Dear Community of Anthroposophical Friends,
Carl Flygt's fifth essay is found below entitled "Christianity." In this essay, Carl offers a powerful new interpretation of the most important socio-cultural movement in human history. For Carl, Christianity is something to be contemplated in Goethean conversation in terms of truth conditions and clairvoyant exercises, not in terms of faith. This manner of public contemplation, Carl thinks, should be sufficient to cause Christianity to re-enter the stream of history as a living and progressive force.
I hope you enjoy this essay, thinking about its practical and cultural implications and feeling free to share your thoughts on his work with me and with Carl at his email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Carl is an anthroposophical theorist, lecturer and workshop leader. Born and educated in Middle Tennessee, he migrated to California in search of a solution to the mind-body problem. He works with modern philosophy, Chinese qigong, and Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy.
In 2006, after the publication by Lindisfarne Press of his book Conversation - A New Theory of Language , he established Conversation Arts, an anthroposophical consultancy on Goethean conversation and collective intelligence. He is currently pursuing graduate work in modern logic and analytic philosophy.
For purchase of his book or further study please go to: www.consciousconversation.com.
Essay Number Five
Carl H. Flygt - February 2007
And ye shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.
Truth has some important sociological entailments. Imagine an idealistic student at Catholic school who resolves to commit himself (herself) to truth in all things, great and small. Surely an unobjectionable maxim, and probably altogether wholesome, having been endorsed by no less a personage and exemplar than Christ himself. Now suppose one day he (she) is confronted by his (her) instructor, a nun of a particularly stern and righteous disposition, and not particularly liked by our student or by many others for that matter, who imperiously demands of him (her), "What exactly were you thinking just now?" Suppose his (her) immediate thought had had the content
(1) You are very fat and very ugly, and generally an offense to aesthetic sensibility.
What should he (she) say?
The example shows something important about how society works, examples of this sort being readily imagined and even observed in our world. From them, it would appear that socialized individuals are committed, more or less by definition, to intentional falsehood. Strictly speaking, without self-conscious lies and lying, social life of the sort we have today would be impossible.
What should we make of this state of affairs, which obtains between the human imagination, manifestly the freest thing in God's creation, and human society, which often requires that that freedom be suppressed? More important, what should we do about it? I think the answer is really rather clear. If Christ is correct about truth, Christians are more or less by definition obliged to remake society. Historically, this is precisely what has happened. Christianity represents the most powerful cultural-historical force in human history. Without it, Western civilization, which began with Greek rationalism, would in all likelihood have been forgotten and submerged by wave after wave of empire and barbarism. With it, and the individualistic liberalism that has grown up out of it, and notwithstanding a contemporary challenge from radical Islam, Western civilization seems certain to dominate global society for centuries to come. The problem for those interested in the spirit of truth and its correlates is that this individualistic civilization represents a degenerate form, a shadow version of the Christianity that would set us free in truth.
The problem then is to discover a way to materialize the imagination in truth, and not in Ahrimanic simulation. The Ahrimanic stream, which began with the invention of writing, law and classical drama and was amplified by the development of banking, printing and photography has now, through technical media of all kinds, bloomed to the point where reality is readily confused with representation. One can pass comfortably through life today with little impetus to distinguish cosmic intelligence and imaginative truth from artificial intelligence and lifeless truth. The essence of Christianity, which is a grand and universal impulse for the living transformation of the planet Earth herself, needs to be recovered in living, breathing conversation, and in the reciprocal causality and cosmic intuition of transformed minds and transformed astral bodies. The facts and logical entailments of Christianity need to be understood clearly by individuals, and they need to be contemplated by communities of free imaginations to the point that among them no dissimulation is possible, no platitudes are viable and no tact becomes necessary to maintain the social fabric.
Recently I spoke with an experienced and capable anthroposophist from whom I have learned a great deal about Rudolf Steiner's cosmo-historiography, and to my surprise discovered that his understanding of Christianity appears to be logically incoherent. Compassion, he says, is the emotion that one experiences in contemplating Christ on the Cross. This seems to me to misunderstand Christianity in a fundamental way. Compassion is an emotion we experience when contemplating a tragic figure, someone brought into a state of suffering we ourselves are not obliged to endure. It is an attitude of the privileged toward the underprivileged, and is one of the reasons why Buddhism makes so little sense in American society. Few things can be more insulting to an American, whose equality of right and moral self-worth are taken as basic to the social contract, than being told by another American that one is the object of the other's compassion.
Christ is no tragic figure, no blundering dufus who ended up in circumstances he neither anticipated nor intended. Christ knew exactly what he was doing, for example, in the profound anti-Semitism of John 8:44 and other actions that forced the Jewish hierarchy to martyr him. It is Christ who occupies the privileged position on the Cross, not we, and all mankind the object of his compassion, not him of ours. We, chained to material nature and materialism, are the ones perpetually crucified in the cycle of karma and rebirth. This undoubtedly is the royal knowledge Christ possessed in that event. The wonder of Christianity is that his world-kingship was assumed from the most degraded worldly position possible. The purpose of the degradation, we learn from Rudolf Steiner, was physically to transform the planet to which we are bound from lifetime to lifetime into an ethereal domain of life, light and free spirit beings acting and weaving a new world fabric under moral law.
