Mind Over Matter

When Neo, in the movie The Matrix, decides to swallow the red pill in Morpheus’ right hand rather than the blue one in his left, he is choosing the truth of the world he’s living in rather than the dream he’s been living in thus far. This truth reveals that his body, along with the bodies of nearly all “surviving” human beings, is being used as an energy source for an alien culture. Neo’s soul, his thinking consciousness, is living a life within a thoroughly convincing and complete world, a computer matrix, that has enslaved humanity within a total illusion.

“The Matrix” Image © Warner Bros.

Though we are horrified by the scene in The Matrix showing rank upon rank of “human batteries” dreaming away, we somehow easily grasp the idea of a thought life separate from our bodies. The fact is, for decades now physicists have been suggesting that we must broaden our ideas of consciousness as existing only within the bounds of our brain matter. Max Planck*, the father of quantum mechanics, said quite a long time ago, “There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

No doubt there are people who quite honestly believe in the annihilation of the soul on the extinction of the life of the body, and who arrange their lives accordingly. But even these are not unbiased with regard to such a belief. It is true that they do not allow the fear of annihilation, and the wish for continued existence, to get the better of the reasons which are distinctly in favor of such annihilation. So far, the conception of these people is more logical than that of others who unconsciously construct or accept arguments in favor of a continued existence because there is an ardent desire in the secret depths of their souls for such continued existence.

And yet the view of those who deny immortality is no less biased, only in a different way… Their view of existence leads them to the conclusion that the conditions of the soul’s life can no longer be present when the body falls away. Such people do not notice that they have themselves, from the very first, fixed an idea of the conditions necessary for the existence of life, and cannot imagine a continuation of life after death for the simple reason that, according to their own pre-conceived idea, there is no possibility of imagining an existence without a body. Even if they are not biased by their own wishes, they are biased by their own ideas from which they cannot emancipate themselves.

Excerpt from A Road to Self Knowledge. First Meditation, 1918 by Rudolf Steiner.

 In The Matrix, we see that Neo makes the choice to live within reality no matter how “real” the life he’s been living outside of his senses seems to him. Either way, though, Neo is still Neo. He doesn’t become someone else when he wakes to reality. In the movie Avatar, we see the world from a different angle. Here, the protagonist, Jake Sully, leaves his “real” body to inhabit the genetically engineered body of a Na’vi, an endangered native population on another planet. And yet, Jake is still Jake. Both movies indicate that consciousness isn’t sense-bound. Both men, given a free choice to accept new circumstances, do so. Neo reclaims his body and regains the use of his own senses; Jake rejects his own body and adopts the avatar’s senses. But who they are is a constant.

 Why do we readily accept plot ideas of consciousness being free of the body, yet continue to discount the implications of this acceptance? Do we have, on a gut level, an understanding that we are not our bodies but rather that we inhabit them? We may see that the body is indeed a vehicle that we use; it belongs to us for the duration of our lives. Perhaps it isn’t such a big leap to imagine that when we die, our consciousness survives when we leave our bodies behind. Isn’t it time we begin to investigate the mind behind the matter? If you want to know more about this, you can read Rudolf Steiner.

           

*Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, (born April 23, 1858, Kiel, Schleswig [Germany]—died October 4, 1947, Göttingen, Germany), German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918.

 Max Planck: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Max-Planck

 The Matrix movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix

 Avatar movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(2009_film)

Know It All

The vault of the blue sky arching over snowcapped mountain peaks in the distance invites the soul to expand out to meet the beauty we behold. The sound of a rushing stream that accompanies the visual complexity of water flowing over boulders and cascades fills the soul with feelings of abundance. We are alive and present in the moment. We may begin to notice the tiny flowers sparking the green banks with a multitude of colors. What are they called? How did they get there? We move naturally from our observations to our thinking.

The first of the six steps of the scientific method states: “Make an observation or observations.” This presumes that we possess the faculties and abilities necessary to observe the world around us. Every further step presumes that we possess a rational mind—that we can think. It is thinking itself that is implicit and fundamental to the scientific method. The scientific method, formalized by Francis Bacon back in 1621, is still the way we do science. Rudolf Steiner uses this method as his means for investigating and reporting on the spiritual world.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

In sequence of time, observation does in fact come before thinking. For even thinking we must get to know first through observation... Everything that enters the circle of our experience, we first become aware of through observation. The content of sensation, perception and contemplation, all feelings, acts of will, dreams and fancies, mental pictures, concepts and ideas, all illusions and hallucinations, are given to us through observation.

Excerpt from: Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter III: Knowledge of Freedom revised edition: 1918.

