carries out? It has two aspects: it is a spark of the divine fire (which feels like a ‘thing’) and a process of connecting with the world (which feels like an activity). Rather like light in the famous quantum experiment, which it is for us depends on how we look. Maybe there’s an inverse correlation, though. Like joy in Blake’s poem, the I will never be found as a thing; it can only be intuited as we let go of it.

One has to lose one’s earthly I if one is to perceive one’s true I. And without developing this surrender, one cannot approach this true I. One would like to say: the true I should not be sought if it is to appear and reveal itself; and it hides itself, if it is sought. For it is only found in love. And love is the surrender of one’s own being to the other being. For this reason the true I has to be found like a stranger. 
Rudolf Steiner, DIE MENSCHLICHE ERKENNTNISFÄHIGKEIT IN DER ÄTHERISCHEN WELT Dornach, 22. April 1923 untranslated  (Lit.: GA 084, S. 142)

John 5

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

My Father works until now — and I too work. (John 5: 17)

Everything we do builds on the past. Our bodies are the products of our heritage, and of age-long evolution; our memories and the capabilities we have learned earlier in life serve us; even our thinking rests on patterns of thought we have grown accustomed to.

This is why statistical predictions are so depressingly accurate. If you move the waste-bin by the entrance to the station concourse, the flow of people will adjust. When the manager decides to put strawberries instead of raspberries on the end of the aisle, sales will go up.

Then there are the things that cannot be predicted. Where does inspiration come from, that helps me to think anew about a knotty problem? What makes me decide to take my loved one a present for no reason at all (assuming it wasn’t on the end of the supermarket aisle!) What makes me give my time to a project no-one will hear about, but which matters to me?

This could be what is meant by the working of the Father being joined by the working of the Son. Deterministic pictures of scientific evolution share with some dogmatic religious pictures the idea that there is no free will. Then Christ only continues the work of the Father, and everything continues on the track that the Father has set for it. The context for this statement is the complaint made by the Jewish authorities that Jesus has healed a man on the Sabbath day. Of course, the bequest of creation does not stop because it’s Sabbath. However, in the hiatus of the memorial of the first creation, Christ proclaims a new creation — “I too work”. We can experience a faint echo of this whenever we find the power within us to do something new and unpredictable. An audit of the day will show that there usually are not many such moments. Such an audit may also stimulate the desire to bring a few more into the day.

The plan of the world

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Beautiful words from the first lecture of Rudolf Steiner’s fundamental lecture cycle on the spiritual hierarchies make me ponder in what way he means the plan of the world.

Spiritual beings had first those imaginations, inspirations, intuitions, those ideas and thoughts according to which the world, as we see it, was formed. Man finds these thoughts and ideas in the world again; when he rises to clairvoyant vision, he finds the imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions, by the help of which he can penetrate into the world of those spiritual beings. We can, therefore, say that before our world came into being there already existed the wisdom of which we are going to speak: it is the PLAN OF THE WORLD.
– See more at: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA110/English/APC1928/19090412a01.html#sthash.cvxJTM6b.dpuf

It’s so hard to get our heads round the fact that the plan of the world does not exist as a blueprint determining everything; rather it is the final cause – the direction in which everything is moving. One of the best expressions of this is the film the Adjustment Bureau, where the Angels carry the plans of each individual’s destiny, and have to see how the plans are constantly branching and bifurcated. Nevertheless they are sure that a major rewrite of the plan will be impossible. Only the love of two human beings can bring this about. Thus the film is a comedy, not a tragedy: life proves to be greater than fate. 

Two ways to be lost

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Whatever imbalance of soul we look at, it can be mapped onto a dynamic between self and world.

We may think the world is to blame for our woes; or that we are to blame for the woes of the world.

We may ward off encounter as an attack, seeking refuge in our shell, or we may flow out too far and lose ourself in the other.

We may be proud or we may be self-abnegating. 

We may be a victim or the perpetrator.

These two extremes are the reflection of summer and winter in the soul. In summer we stream out and become one with the cosmos; in winter we withdraw into our own shell.

Learning to negotiate these extremes is a part of the art of being human. Learning to understand our own and others’ one-sidedness helps us to deal with the world and each other. 

John 4

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.

John 4: 13-14

 

What a surprise that the way to stop being thirsty is to discover a spring of water within one that can quench others’ thirst.

How differently would we look at the helping professions if we knew that the greatest help is to enable another to give.

Our need to give love

Friday, June 5th, 2015
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, love/belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization come as soon as the basics of food, shelter and safety are met.
 
For adult human beings, belonging comes from sharing a common purpose; self-esteem comes when I know that what I do is valued; even self actualization, which seems to be about me, only works if the self that I become is recognised and respected by a social world.
 
This gives us some primary data through which we can interpret what we meet in our world, which celebrates a spectrum of values, some in line with these needs, and some at odds with them. We will find that we are going with the grain of human nature if we open pathways for self-bestowing, self-giving creativity. We have a lens through which to understand the superficial appeal of stories about life that offer shortcuts: the self-realisation through consumerism lampooned by the Rolling Stones in Satisfaction on the one hand; the promise of ‘systems so perfect that no-one needs to be good’ on the other.
 
Process thought gives the best theological framework for understanding this. It sees our human journey as a response to the divine call to creativity. That this is ‘hard-wired’ into us is no surprise for process theologians, who do not locate God in an transcendent otherness, but in the processes of this world. In process thought, it is the Holy Spirit whose allure to true creaturely fulfilment is at work in the basic needs that Maslow describes.
 
All of this changes the task of ‘mission’. Liberal Christians feel embarrassed by this word — they think it means answering a question that hasn’t been asked, providing a finished picture of the world on the assumption that I know more than the one I am talking to. They easily shrink from the task, forgetting the reality of call and response which is at the heart of human experience of the spirit.
If the longing to creaturely fulfillment is already there in every human being I meet, even if it is covered over, I do not need to insert something that was not there before, but open a channel for my friend to experience what slumbers within him. I will not convey the sense that I know better, because all I know is that the spirit is beckoning this creature into the unique journey of its unfolding. 

Meaning

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

The Scylla and Charbydis of our time is the materialistic picture of the human being one side, which sees man as an ape, or a machine, and the picture of a spiritual world on the other, which is a refuge from earthly reality. Neither does justice to our experience that we are beings who are utterly connected to the reality of the earth, its pain and our responsibility, whilst at the same time our very capacity to be aware of this connection shows us that we are not merely the products of nature. 

Both dangers are a denial of meaning. Man as machine is meaningless, and any feelings that we may have about meaning and purpose are emergent properties, illusions that may have bestowed an evolutionary advantage. The irrational fantasies about the spirit deny pain and responsibility, which renders the most important experiences we have meaningless. 

Prayer

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

if we know that our lives are destined for ever greater fullness, creativity, and self giving love, we have a criterion against which we can see the obstacles which we place in our own ways on a journey towards those qualities. Prayer then is a question of seeing ourselves and others in the light of our deepest purpose, and allowing the obstacles to be warmed and transformed by the future that is coming towards us.