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A READER'S JOURNAL
The Lord’s Prayer, GA#96, 97
An Esoteric Study
4 Lectures given in the Spring of 1907
Foreword by Judith von Halle
Translators Pauline Wehrle and Matthew Barton
Published by Rudolf Steiner Press/UK in 1977
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2010
Chapter: Spiritual Science
The Lord’s Prayer, GA#96, 97
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The four lectures in this small book appeared also in The Christian Mystery, but were hardly touched upon in my review of that book. Adam Bittelston's Essay on Rudolf Steiner's view of the Lord's Prayer appeared in 1964 Edition of The Golden Blade, and was given a detailed review(1). These four lectures expand upon the Bittelston Essay and likely provide the basis for it. Three of the lectures deal with The Lord's Prayer, going over much of the same material from a slightly different point of view in three different cities, and the fourth lecture, given in Berlin a month after the first, expands what Steiner had covered earlier.
If you have ever wondered how important this prayer we usually call the Our Father is, this book will reveal that to you. What better place to begin than to reveal how Jesus received the prayer himself. In his book, The Fifth Gospel, Rudolf Steiner writes of events in the life of Jesus not covered in any of the extant gospels. In this next passage, quoted from my review we watch in amazement as Jesus receives the famous prayer directly from the spiritual world in reverse order.
[from The Fifth Gospel review] In his twenty-fourth year, Steiner reports that Jesus visited a pagan worship site where the people hailed him as a priest come to revive their ancient place of worship. As Jesus neared the altar the people pushed him onto it and demanded he perform an offering service for them. Jesus fell face down on the altar as if in death, and the people scattered in fear. Jesus heard the ancient voice of the Bath Kol saying to him these enigmatic and powerful words [page 51]:
The evil holds sway.
Witness of egoity freeing itself.
Selfhood guilt through other incurred.
Experienced in the daily bread.
Wherein the will of the heavens does not rule.
Because man separated himself from your realm.
And forgot your names.
You Fathers in the heavens.
Jesus apparently understood the meaning of these words, reversed the order to form the prayer, and gave it to us saying, "When you pray, pray this way." It is a prayer fashioned to keep us all and always in the right mode of thought and prayer until the end of humanity's time on the planet Earth.
As we go through the phrases, we enter into the three highest forms of human being during our Earth evolution(2), which are expressed in the prayer as Name, Kingdom, and Will. When we pray "Our Father" we address the Godhead of which we comprise a tiny part and we acknowledge that "Hallowed be Thy Name", "Thy Kingdom come", and "Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." The connection between these nascent parts of our human being has been known for long before Christ Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples and to us. Each of us are embarked on a journey of purifying (by operation of our "I") our astral body into spirit self, our etheric body into life spirit, and our physical body into spirit man, which journey will only end when Earth itself comes to an end.
Rightly understood, this prayer is prophetic and prophylactic. It is prophetic in that it reminds each of us of the long journey each of us are right now in the process of undertaking, whether we realize it consciously or not. This prayer is prophylactic in that it prescribes how we may best act in our lives today by addressing the needs of our four lower human parts, our physical body, etheric body, astral body, and "I". The prophylactic petitions are "Give us this day our daily bread" (physical body), "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (etheric body), "Lead us not into temptation" (astral body), and "Deliver us from evil" ("I"). Each of us needs food for our physical body, needs to learn not to trespass on others (forgiving them if they trespass on our etheric body), needs to avoid temptation (which our astral body is subject to), and needs to be delivered from evil (which our "I" is subject to as it operates in freedom, but it is the youngest of the four bodies and needs help to overcome evil).
In Pythagorean form, the spiritual triumvirate sits atop the physical quaternity as a triangle atop a square(3).
How are we to understand such words as Godhead (Father), Kingdom, and Name? Yes, we have the dictionary definitions, but what do they mean as they appear in the cosmic prayer that we call the Our Father or Lord's Prayer? Physicists try to convince lay people that the universe began in a Big Bang, but what does that really mean, outside of the abstract mathematical equations which few understand? Listen to Rudolf Steiner's description of the origin of the universe. It begins with the prosaic task of looking into a mirror.
[page 30, 31] Imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror and looking into it. Your image is exactly like you in every respect of your physiognomy, your gestures; it is like you in every way except that it is a dead image of you. You stand in front of it as a living entity, and you are confronted by the dead image of yourself, which is similar to you in every aspect except for the living, substantial part of you. Imagine now that your will had evolved to the point where it would be capable of deciding to give up your own existence, your own essential being, and give it to your mirror image; that you were in a position to sacrifice yourself wholly, so that your mirror image was provided with your life force. Such a will is described as 'emanating', as letting its own essence go. It is the highest stage of the will, known to Christians as the 'divine will of the Father'. The human will today, then, is the least developed of our soul forces. However, it is in the process of evolving such power that it will be capable of achieving 'the great sacrifice'. That is the true nature of the potential strength that lies in the power of Atma — of the nature of will in so far as it is an outflowing of the divine essence.