Critical thinking is essential to the five remaining steps of the scientific method. A definition for critical thinking formulated by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul reads: “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

 Back to Dr. Steiner:

When we consider the significance of natural science in human life, we shall find that this significance cannot be exhausted by acquiring a knowledge of nature, since this knowledge can never lead to anything but an experiencing of what the human soul itself is not. The soul-element does not live in what man knows about nature, but in the process of acquiring Knowledge. The soul experiences itself in its occupation with nature. What it vitally achieves in this activity is something besides the knowledge of nature itself: it is self-development experienced in acquiring knowledge of nature. Occult science desires to employ the results of this self-development in realms that lie beyond mere nature. The occult scientist has no desire to undervalue natural science; on the contrary, he desires to acknowledge it even more than the natural scientist himself. He knows that, without the exactness of the mode of thinking of natural science, he cannot establish a science. Yet he knows also that after this exactness has been acquired through genuine penetration into the spirit of natural-scientific thinking, it can be retained through the force of the soul for other fields.

Excerpt from: Esoteric Science: An Outline, Preface to the 1925 edition 10/01/25 by Rudolf Steiner.

Natural science can tell us what type of flower is growing by the stream and how it probably got there. We can investigate its physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance. Natural science struggles to explain, however, why the flower gives us joy; why the sky, the mountains and the stream invoke the feelings they do.  We need to further science into those realms as well—the realms beyond what we can perceive through our senses. We believe that understanding botany is a worthwhile endeavor; shouldn’t we pursue the science of the spirit with equal vigor?  This is what Anthroposophy does. Reading books like The Philosophy of Freedom (also translated as Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) can be a good first step.


For the Good of All

What makes us feel good about ourselves? For most, this feeling comes when we act in harmony with our moral ideals. Conversely, when what we do fails to match our ideals, we suffer a variety of consequences. Some consequences are apparent because the outer world confronts us whether we acknowledge our misdeed or not. Other consequences are less easy to see. For example, we may “get away with it” yet become haunted by an immoral action; we may experience a kind of 3:00 a.m. reckoning that disturbs much more than our sleep.

What, though, is the source of our moral ideals? If morality is simply an evolutionary trait that allows all of humanity—separate from all other living things—to survive, that would seem to imply that immoral people would not thrive, and yet, often, they apparently do just fine. So why bother trying to be good? Understanding this question is critical to our development as human beings. We need to understand our own personal sense of morality and why we feel so personally burdened by our mistakes.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner has to say:

Concerning their sense of morality, people nowadays relate to the world in a very peculiar way, which is not always consciously observed but nevertheless causes much of the uncertainty and instability in their life. On the one hand, we have our intellectual knowledge, which enables us to understand natural phenomena, to conceive to a certain extent of the universe as a whole, and to develop a concept of the nature of the human being. This concept, though, is a very limited one… In addition to our capacity for knowing, that is, to everything that is controlled by our logic, another element of our being makes itself felt, namely the one we draw our ethical duty and ethical love from, in short, our motivation for acting morally…

These ideals are so important to us that we feel worthy only when we live up to them. In other words, we measure our worth by whether we live in harmony with our ethical ideas…

We simply have to face the fact that our modern consciousness cannot bridge the chasm between our capacities for knowing, which have brought us knowledge of nature, and the capacities that guide us as ethical being…

We are not aware of everything that goes on in the depths of our soul; much remains unconscious. Still, what rumbles around in our unconscious makes itself felt in our everyday life in disharmony and in psychological and even physical illnesses.

Excerpt from: Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture Two, Zurich 17/03/1920 by Rudolf Steiner

The belief that honesty, charity, humility, etc. are moral qualities, comes not from our logical mind; the reality of these qualities resides within our soul. We need to find ways to decipher the unconscious rumblings of our soul in order to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be ideally. Therapies of various sorts can help us deal with the discomfort of our feelings, but these therapies can be only superficial since that discomfort is our soul’s response to the gap itself.

One more perspective from Dr. Steiner:

The higher worlds convey to us the impulses and powers for living, and in this way, we get a basis for morality. Schopenhauer once said: “To preach morality is easy, to find a foundation for it, difficult.” But without a true foundation we can never make morality our own. People often say: Why worry about the knowledge of higher worlds so long we are good men and have moral principles? In the long run no mere preaching of morality will be effective; but a knowledge of the truth gives morality a sound basis. To preach morality is like preaching to a stove about its duty to provide warmth and heat while not giving it any coal. If we want a firm foundation for morality, we must supply the soul with fuel in the form of knowledge of the truth.