Christianity, unique among the world's cultural traditions, is the source of an inexhaustible content, not the least being its relation to Jewishness and Judaism, and by extension to Islam. The role in world history of the Jewish people, their tremendous intelligence, wisdom and survivability, their terrible ongoing history, their subsumption of much of contemporary American society through political correctness and other instruments of culture, is intimately bound up with the story of Christianity. Untold insight into today's world, and into tomorrow's, will be discovered by interpreting, telling and retelling that story, which is unbelievably profound and mysterious, in an accurate way through the medium of clairvoyant intuition combined with logical thought. It is through thinking and not faith that Christianity seems destined to re-enter human history as a great cultural force. The mechanism of this re-entry, I think, will be anthroposophical conversation.
So many of the tenets and assertions of Christianity are so improbable to the scientific mind of today that the movement stands in clear need of a reworking if it is again to appear superficially relevant to the world with its materialist logic and rationality. These include the doctrine of the virgin birth, the numerous miracles of materialization and healing, the Resurrection, the Pentecost and the Eucharist. But in all likelihood Christianity is profound enough and true enough to re-emerge as thus relevant, its miracles all accounted for on materialist logic. Certainly Rudolf Steiner's account of the double birth and parallel childhood is a step in that direction. Here I would like to suggest two such avenues of re-emergence: the conversion of human immortality from benign promise to actual fact; and the sensitizing of moral intuition toward the root and stem of the astral body, a development we see described in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (1210 AD), and which can be formalized in Goethean conversation.
If the 600-year cosmic circulation of individual lives is an actual fact, as many traditions concur, immortality does not appear likely to remain with us as a significant existential problem. The problem will be to decide what to do about the purport of that fact, a cultural and political question that in turn will hinge on describing the details, the actual mechanism by which cosmic determinations are made concerning individual incarnation and destiny. More likely than not, those determinations have to do with free moral actions taken during the sojourn on earth, together with a residue from past experiences. With anthroposophical conversation we are in possession of a technique that allows us to enhance the quality and bearing of those free actions. Such conversation also gives us an opportunity to develop and refine the clairvoyant capacities which are necessary to detect and to make judgments about individual karma and karmic relationships. In a world in which past and future human lives are intuitively intelligible and tangibly real, very little energy need be expended on mounting faith in a hereafter. The cosmic hereafter will be as transparently present to our organs of clairvoyant perception as the material world is to our organs of sense.
The essence of Christianity, of course, is its moral purport. Without Christianity, ethical individualism would be unthinkable, and ethical individualism is the warp and woof binding Western societies and Western political institutions together into a workable fabric. To Christian sensibility, the rights and freedoms of the individual are paramount, the value of the individual for all intents and purposes infinite. Individuals are willing to give sanction to and fiercely to defend any political system that preserves those rights and strengthens those values. The founders of the American state recognized that individual human beings are instinctively geared toward benevolence and amiability, and decided that trust in the instincts of the individual was the best and wisest foundation upon which to erect national government. Christianity also works at the level of the individual's instinct for moral rectitude, promising the poor and downtrodden heavenly reward for faith and moral conduct in the material world, much of which is left to the individual's own sense of judgment and universal harmony. Christianity and sensible liberal government thus appear to go hand in hand.
Moral individualism and its government is what anthroposophical conversation requires of us. Saying the right thing in the right way at the right time is what we practice in anthroposophical conversation, and because there are semantic techniques that allow us to judge how well or how poorly these sayings are done, much conversation can now be held to standards that otherwise would be left to chance, tragedy or deep karma. The healing of the Grail king by correct conversation is an example of what karmic recognition and truth can be for us in the right circumstances. But the potential of karmic recognition and truth go far beyond the mere healing of the individual. It extends to remaking the cosmic etheric world in which life on earth participates. The sacrifice and kingly assumption of Christ is another example of the same principle, but on a much deeper level. Christ's purpose and sign was to establish erotic conversation and contact, individually willed, within and across human lifetimes, and human immortality, individually experienced, in a community of life in the physical-etheric domain. Ultimately conversation and community of this sort is what the world will turn to out of cosmic necessity, as human bodies begin to lose the capacity for sex and generation some 1500 years hence. It is for those enthusiastically willing and assuredly able in our time to ensure that these higher generative capacities are exercised in advance, with a certain regularity, exactitude and loss of self-consciousness, so that the world, when it turns to embrace them, will recognize the signs of those who in imaginative truth and freedom have gone before.
LECTURES AND WORKSHOPS
I am available to lecture and conduct workshops on this subject at anthroposophical and other venues. I particularly enjoy presenting in conjunction with local artists and others who see a purpose in working creatively toward a shared goal. Ultimately I believe local groups with spiritual ideals will be able to produce a new and benign kind of cultural and even political theater.
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