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A READER'S JOURNAL
The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity, GA#15
by
Rudolf Steiner

Three Lectures in Copenhagen, 1911
Published by Anthroposophic Press in 1990
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©1997
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Steiner begins Lecture One thus:

[Page 3] If we reflect upon ourselves, we soon come to realize that, in addition to the self we encompass with our thoughts, feelings, and fully conscious impulses of will, we bear in ourselves a second, more powerful self.

This second self, this more powerful self corresponds to what I have called in one of my poems, our Soul Captain. When we look back in our lives at events that seemed unwanted, inconvenient, and occasionally disastrous at the time of their occurrence, the older we become, the more likely we are to comprehend the underlying wisdom of the events that had transpired. It was as though we were on a cruise ship, and the Captain of the ship, with a firm hand on the wheel, steered us in exactly the right direction, achieving for us a destination we would have never chosen if we had been in charge of the ship. What the self we call "I" understands or does consciously, Steiner says, "is only a small part of what we accomplish in the world."

Steiner says that "we act most wisely in the period between birth and the moment at which memory . . . begins." This coincides with what doyletics calls the "memory transition age" [See also ARJ: The Emotional Brain]. It occurs about at the age of five, before which we have few and very dim memories of our existence. Our "I" did not yet exist.

Undoubtedly our Soul Captain is very busy during that period of time. Our physical brain is about one-fifth of its full-size at birth because if it were larger, we could not pass through the birth canal. During the first year our brain triples in mass, the tectonic plates of our skulls moving away to accommodate the enlarged brain. According to Steiner, during this expansion period, our Soul Captain is at work, poring over blueprints for our lifetime, plans prepared in that time between death and rebirth when we are "such stuff as stars are made of."

The shaping of our brain's recursive neuronal groups, the spreading network of dendritic spines, the storage of feelings and emotions in the amygdala -- all these things come together to form our brain-nervous system into the "medium of all the soul's faculties." This is spiritual guidance at a very deep, personalized level, and each of us possesses an "I" that is the final product of that guidance.

While that highest wisdom is at work in our infancy forming our "I" even the wisest person can learn from us. Mothers of small children are the greatest learners because they spend so much time with small children. They say, "My baby needs me," but what they really mean is, "My 'I' needs to be with that baby." That is the reason why a small child can garner the complete attention of a room full of adults. That child reminds us, in an immediate and unconscious way, of that period of our individual life when that same force that is active in the child was active in us, forming the "I" we currently possess.

Matthew 18:3 says, "Unless you turn and become as like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Translated into the terminology of modern spiritual science, that becomes, "Unless you become an independent thinker, an etheric thinker, just like a little child is before three-years-old, you will not be able to experience spiritual realities in the period between death and rebirth." It should be obvious to state that there are no materialists or spiritual skeptics in the age group 0 to 3 years-old.

To demonstrate this reality Steiner points out that these powerful forces that worked on us for the first three years of our life are the same as those that worked on Jesus of Nazareth for the three years from his baptism by John to his crucifixion by Pilate. In the current stage of earthly evolution a physical body is only able to survive the infusion of these forces for three years.

[Page 16] After three years, world karma would have to intervene and destroy the human organism.

Another source of spiritual guidance is from the angels (angeloi) or dhyani (genie). These higher beings are not encumbered by the linear, sequential mode of human thought, but form complete trains of thought in an instant. When such an idea is imparted to a human, it may take a long time for the entire idea to be understood in order to be communicated to another human. Such instances of insight we call "flashes of genius" which indicates their source in a higher being.

At one time in the past, if you asked someone who their teacher was, they would immediately go inside to contact their source of inspiration and knowledge. These were variously called muses or gods, and authors would consult them before daring to put words on a page. The Odyssey of Homer, for example, begins with the following invocation [Note how the adjective used to describe Odysseus is “in-genius” referring to a hero who acts via an inspiring genie.]:

Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide . . .

When the gods began to withdraw from humans, the legend of the labyrinth was created. Steiner says that the labyrinth symbolizes the fall of humans onto their own resources, their fall into error, and that the contorted pathways of the labyrinth represents the convolutions of the human brain. Among the corridors of either maze, one can easily get lost, without a guide.

[Page 36] In Atlantean time people experienced outer impressions in such a way that to give expression to something external the soul was compelled to use a consonant. Thus, what was present in space -- the universe and everything in it -- induced people to imitate everything around them with consonants. People felt the wind blowing, the sound of waves, the shelter a house provides, and imitated these experiences by means of consonants. On the other hand, people's inner experiences, such as pain or joy, were imitated by vowels. Thus, one can see that in speech the soul became one with external events or beings.

This compares favorably with my dichotomy of the world into process and content. The root of the idea is undoubtedly from my computer background, as it can be best explained by a computer metaphor. Programming code (when running) is process; data is content. The CPU is the Central Processing Unit (process); the RAM is random access memory (content).A CPU chip is content -- it's a square bit of molded plastic, just sitting there -- but its internal workings, when in action, is process. Nouns are content; verbs are process. I own a bicycle (content) and I bicycle (process) to the post office. This is my pen (content) that I am right now using to pen (process) my thoughts. And the same thing happens (process) to happen (content). Steiner is saying that consonants are primarily used for content (outer expression, material things) and vowels for process (inner expression, being, doing).

[Page 74] Giordano Bruno proclaimed proudly that the human being is actually a macrocosmic being condensed into a monad to enter physical existence; and that this monad expands again when the individual dies.

Steiner goes into considerable detail in the third lecture to explain how our view of the cosmos has changed in the last two thousand years. From the direct view of humans into the spiritual worlds, especially the world between death and rebirth [See ARJ: Life Between Death and Rebirth.], we have moved to the present materialistic view of establishment scientists, grounded in the physical senses. In the above quote from Bruno, we see a different side of the hard scientist of Galileo's time, the man who challenged Criminino, the Church official, to look through the telescope to see for himself the mountains on the moon. The response he got was, "Bosh, the moon's a perfect sphere, so there can be no mountains, therefore I do not need to look through your contraption." Bruno was a man who could still experience the supersensible cosmos as well as he did the physical cosmos. Such humans as Bruno provided spiritual guidance to humanity in their time and even now.

To summarize, Steiner lays out for us three sources of spiritual guidance: our own higher self, the angels and genii, and wise thinkers and writers of history.




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