Excerpt from: At the Gates of Spiritual Science, Lecture Two: The Three Worlds, Stuttgart 23/08/06

The reluctance to acknowledge morality’s role in our lives is one aspect of our lazy thinking today. Morality is a fact of our being, and that fact is an obvious refutation to the argument for a life considered whole within the confines of our senses alone. Perhaps we don’t need to suffer blindly or muddle around with nebulous ideas about why we hold ourselves to moral standards at all. Wisdom—knowledge of the truth of higher worlds—leads us to answers about the source of morality that lies within each of us. Truth will, ultimately, set us free.


Jordan Peterson and Rudolf Steiner: What is the Greatest Idea?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrbZQiMbc-0

In the Zone

In a YouTube video entitled ‘Kobe bryant (sic) Explains ‘Being in the Zone’, Kobe’s voiceover begins: When you get in that zone, it’s just this supreme confidence; you know it’s going in. It’s not a matter of if… it’s just that it’s going in. Things just slow down. You know, everything just slows down, and you just have supreme confidence. And when that happens, you know, you don’t really try to focus on it at all because you can lose it in a second… you try not to let anything break that river. You’re oblivious to everything that is going on.

As spectators, we get excited when we observe someone in the zone; there’s a magical feel to it. We’ve all seen good games and good performances, but we do not confuse a display of skills that we expected to see with what we experience when we watch someone in the zone. Watching someone in the zone is utterly unique.

What does it mean to be “in the zone?” Some ways of describing it are: losing sense of time, having extreme focus, being in a state of harmony, feeling whole, being in the flow of the universe, experiencing utter clarity of thought, forgetting ourselves, etc. We understand that the elements required to shift into the zone—skill, training, and mental discipline—must come together to meet a specific challenge. We also understand that as soon as we step back and realize we’re in the zone, we aren’t in it anymore. We can say: “I was in the zone,” but not “I am in the zone.”

Most will agree that being in the zone is an altered state of mind; a state of consciousness very different from the everyday. Descriptions, however, are inadequate because being in the zone is an experience, not an abstract idea. Describing it or remembering it falls short of the actual experience; the abstract idea of being in the zone falls abysmally short of the actual experience. This is also what makes spiritual experiences so hard to describe.

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner* has to say:

Spiritual perception and knowledge lead us back to our inner core of unmediated aliveness… If I understand something in the abstract—well, then I have ‘got’ it and can carry it with me through life. At most, I will remember what I have learned. In spiritual knowledge and perception, however, things are very different. After only a few steps toward this knowledge, you will realize that it does not lead to anything you can merely remember. In that respect, the insights of spiritual science are like the food we have eaten today; it will not nourish us if we merely remember it tomorrow and on the following days. We are not satisfied with just remembering what we ate four days ago. But we are satisfied when we remember some abstract concept we understood and learned four weeks ago. Spiritual knowledge and perception, on the other hand, becomes interwoven with our inner being; it takes root in our ‘being’, is assimilated and has to be re-enlivened again and again…

Abstract knowledge … is content with mere phenomena; it leads to once-and-for-all, final conclusions. Spiritual knowledge, on the other hand, brings us into a living relationship to our surroundings; it must be continuously renewed if it is not to wither and die. Spiritual knowledge functions on a higher level of our life as food does on a lower one.

What I have just said should convince people that spiritual knowledge is radically different from the kind generally believed to be the only one possible.

Excerpt from: Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture Five, Zurich 17/03/1920 by Rudolf Steiner

When someone tells us he or she was in the zone, we don’t say it’s impossible; we don’t say it doesn’t exist. When we ourselves experience being in the zone, we know it’s something special. Like the inner core of unmediated aliveness Steiner is talking about.

Acquiring spiritual knowledge is an arduous path and yet, similar to the years of effort required to be a professional athlete or musician, once in a while we may have occasional moments of transcendence. We each decide for ourselves if the effort is worth it. Meanwhile, if we wish to know more about the spiritual world, we can read Steiner’s books so we’ll understand what we will one day experience.

“A systematic review of the experience, occurrence, and controllability of flow states in elite sport” www.researchgate.net/publication/257591999_A_systematic_review_of_the_experience_occurrence_and_controllability_of_flow_states_in_elite_sport

“What Is ‘Being in the Zone’? — the Fascinating Psychology of Super Productivity”
www.huffingtonpost.com/emily-hill/what-it-really-means-to-b_b_10300610.html

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Perennial-Classics/dp/0061339202/

Out of My Mind by Alan Arkin. (audiobook)
www.amazon.com/Out-of-My-Mind/dp/B07J12JM1F/

Prove It

In January of 2017, the news was everywhere that scientists had discovered a new organ, the mesentery, in the human body. Located in the abdominal cavity, what had been thought to be a segmented series of structures, was found to be a continuous structure.