What would possess someone to let their own essence go? one might ask. Who would even consider doing such a thing today? "No one" is the likely answer. But we humans today have only the barest remnants of divine Will inside of us, in what we call will-power. Even Peter did not have the will power to stay awake one hour as Christ Jesus requested him to do, did he? We, two thousand years later, have barely begun to work upon our physical body to create the Will (the Atman or Spirit Man) which is capable of conceiving of and proceeding upon "the great sacrifice." But we are on the path to doing exactly that in the course of our evolutionary future.
[page 30] We shall begin with the highest principle, the one that is called Atma.
What I am going to tell you now is not some kind of superficial definition, but I want to characterize for you the real nature and essence of this particular higher principle of human nature. The force that comes into being as Atma, in so far as it is a force coming from the Godhead, is of the nature of will. When you think of your own will-power, of the force in you that is able to will, that is only a shadowy copy of the principle that comes from the power of Atma, from the Godhead. A human being's will is the part of us that is least developed today. The will is, however, capable of developing more and more until the time comes when it reaches its culmination and will be able to achieve what is known in religions as 'the great offering', or 'the great sacrifice'.
How are we to understand the second spiritual nature of Man, the Buddhi or Life Spirit? Think of an electrostatic sphere, such as appears in various museums and science exhibits: if you put your hand on the glass sphere, a miniature lightning bolt (actually a plasma discharge) flashes to it. The electrostatic field is equal in all directions from the center and no outflowing discharges occur until you unbalance some portion of the field with your finger or hand. When you remove your hand it returns to its quiet, balanced state. Now think of all the spots on the inside surface of the sphere which are under a high potential, they are each a small component of the field which exists in the center of the sphere.
[page 31, 32] Let us now consider the second principle of man's higher nature, the Buddhi or Life Spirit, looking at it as an outflowing of the Godhead — that is the view taken in Christianity. The easiest way to get an idea of it is if you now consider not the force that flows out to give life to the mirror image but the mirror image itself. The mirror image presents a complete copy of the original entity; it is the same, and yet not the same — if you apply this to the world, to the whole universe, it is the way the divine universal will in one point is reflected in all directions. Think of a hollow space as it were that reflects inside. The one point inside is reflected there an infinite number of times — everywhere in an infinite repetition of the divine cosmic will, mirror images everywhere, separate aspects of the divine.
Look at the cosmos, the universe; as a mirroring of the infinite cosmic will. No single creature contains the divine cosmic will, but it is reflected everywhere in infinitely many ways. The mirroring of the Godhead-with the Godhead remaining in the point where it is, but at the same time, by making 'the great sacrifice', giving life to every point in which it is reflected-this, in Christian terminology, is the 'kingdom'. And this term 'the kingdom' describes the same principle as Buddhi in man. If you think of the universe from the point of view of the creative, productive principle emanating from what was there from the beginning, the divine principle, then the element that follows directly after Atma is the divine spark of life, namely, Buddhi. As 'the kingdom' it is universal, cosmic.
In our example of the electrostatic globe, all points on the glass sphere seemed identical until we put our finger on the glass surface and then the plasma discharge it attracted makes for a distinction which we could name. We might name it by saying, "Look at this spot where the lightning bolt hits my finger." Suddenly that spot has a name to distinguish it from all the other spots on the globe.
[page 32] Let us now turn our attention from this to the details of the kingdom. We first considered it as a whole. Now we come down to detail. In what way do we distinguish the one from the other? Through what in Christian terminology we call 'the name'. Each thing is given a name, and this is how we distinguish between the many different things, the individual aspects of the kingdom. By the term 'name' a Christian understands what is often called the idea, the mental image belonging to something. Just as individual people are distinguished one from another by having a name, the name is felt to be something that possesses a part of the mirrored divine essence. Christians have the right attitude to this name if they realize that every aspect of the kingdom issues from the divine, and that every morsel of bread is an outflowing, a mirror, a part of the Godhead. A Christian should be quite clear about this in relation to even the least significant things. In human nature it is the individual Spirit Self that brings it about that each human being faces the other as a separate person. What the name is in the kingdom is possessed by human beings in their individual Spirit Self or Manas, because, they are a separate part of the Godhead, and have a particular name for themselves, the name which for each individual passes through all incarnations.
