Thursday, September 6, 2012
The essay on the ‘principles’ created lively interest; it met with agreement, but also gave rise to objections and misunderstanding. In both modes of reception the significance can be seen which everyone attaches to it who seriously considers the subject matter of my general outline. For the ‘principles’ are after all a particularly clear expression of what occurred through the Christmas Conference, the laying of the foundation stone that Rudolf Steiner entrusted to the hearts of the members. The Christmas Conference is the dedication to the union of spiritual movement and public society in the sacrifice which Rudolf Steiner made, relying on the hope that the members would adopt this as their own. The Christmas Conference is thereby the motivation for the everlasting task, which every member of the general Anthroposophical Society can make his own out of free resolve. This task calls on the free aspiration of every member to give the Anthroposophical Society a living content by raising knowledge and action to a search for the unity of the esoteric and the exoteric. Wherever this striving towards unity is neglected, there is insufficient consciousness of the archetypal unity between Movement and Society, and an insufficient endeavor to fulfill the never-ending task of working to bring together image and archetype.
The essay under discussion attempted to show that the substance of the ‘principles’, in an even more significant way than do the intellectual grasp of their meaning, discloses itself to the movement of soul, which can be induced by experiencing them with feeling and will. This view gave rise to doubts as to whether such an attitude toward the ‘principles’ did not attach too great a significance to them. It could perhaps cause astonishment that such an objection is considered here, which apparently fails to recognize that the ‘principles’ give expression to the founding anew of the general Anthroposophical Society, and thus go back to that eventful union between the spiritual and the earthly. A way to find the revelation of this mystery-secret in the ‘principles’ is what the essay in question wished to indicate. But this objection becomes significant the moment one looks for the cause behind it. As soon as this cause is found, one discovers the same insufficiency that it points to, also in oneself, however different the mode may be that it assumes there. And the sense of that seemingly senseless objection is to throw the light of self-knowledge on this insufficiency of one’s own. For if one asks oneself what is the most dependable means in protecting oneself from overlooking and underestimating that which is significant, then one’s attention is drawn to the exercise of inner calm, which the always helpful Rudolf Steiner suggests. If one begins to develop such states of quietude in active contemplation, one experiences as the first result of such an exertion the sharpening of one’s distinction between what is relevant and irrelevant, as long as one otherwise leaves things in the form they have for one’s usual way of observing. Soon however the consequence of this experience begins to dispel the superstition that it is possible for anything irrelevant to exist in a world founded on the spirit. The scale of the relevant and the irrelevant always depends on the perspective of a given point of view, and what is irrelevant for the time being, is always waiting for its nature to be disclosed from a different point of view. Relatively insignificant, therefore, is always the mode of consideration, which is unable to observe what is significant in that which for the moment seems to have no import. With a work of art such as the ‘principles’ however, it would be more comprehensible if the aesthetic sense, which responds to them directly, were excessively impressed, than that a restrictive judgment shut its eyes to the fact that their language speaks to us more strongly through their form than through their content, and more strongly through the inner movement released by the form, than through the form itself.
Another thoroughly comprehensible objection refers to a comment in the previous essay, which compares the experience of the ‘principles’ with that of the Class. Certainly, one cannot agree heartily enough with the reminder not to forget or to violate a respectful reserve with regard to utterances concerning this sphere. In the essay on the ‘principles’, however, an attempt was made to show that the domain of the Class was indeed not entered by the immediately grasped content of the ‘principles’, but assuredly by the spirit and soul motion, which can be set off by experiencing them. The experience called up in this fashion is after all one appertaining to one’s individual spirit and soul center, which becomes a conscious experience in looking up to one’s higher being, if one consciously follows the living swing of the pendulum between the esoteric and the exoteric. In this state of consciousness, there exists qualitatively (even if not yet within mature cognition) the three higher forces of knowledge, imagination, inspiration and intuition, to the development of which the contents of the Class lessons lead, that is to say, were to have led after their completion.
A particularly strange objection, which I already anticipated in a footnote to the essay on the ‘principles’, but which occurs over and again, concerns the fact that my remarks referred to the numerical sequence of the paragraphs of the ‘principles’. Such a reference appears obvious through the arrangement of the ‘principles’ in paragraphs, although it was to be foreseen that many a reader would cling to the numbers instead of turning to the facts to which the numbers refer and which could have been referred to in another form. Such a misunderstanding is comparable to mistaking the numbers on stones and signs, which express certain stretches in miles, for information of independent importance, instead of taking them as indications of distances and their relation to one another and to the movement of the traveler. Similarly, the reference to the numbering of the paragraphs of the ‘principles’ was to have induced the reader to find the direction for his own soul-spiritual movement within the spiritual dimensions encompassed by the ‘principles’. At the same time, it was intended to bring out clearly the inner relationship among the single elements of the ‘principles’, as well as the dynamics turning their sequence into an event, which is both progressive and balanced in the rhythm of the swinging pendulum.