In February of 2018, a new technology called “cryo-ET” that can zoom in on individual cells that have been frozen and capture them in 3D, revealed a previously unseen microscopic, left-handed helix structure that exists at the tip of the sperm tail.

The rock crystallized about 20 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface 4.0-4.1 billion years ago. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into space.

The rock crystallized about 20 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface 4.0-4.1 billion years ago. It was then excavated by one or more large impact events and launched into space.

In January of 2019, NASA scientists reported the discovery of the oldest known Earth rock (about 4 billion years old) on the moon. A fragment from one of the rocks returned by Apollo 14 astronauts contained quartz, feldspar, and zircon, all common on the Earth, but highly uncommon on the Moon.

Scientists continue to examine our natural world with ever more advanced technology. Most of us will readily accept the evidence of new findings like those cited above and will incorporate this information into our body of knowledge. But what actually constitutes evidence that we can trust?

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner* has to say:

We do not all have to become chemists for the findings of chemistry to be useful for us, and we do not all have to be astronomers to benefit from the findings of astronomy. By the same token, there need only be a few spiritual researchers, and yet everyone can understand the results of their research with ordinary, sound common sense...

But that is exactly what many people deny. They take the reports of the spiritual researchers as nothing more than beautiful fantasies and proceed to dissect and analyze them logically... These people usually admit they have not yet trained themselves to develop their capacities for higher knowledge.

We can agree on what the chemists and physicists are saying because, if we become chemists and physicists ourselves, we will clearly see that they were right... We have to undergo training as chemists to judge the findings of chemistry or become physicists to evaluate the results of physics. By the same token, we have to become spiritual researchers to assess the insights of spiritual science. However, unprejudiced people with sound common sense can understand it... Many prejudices and preconceived ideas will have to be overcome before spiritual science can take its rightful place in modern life.

Excerpt from Social Issues: Meditative Thinking & the Threefold Social Order, Lecture 1, Basel, Switzerland 5/01/1920 by Rudolf Steiner.

If we lack sufficient training, or, having that, we lack access to the necessary technology, we will be unable to prove the theories or conclusions of our natural scientists. Yet most of us acknowledge that the dedicated training and the appropriate tools scientists possess qualifies them to analyze and confirm their work. We believe the evidence they report.

Acceptance of the findings of spiritual science requires the same acknowledgement. If we lack sufficient training, if we haven’t yet developed our organs of spiritual perception, we can nevertheless read about the findings of spiritual science in an effort to understand that world using the same scientific method with which we are all familiar. Dr. Steiner, after all, was a scientist in both spheres.

What is it, though, that drives any of us to learn? The source of our curiosity and the subsequent drive for knowledge are part of what the study of spiritual science can reveal. If we want to know more, we can read the Steiner lecture quoted above, which is found in the book by the same name.


“Religion and Science: Conflict or Harmony?”
http://www.pewforum.org/2009/05/04/religion-and-science-conflict-or-harmony/

“Why should we trust science?”
https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/why-should-we-trust-science/40511/

“The Relationship between Science and Spirituality”
https://upliftconnect.com/science-and-spirituality/

Dying to Know

In Bruce Greyson’s paper, “Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Post-Materialist Psychology,” he states that, “A number of reductionist hypotheses have been proposed to explain NDEs (near-death-experiences)... although (such) speculations generally lack any empirical support and address only selected aspects of the phenomena.” (See paper by Enrico Facco and Christian Agrillo entitled “Near Death Experiences Between Science and Prejudice.”**)

Greyson says, “The most important objection to the adequacy of all reductionist theories, however, is that mental clarity, vivid sensory imagery, a clear memory of the experience, and a conviction that the experience seemed more real than ordinary consciousness are the norms for NDEs, even when they occur in conditions of drastically altered cerebral physiology under which the reductionist model would deem consciousness impossible.”  

In other words, even when the brain and all our senses are shut off completely, consciousness still appears to be happening—we still appear to be having real experiences. Can meditative states reach the level of consciousness experienced by those who have had near death experiences?

Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner* has to say:

“A moment may occur in which the soul gets an inner experience of itself in quite a new way... We are completely shut off from the world of sense and intellect, and yet we feel the experience in the same way as when we are standing fully awake before the outer world in ordinary life. We feel compelled to picture the experience in ourselves. For this purpose we use ideas such as we have in ordinary life, but we know very well that we are experiencing things different from those to which such ideas are normally attached.

...When such a series of representations has been gone through, the inner experience passes back to ordinary soul conditions. We find ourselves again in ourselves with the memory of the experience just undergone. If this memory is as vivid and accurate as any other, it enables us to form an opinion of the experience.