When we understand these aspects of Godhead, Kingdom, and Name, we can come to grips with our own threefold nature of Atman (or Atma), Buddhi, and Manas (Spirit Man, Life Spirit, and Spirit Self).
[page 32, 33] So we can now visualize this threefold nature as an outflowing of divine spirit being, and it is in this sense that Atma or Spirit Man is the will of the Godhead, Buddhi or Life Spirit the kingdom and Manas or Spirit Self the name.
Rudolf Steiner found these aspects of the cosmos, not by retrofitting them to the Lord's Prayer, but by learning them independently of the Lord's Prayer and recognizing the cosmic significance of their appearance in the Lord's Prayer(4).
Let us move down into the lower quaternity of the human being as we did earlier, but this time with Rudolf Steiner holding our hand.
[page 33] Let us now look at the four lower parts of human nature, beginning with the lowest one, the physical body. It has the same material substance and forces as outer physical nature, but is also constantly converting them. These go in and out of the human physical body, and its very existence depends on this happening. It can only continue to exist by continually renewing itself and changing itself by using the outer physical substance. It is part of the whole of physical nature. Just as you cannot cut off this finger and have it remain what it is — it will shrivel up as soon as you separate it from the rest of the body, and is what it is only because it is part of the whole organism — neither can you separate the human physical body from the earth and have it remain as it is. Human beings are what they are only by virtue of being in connection with the elements of the earth. Physical substances and forces go in and out of us, making us the kind of being that can only maintain our essential nature with their assistance. This characterizes our physical body.
Few of us stop to think about how the physical elements of the Earth go into and out of us again, creating a completely new body in seven years so by which time all the elements of our body have been switched out. This process goes mostly unnoticed by us, we feel the same, but meantime, to use an automotive metaphor: our tires have been replaced, our motor, our seats, the metal body parts, the radio, CD player, all the wires, and all the light bulbs, even the paint, has been replaced. And this goes on and on, every seven years all the atoms of our body have been replaced. The only place we notice it is when children of age seven lose the teeth they received from the elements of their mother's body while in the womb and out pops new teeth made from elements acquired outside their mother's body. Where do all the elements come from? Our "daily bread".
The next aspect of the quaternity is equally unnoticed, except by its absence, and that is the etheric body (life body). We notice immediately its absence when someone dies — the body is "lifeless" we say, that is, absent a "life body" infusing it and keeping the earthen materials flowing into and out from the physical body. The words "ether body" and "life body" are synonymous and equivalent. "Life" refers to its function of maintaining life in the physical body and "Ether" refers to its otherwise non-physically sensible nature. In addition to its maintenance activities, the etheric body also has storage activities.
[page 33, 34] The second member is the etheric or life body. Here we must understand that it is the principle that stirs the merely physical substances and forces into life. It sustains growth and reproduction, in fact all the manifestations of life, but also something entirely different — all the human qualities that are of a more lasting nature than people's short-lived drives, desires and passions. What is the difference between them? To grasp this difference, think back to the time when you were eight years old. Think of everything you have learnt since then, of all the thoughts and ideas you have taken on board and all the experiences you have had — a huge amount. But now you need to think of something else, and that is how slowly, at what a snail's pace something else happens. Think of the violent temper you had as a child, and ask yourself whether this temper does not still persist at times, and whether your temperament and inclinations have not to a large extent remained the same. All this has not changed as much as your experiences have. You can compare what you learn and experience with the minute hand of a clock and the changes in regard to character, temperament and habit with the hour hand. The difference exists because the former are sustained by the astral body whereas the latter, which change so slowly, are sustained by the etheric body. If you change your habits, that is a change in your etheric body. If you have learnt one thing or another, that is a change in your astral body.
Our etheric body sustains our temperament and our inclinations over our lifetime, but it also stores all the memories of our daily lives in infinite detail. When at death the etheric body leaves the physical body, it releases all of those memories to our consciousness in our astral body and the familiar effect of "having one's life past before one's eyes" occurs.
[page 34] The etheric body is also the bearer of memory as a capacity, not as the memorizing of things. For instance, if your memory needs to be made more acute this involves changing the etheric body; if it fades, it is a change in your etheric body, a change in your ability to memorize.