Nevertheless, the objections raised and others would not be a sufficient reason for making these “additional remarks”, if they did not offer the opportunity to turn to a question, the answer of which involves important assessments concerning our attitude to Rudolf Steiner’s work. The question under discussion is simply, whether in dealing with the work of Rudolf Steiner, the main accent should be placed on the what, the content, or, at least to the same or even to a far greater extent, on the how, the form, that is the artistic arrangement or design. Now, it is characteristic of the intellectual or mind soul that it feels the urge to employ formal thought content for its own use, i.e. as a starting point to set its own feeling and will in motion, and in this way trying to bring about the intended changes within its own inner nature or outer surroundings. Since it is placed in the service of the above, it easily succumbs to the self-delusion that it lives quite intensively in the soul sphere of feeling and willing, whereas the latter are actually only stimulated indirectly by an intellectual attitude, which forms the starting point of the intended purpose and which, to be sure, is generally forgotten in being carried out. On the other hand, the consciousness or spiritual soul on the way to the spirit-self, touches the eternally true and good (see Rudolf Steiner’s Theosophy). When this contact comes about, personal intentions must be passed over and left behind, and one must refrain furthermore from placing thinking at the service of these schemes. One’s own soul-spiritual state of mobility must be transformed into that other state in which the real spiritual world expresses itself. Every genuine work of art transposes the receptive listener into such a state of experience or mood. Its actual or factual mode of experience is, in comparison to the stimulus for such experiencing, of secondary, albeit indispensable importance. This aesthetic interaction with the work of Rudolf Steiner (and the unpremeditated confidential interaction with this work is nothing else than that) seems strange and far removed from the mentality of the present times, which has brought humanity to a stage where it is enslaved and addicted to information by the mass-media. But only when present-day humanity recognizes that its proper task is not to serve ever so honorable goals, but that its task, hope and salvation lies rather – through the means by which this service is done – in gaining sufficient strength to enable it to raise its spiritual being to that universally just sense of purpose which alone is worthy of human dignity, only then will humanity find the way out of the chaos and confusion in which it has entangled itself. This is the aesthetic mentality, which does not find fulfillment in the what for but in that-which-is-founded-in-itself.
Taking the ‘principles’ as an example, the attempt was made to show that one – and this is certainly not unimportant – can assimilate their content with the faculty of the intellectual soul, and also perhaps – and this is certainly not without giving rise to misgivings – use this content to serve one’s own intentions. The primary aim of the essay on the ‘principles’ was, on the contrary, to show what discoveries can be made when attempting to experience the ‘principles’ with the intellectual soul faculty by leaving personal attitudes and intentions behind and imbuing oneself with the mobile forms that, in a more original way than their contents, lie behind the sequence of paragraphs as spiritual formative forces. For such a kind of spiritually commensurate penetration, the ‘principles’ become a work of art, their comprehension an artistic experience and the latter a meditation.
The essay on the ‘principles’ wanted in addition to the content to also take a position with respect to the question of style and in view of the future ask how the study and development of Rudolf Steiner’s work is possible. A contribution to this question was not to be given in a theoretical manner, but through the development of a concrete example.
The method of this essay could therefore also be an incentive to those readers who harbor certain reservations as far as the content is concerned. The application of this method, it may be repeated, is a matter of deciding whether one wants to approach the spiritual gifts, which we owe to Rudolf Steiner, by judging them intellectually and putting them to profitable use – or whether one is willing, forgoing judgement and profit for the moment, to try to come in the inner experience of movement to an accord with the creative formative forces, which spring from Rudolf Steiner’s work. If this should occur, then the question as to whether a content has this or that, a greater or lesser importance, becomes superfluous, and the fervor of intellectual judgment and intended profit retires in a silence that does not wish to hear itself, but the voice of the spirit.
Rudolf Steiner demonstrated the misleading nature of all criticism directed from the outside at a presentation or work of whatever kind, directly by characterizing such a procedure, and indirectly by his own repeated example. The “immanent criticism” that he recommended and practiced, does not apply external criteria to the production or performance under consideration, but develops the criteria of judgment out of the work itself, i.e. out of the task, which it has consciously or unconsciously set itself. The question that such constructive criticism can therefore pose is whether and to what extent a production does justice to its self-proclaimed inner task.
In the sense of such “immanent criticism” therefore, the fruitful question can be put with regard to the essay on the ‘principles’, whether and to what extent it does justice to its self-proclaimed task: to lead beyond the manner in which the intellectual soul grasps a work of Rudolf Steiner towards the manner in which the consciousness soul comprehends this work. This could open a discussion on a question fundamental to the life of the Anthroposophical Society, whereby the level of knowing better or less, or insinuations could be done without. For these are not the things that matter when we consider the life of the Anthroposophical Society; what matters is how we can find a modern approach to the work of Rudolf Steiner – what matters, therefore, is whether we talk about the contents of this work and use them to serve our own interests, or live in these contents and so wish to acquire a new manner of development and movement in our feeling and willing that enables us to speak out of these contents. This concerns the same problem that one encounters in the distinction between external and “immanent criticism”.