We then have a direct knowledge that we have gone through something which cannot be experienced by any physical sense or ordinary intelligence, for we feel that the description just given or communicated to others or to ourselves is only a means of expressing the experience. Although the expression is a means of understanding the fact of the experience, it has nothing in common with it. We know that we do not need any of our senses in having such an experience. One who attributes it to a hidden activity of the senses or of the brain does not know the true character of the experience.”

Excerpt from: A Road to Self Knowledge. Meditation I: In which the Attempt is made to obtain a True Idea of the Physical Body By Rudolf Steiner, 1912.

Steiner points to the difficulty of trying to put into words the experiences we have when we have lifted ourselves out of our physical nature, when we are experiencing things that are outside our senses, things of the spiritual world. When we come back into our bodies, so to speak, we know we have experienced something intensely real, but if we wish to talk about it, we must use the words and concepts derived from our sense-bound world. These words do not really communicate the experience, hence the skeptical response of many who are hearing about it; they feel justified in assuming that this experience is not real, but is a figment or trick of the imagination. (Whatever that is…)

Nevertheless, the number of NDE accounts is increasing as medical advances continue to successfully retrieve us from death’s door. This, along with the fact that patients and doctors now feel a diminishing sense of trepidation about reporting these experiences, ensures that research in this realm will continue.

Meanwhile, it is clear from what Steiner says that we can work on ourselves so that we develop our “spiritual senses” thus enabling us to see into the spiritual world. We can feel the mental clarity, etc. reported by those who have had near death experiences without the traumatic experience of reaching death’s door. If you want to know more, you can read Steiner’s work.


**Dr. Bruce Greyson is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is co-author of Irreducible Mind and co-editor of The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences.

Links:

Near-death experiences between science and prejudice
**https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399124/

“Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Postmaterialist Psychology”
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/37e4/00dfee9c01483cc7126738197e22dfc19926.pdf

“Meditation as an Altered State of Consciousness: Contributions of Western Behavioral Science”
http://www.atpweb.org/jtparchive/trps-15-83-01-061.pdf Deane H. Shapiro, Jr. Irvine, California  (PDF)

“Altered States of Consciousness”
https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/research-area/altered-states-of-consciousness/

The Near-Death Experience: In the Light of Scientific Research and the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner
https://www.amazon.com/Near-Death-Experience-Scientific-Research-Spiritual/dp/0880103604

Dissing Belief

Reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah,** we can appreciate how the hope and strength of religious practice inspired and comforted his family members and their friends during the outrageous circumstances of Apartheid in South Africa. But many of us simply can no longer trust established religions.

Many religions around the world have adopted dogmatic and fundamentalist rules that are intolerant of others to varying degrees—some even propose that people who do not believe as they do are enemies who must be either converted or destroyed. It is disturbing to hear our neighbors, whether Christian or otherwise, speak about the evil of others; how they will “go to hell” for their behaviors and beliefs.

Some of us understand that it is wrong to lay religious and social intolerance at the feet of God or Christ or Mohammed or Buddha or Krishna or whoever, whether we believe in them or not. Some believe that it was not the gods but simply mortal human beings who added all the rules and interpretations that condemn others. Be that as it may, we must recognize that those who believe nothing lies beyond what we can discover through empirical natural science can also be dogmatic, can also feel completely justified in condemning those who don’t believe the truth as they themselves see it.

One question underlying all this is, with what do we replace the hope and strength which Trevor Noah’s family and others like them found to sustain their lives? What is that something larger than ourselves? If we rely only on the world we know through our physical senses to give us hope and strength, we have to ask ourselves, how is that working for us?

Professionals in every realm of psychology, philosophy, healthcare, and so forth report that many of us are not flourishing in the larger sense of the word. We have, in a way, lost hope. And, because we do not wish to be uncool, we freely accept the various methods of escape from this despair: we not only court addiction and vice, greed and triviality, we exult in them. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had the capacity within ourselves to find the purpose of life—in general, for our complicated, conflicted world, and in particular for our complicated, conflicted selves?

Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner* has to say:

Now it is quite possible for man to deceive himself. He can give himself up to the belief that there is no hidden side to things; that that which meets his outer senses and his intellect is all-inclusive. This delusion, however, is only possible on the surface of consciousness, not in the depths. Our feeling-life, our aspirations and desires, do not partake in this illusory belief. In one way or another they will always crave for the hidden side; when it is taken from them, they drive the human being into doubt and bewilderment, even into despair, as we have seen. A way of knowledge which brings the hidden to revelation is apt to overcome all hopelessness, perplexity and despair—in short, all that weakens human life on Earth and incapacitates it from contributing its service to the cosmic whole.