There is another aspect of your etheric body which is important: how it adjusts to the etheric bodies of the other people in your life. If your etheric body infringes on another's etheric body, it creates a dent in their etheric body that is just as real as if you make a dent in their automobile's fender, and sometimes more so. These dents take various shapes and forms but collectively they constitute a trespass on another's property and lead to you incurring thereby a debt to the property owner, and by this I mean property of all kinds, primordial (someone's life), primary (someone's thoughts and ideas), and secondary (someone's other physical properties like autos, homes, clothes, money, etc, i.e., everything else.) Try to find a trespass which does not infringe on someone's primordial, primary, or secondary property — you will find it impossible. The definitions are necessary and sufficient to encompass all kinds of property(5).
How do you undo a trespass, a dent, you made in someone else's etheric body? It's like removing a debt, you ask for forgiveness and if they require some recompense, you provide it. What does the petition of the Lord's Prayer dealing with etheric body dents suggest we do? "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." In other words, we ask that we be forgiven to the same extent to which we forgive others — in effect it forces each of us to say, "If forgiveness is going to be, it's up to me." To withhold forgiveness from others is tantamount to keeping ourselves from being forgiven.
Our astral body is next. It was mentioned earlier as being the minute hand of a clock compared to the hour hand of the etheric body. The astral body is far more changeable over time than the etheric body. The astral body has momentary passions and desires; the etheric body has lifelong temperaments.
[page 35] The astral body determines the individual aspect, and it must above all live in such a way that that person does not commit personal sins. The area in which the astral body goes astray in one direction or another concerns personal sins which are lapses on the part of the astral body, whereas being out of harmony with the community points to lapses on the part of the etheric body. When esoteric Christians used exact terms they called the lapses of the etheric body 'trespasses' or 'debts', things that upset the balance in relation to others. A failing of the astral body, which is determined by the individuality, was called 'falling into temptation'. The astral body is subject to temptation in its drives, its passions and desires. It deviates from the right path by giving way to temptation. This was the distinction made in esoteric Christianity between 'trespassing' and 'falling into temptation'.
Now we have arrived at the portion of the cosmic prayer with which we ask earnestly, "Lead us not into temptation." We know that we human beings are subject to temptation because our Genesis story makes it clear that we will be subject to temptation during our earthly lives. We pray simply that we be led to higher goals and aims than that which temptation provides, that each of us as a human being may be led into a path which avoids a falling into temptation. Temptation is like a chasm over which we must cross and the path is "strait and narrow." In other words the path is strict and rigorous as well as narrow(6).
We have now examined three of the quaternity, what could remain? Let's see, animals have a physical body, they have an etheric or life body, they also have an astral body (passions which drive them to eat and procreate). Surely we human beings are more than just some advanced animal with only physical, etheric, and astral bodies, don't you think? What is it we humans have which animals don't? We each have a name which refers to us individually which no one else can use. Animals do not have such a name. What is this name? I can tell you because I have one, and I can convince that you have one, even if you were to say in all sincerity, "I don't have one!" I could convince you by simply pointing out that you had just used that very name to refer to yourself individually! The name is "I". I have an "I", you have an "I", everybody has an "I". My Schnauzer, unfortunately, does not have an "I", no matter how much he appears to me to be human at times. Neither does any other animal. So-called talking apes do not have an "I", no matter how ingeniously they can mimic humans in sign language, there has never and will never be an ape who will sign this message, "I am me!" Our "I" is our fourth component of the quaternity of the earthly portion of the human being. How can that be?
[page 26] We hit upon it if we give the matter a little thought. There is one name that differs from all others. 'I' cannot be used to address anyone else. To everyone else I am a 'you' and everyone else is a 'you' to me. 'I' is a name the meaning of which can only arise in the inner soul itself, and can never sound towards you from outside if it refers to you yourself. The more profound religions have throughout the ages embraced this, and they would say therefore: 'When the soul begins in its inner self to describe itself in this way then the god in man begins to speak, the god who speaks through the soul.' The name 'I' cannot come from outside, and has to arise in the soul itself. This is the fourth principle of human nature.
Our "I" is the very basis of our freedom of action as human beings. Each one of us can say honestly, "I will not let anyone else tell me what to do." We have a freedom of action which animals do not. Humans pressed into slavery pulling heavy carts can and have rebelled asserting their rights as a human being to operate in freedom, but oxen have not and will not.
[page 36] Now the fourth member of the essential human being - the I. We spoke of the physical body, which exists on the basis of metabolism, exchange of substances; the etheric body, which can commit transgressions; the astral body, which can fall into temptation. Now the I. It is the very source and origin of self-seeking, of egoism. It is the I which has brought it about that what was whole and undivided in the great divine spiritual being has entered into many individuals. The falling away from the oneness of the divine being into separate individuals was due to the I. Christian knowledge therefore considered the I to be the actual origin of egoism and selfishness. For as long as the individual entities were joined together in the Godhead they could not pull in separate directions. They could do this only when they had become separate egos. Before this they could only will as the Godhead willed. The process of developing in opposition to others, which is what egoism is, is what Christians call the failing of the I. In Christian tradition the moment when the soul descends into the body is exactly defined as the Fall, the biting of the apple. The actual failing of the I is called 'evil'. The failing of the fourth member, therefore, is evil. Only the I can succumb to evil, and this arose through what is described as the eating of the apple. In Latin the word malum actually means both 'apple' and 'evil'.