One of the fairest fruits of the pursuit of Spiritual Science is that it lends strength and firmness to life, instead of merely satisfying a man’s craving for knowledge. Inexhaustible is the fountainhead from which it draws, giving man strength for work and confidence in life. No man who has once truly found his way to this source will ever go away unstrengthened, however often he may have recourse to it.

Excerpt from: Esoteric Science: An Outline, Preface to the 1925 edition 10/01/25 by Rudolf Steiner.

Maybe it feels reasonable and easy to say, “No way” to spiritual science, but is it sensible, is it practical? In short, does it work? We may well have difficulty accepting the tenets of organized religion because many of its followers embrace intolerances, hypocrisies, and spiritual superficialities that are impossible to ignore; however, can we really deny a whole world, a whole realm of consciousness, without knowing anything about it?

Have all the past civilizations on earth been just stupid or delusional about their relationship to something beyond themselves? Perhaps if we read Steiner with an open mind, we may find a path that leads way beyond anything offered by today’s organized religions, a path to real knowledge of ourselves and the world that enlivens and empowers us to see our life anew.


**Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. He is best known since September 2015 as host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Links:

Francis S. Collins, Former Director, National Human Genome Research Institute

http://www.pewforum.org/2009/05/04/religion-and-science-conflict-or-harmony/

“Stephen Colbert Opens Up About His Devout Christian Faith, Islam, Pope Francis, and More”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/stephen-colbert-opens-up-about-his-devout-christian-faith-islam-pope-francis-and-more

and/or

“How Stephen Colbert Is Bringing Religion to Late Night”
https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/stephen-colbert-is-bringing-religion-to-late-night/410959/

“Oprah’s new ‘Belief’ series shows how dramatically the nature of faith is shifting”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/18/oprahs-new-belief-series-shows-how-dramatically-the-nature-of-faith-is-shifting/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0f218e348c89

“The Question of God . Other Voices . Francis Collins | PBS”
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/questionofgod/voices/collins.html

Nothing But the Truth

Seeking to find the humanity in the other may feel like an effort we just cannot make right now—the stakes are too high; there is too much to lose. How did we get here?

A scary factor of the 21st century so far is that many of the most successful companies are information/entertainment providers, and while some are not yet monopolies, their dominance is unquestionable. All over the world, whether we are progressive or conservative, we are likely to be influenced by the empires that feed us the media we consume. Our media choices lend support to our beliefs, but why did we choose those particular sources? Do we instantly base the worth and accuracy of new information on what we already believe? How much resistance do we feel when our beliefs are challenged?

When people allow their opinions to become their truths, we can watch them becoming unsociable in varying degrees. We all know people who hold strong opinions that cloud their ability to see any flaws in their thinking. We all see friends and family that used to avoid contentious topics amongst each other now finding they can’t be together at all. Are we ourselves like these people?

Even if we conscientiously fact check the accuracy of what we are reading or watching before we believe it or pass it along, perhaps we could dig deeper. If we explored the origins of our own beliefs, despite the discomfort that might arise, we might begin to understand how those with whom we disagree believe what they do. What, then, is gained by understanding the other?

Let’s see what Dr. Steiner* has to say:

Inasmuch as we devote ourselves inwardly to truth, our true self gains in strength and will enable us to cast off self-interest. Anger weakens us; truth strengthens us… Love of truth is the only love that sets the Ego (our “I”) free. And directly man gives priority to anything else, he falls inevitably into self-seeking. Herein lies the great and most serious importance of truth for the education of the human soul. Truth conforms to no man, and only by devotion to truth can truth be found. Directly man prefers himself and his own opinions to the truth, he becomes antisocial and alienates himself from the human community. Look at people who make no attempt to love truth for its own sake but parade their own opinions as the truth: they care for nothing but the content of their own souls and are the most intolerant. Those who love truth in terms of their own views and opinions will not suffer anyone to reach truth along quite a different path. They put every obstacle in the way of anyone with different abilities who comes to opinions unlike their own. Hence the conflicts that so often arise in life. An honest striving for truth leads to human understanding, but the love of truth for the sake of one’s own personality leads to intolerance and the destruction of other people’s freedom.

… [Truth] can be sought for and attained through personal effort only by beings capable of thought. Inasmuch as truth is acquired by thinking, we must realize very clearly that there are two kinds of truth. First we have the truth that comes from observing the world of Nature around us and investigating it bit by bit in order to discover its truths, laws and wisdom. When we contemplate the whole range of our experience in this way, we come to the kind of truth that can be called the truth derived from “reflective” thinking—we first observe the world and then think about our findings.

There are also other truths. These cannot be gained by reflective thought, but only by going beyond everything that can be learned from the outer world… [One is] derived from reflective thought and the other from “creative” thought.

Excerpt from: Metamorphoses of the Soul: Paths of Experience, Lecture 3: The Mission of Truth, 22/10/1909, Berlin by Rudolf Steiner

We may, occasionally, need to look away from the incessant news of the day and all of the opinions masquerading as truths that create such enormous inner turmoil. We can seek to understand others without justifying their ideas or actions. The path to eternal truth is not a straight line; it’s not even a single path—as many people as we are so are the number of paths to be taken. The error we see in the way others are going may not be an error for them; it may be exactly the way they need to go to get to the truth—the same truth toward which our own path leads us.

If we would seek ideas that are larger than the mundane world, we would have to accept that eternal truths are real and possible to know. If we resolve to learn these truths, we will do so by thinking creatively. If we don’t, humanity seems doomed to suffer the endless conflicts between people of differing ideologies, faiths, and cultures. Steiner points to ways we might pursue these truths.


Links:

Mistakes Were Made, (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
http://a.co/d/3bsZ6c8

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by Jonathan Taplin.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXfkmGkI83g

Seeing Red

The human being is complicated. Obviously. Just for the fun of it, let’s look at how we see a red apple—not in all its detail, however, because we would never be able to consider here all responses to visual stimuli, etc., and all that this activity entails. So, we will leave alone all the structural properties of the eye and the optic nerve that communicate from our eyes to our brain.

Anyway, if we are not blind, we perceive the apple through our eyes; if we are not color-blind, we perceive its redness. If our brain works properly, we have the concept red apple that we match to the perception of the red apple. Our sense of smell may be stimulated, also taste and touch. We attach the concepts firm and sweet and crispy, which then may cause us to salivate. Thus, we get a glimmer, in an elementary way, of what the organ of the eye does in relation to its message to the brain and how the organs and bodily systems work together to “see” the red apple.

Additionally, we can also know that the apple has a particular atomic and chemical arrangement. The color red lies in a visual spectrum that appears at a particular frequency.

The color red is a symbol of danger. Red apples may be seen as a symbol of original sin, but also viewed as a student’s gift to a teacher. Each layer of understanding requires the activity of thinking. Even if we want to know about thinking itself, the only way to do it is through thinking. What, then, is thinking?

Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner has to say:

Man can only come to a true understanding of himself when he grasps clearly the significance of thinking within his being. The brain is the bodily instrument of thinking. A properly constructed eye serves us for seeing colors, and the suitably constructed brain serves us for thinking. The whole body of man is so formed that it receives its crown in the physical organ of the spirit, the brain. The construction of the human brain can only be understood by considering it in relation to its task—that of being the bodily basis for the thinking spirit. This is borne out by a comparative survey of the animal world. Among the amphibians the brain is small in comparison with the spinal cord; in mammals it is proportionately larger; in man it is largest in comparison with the rest of his body.

There are many prejudices prevalent regarding such statements about thinking as are present here. Many people are inclined to undervalue thinking and to place higher value on the warm life of feeling or emotion. Some even say it is not by sober thinking but by warmth of feeling and the immediate power of emotions that we raise ourselves to higher knowledge… In the case of thoughts that lead to the higher regions of existence… [t]here is no feeling and no enthusiasm to be compared with the sentiments of warmth, beauty and exaltation that are enkindled through the pure, crystal-clear thoughts that refer to the higher worlds. The highest feelings are, as a matter of fact, not those that come of themselves, but those that are achieved by energetic and persevering thinking.

Excerpt from Theosophy, The Essential Nature of Man: Chapter 4. “Body, Soul and Spirit”. 1904 by Rudolf Steiner

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Steiner is saying that thinking is inescapable; every field of learning involves thinking. The only way to gain understanding of anything is through the activity of thinking—and the only way to understand thinking itself is to think about it, too. Period. So, spiritual science is understood through the same means that everything else in the world is understood.

We may put lots of instruments in between what is being observed and us as observers; we may imagine we can remove the “human element” from the process, but we can’t because we can’t eliminate thinking from the process. And if you’re thinking of AI now, you’re overlooking the thinking that went into the creation of that technological achievement. (If you need to know more about that, look up AI and Qualia.)

Steiner is saying that the processes of learning about the spiritual world are meditation, contemplation and grasping the concepts of the spiritual world. He has given us methods of meditation and contemplation and has provided concepts about the spiritual world in his books, articles and lectures. If we do pursue these suggestions, the “instruments” of spiritual perception we all possess will begin to open up.

Thinking is the basic activity by which we understand the physical world. It’s so obvious; it’s right under our noses. Our sense of reality comes through thinking. Our sense of anything comes through thinking. So, it should come as no surprise that thinking is also the basis by which we come to know and understand the spiritual world. Reading Steiner makes this clearer.

Links:

“Human Vision and Color Perception”
https://www.olympus-lifescience.com/en/microscope-resource/primer/lightandcolor/humanvisionintro/

“The Dynamic Representation of Scenes,” Ronald A. Rensink
https://www.google.com/search?q=The+Dynamic+Representation+of+Scenes+Ronald+A.+Rensink&oq=The+Dynamic+Representation+of+Scenes+Ronald+A.+Rensink&aqs=chrome..69i57.1588j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

AI and Qualia
https://www.google.com/search?q=AI+and+qualia&oq=AI+and+qualia&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.6231j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Infinite Possibilities

It is thought that Plato learned geometry from the Pythagoreans, members of a secret society in Greece. The Pythagoreans traced their origin back to Pythagoras, a mystic, who is said to have learned geometry in Egypt.

sacred-geometry-pythagoras_small.jpg

During this time in Egypt, science, religion, and magic were not separate subjects at all; they were one subject, and those who taught this subject believed that an invisible order indwelled and formed the visible world. Pythagoras’ school, therefore, taught geometry and mysticism.

Pythagoras is respected still today, thousands of years later, for the Pythagorean theorem. But do we respect him as a mystic? Why did the study of geometry drop its mystical significance? Are we just smarter now … are all of us smarter than Pythagoras because we don’t believe in the mystical stuff?

Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner* has to say:

If we study human evolution impartially, we cannot fail to be impressed by the exceptional progress made in recent times by the sciences concerned with the outer world… [T]housands of years ago the sun rose in the morning and passed across the heavens just as it does today… The course of the sun was the same then, for external observation, as it was in the days of Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Copernicus, and so on. Can we suppose that the modern knowledge of which we are so justly proud has been gained by merely contemplating the external world?
If the external world could itself, just as it is, give us this knowledge, there would be no need to look further: all the knowledge we have about the sense-perceptible world would have been acquired centuries ago. How is it that we know so much more and have a different view of the position of the sun and so on?
It is because human understanding, human cognition concerning the external world, has developed and changed in the course of hundreds or thousands of years. Yes, these faculties were by no means the same in ancient Greece as they have come to be with us since the 16th century.
… [Human beings] have learned to see the outer world differently because something was added to those faculties which apply to the external sense-world … a study of human evolution will show that something evolves within man; the faculties for gaining exact knowledge of nature were at first asleep within him, and have awakened by stages in the course of time. Now they are fully awake, and it is these faculties which have made possible the great progress of physical science.
Is it then inevitable that these inner faculties should remain as they are now, equipped only to reflect the outer world?

Excerpt from Metamorphosis of the Soul, Paths of Experience, Lecture 1, 14/10/1909 by Rudolf Steiner.

Steiner shows that over the course of time, humanity lost its connection to the spiritual world even as it gained its capacity to contemplate the world of the senses. It is now possible once again to find a living relationship with the spiritual world, but we must seek it ourselves; it is no longer provided to us as a gift. But to whom do we turn to seek it? Well, we can turn to those who, like Pythagoras in his time, are the scientists and philosophers of our day.

Right now, in 2018, we can major at Yale University in a field called  Mathematics and Philosophy; we can take a course at Oxford by the same name, and many other universities offer a course called Philosophy in Mathematics.

We can find many books on the subject of science and philosophy such as the 2017 book by H. Chris Ransford, God and the Mathematics of Infinity: What Irreducible Mathematics Says About Godhood or the 2006 book by George Greenstein and Arthur Zajonc, The Quantum Challenge: Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Physics and Astronomy).

So, apparently, science actively connects with philosophy. Let’s take a quick look at the prologue of the Greenstein/Zajonc book: “… the challenges to our understanding posed by quantum theory extend all the way to our conceptions of the nature of physical reality and of the proper function of science itself. The research we describe has made abundantly clear that the conventional view is entirely inadequate … modern research on the foundations of quantum mechanics has generated an extensive philosophical literature…”

What do they mean by the nature of physical reality? The proper function of science? Is our understanding of science itself evolving? Does Steiner’s revelation of a world beyond our physical reality need to be taken seriously? If you’re interested in knowing more, you can read Steiner.

Links:

“Intuitionism in the Philosophy of Mathematics”
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intuitionism/

“Holism and Reductionism in the Entwined History of Light and Mind”
http://www.arthurzajonc.org/publications/holism-and-reductionism-in-the-entwined-history-of-light-and-mind/

Plato and Pythagoreanism
www.amazon.com/Plato-Pythagoreanism-Phillip-Sidney-Horky/dp/0190465700