The fourth petition of the quaternity of the cosmic prayer is, "Deliver us from evil." Animals, lacking an "I", cannot do evil deeds. They have only passions, and while we humans may call some animal evil, we are only attributing to it some human intention to do evil which the animal cannot have. Animals have already been delivered from evil by virtue of never having possessed it. When we plead "deliver us from evil, we acknowledge the presence of evil in the world and in us and we request we be provided the spiritual resources to save ourselves from whatever evil is besetting us. And, recognizing that we may be in error about what is evil or not(7), we had best hold the mood, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
[page 23] This mood of making way for the divine spirit to be alive in us as we pray, giving ourselves up to it, not wanting anything for ourselves but letting the divine spirit will in us, this mood must form the undercurrent, the keynote, if it is to be Christian.
We have followed Steiner in the details, so let's give him a chance to sum up the case for our human quaternity as it is so ably presented in the prayer which Christ Jesus gave us to pray:
[page 37] So to sum up once more, the physical body is similar to the physical elements all around it and is sustained through the continual exchange of substances and forces taking place in the metabolism. The etheric body is the principle which maintains the balance with the other members of the community, and which can commit sins. The astral body, which ought not to succumb to temptation, and the I, which should not fall victim to egoism, to evil.
We have followed Steiner's vision of how the Godhead separated into Kingdom and Name, but there is one further step which we can discuss now that we have encountered the "I" as the highest portion of the human quaternity. One comes to visualize human beings as a rainbow canopy of stars!
[page 58] Again and again we hear the cliche that human beings must gradually merge into a universal consciousness. This is what redemption is said to be, losing our present-day consciousness and merging into a universal one. However, this is not the way things really are. Ego-consciousness, which did not always exist, will persist even beyond our final incarnation. What once separated out from the common spiritual substance will flow together once again. But now you must imagine it in this way. Originally there was clear water that was soaked up by the many little sponges. In the course of separation, however, we take in everything we can receive from our surroundings and each little drop takes on a quite specific color. When the water is squeezed out of the sponge again each one contributes its own color, amounting to a tremendous variety of colors, shimmering with greater beauty than could ever have been there before. Every individual, in fact, on returning to the universal spiritual element contributes their own special coloring. This is their individual consciousness, which will never be lost. Universal consciousness will actually be a harmony of all the individual consciousnesses. The beings who have passed through the process of being human will become a unity out of their own freedom. While remaining many individual entities, they will also form a unity. But they will do so because they choose to rather than because they are forced. Each one has retained individual consciousness, and of their own will they all form a unified consciousness together. This is how we have to imagine the beginning and end of our current world evolution process.
Let me share with you a poem which was inspired by these lectures. What skeptics can see is only what the eyes of their body see, and to them nothing else can be important. But our soul and our spirit also have eyes, mostly in a nascent or dormant state ready for us to develop them in coming ages and lifetimes.
A body's eyes
see a body's life,
But with all that life gives,
A body's eyes can see
A body lives!
A soul's eyes
see a soul's life,
But with all that life gives,
A soul's eyes can see
A soul lives!
A spirit's eyes
see a spirit's life,
But with all that life gives,
A spirit's eye can see
A spirit lives!
There is one remaining component of the Lord's Prayer, the closing coda, which had been left out of the Roman Catholic prayer I was taught and learned, which has only recently been re-introduced into the prayer as it is said during the Sacrifice of the Mass. "For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are Yours, forever and ever."
[page 68] The esoteric nature of the school founded by the apostle Paul was indeed profound. Outside, Christianity was represented in an exoteric way. Paul assigned the task to Dionysius the Areopagite to cultivate this wisdom esoterically. So people presented the realm of the spirit as the dominions, principalities and powers, and envisaged it in such a way that they said: 'If we live in the kind of way demanded by the Lord's Prayer it will enable us to live our way upwards through the dominions, principalities and powers right up to the cherubim and seraphim, as far as the Godhead itself.'
Here you have these three stages, 'For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory,' for these three stages are in the realm of the spirit.
What I have found in these four lectures is the theme of how the gamut of human evolution is represented in The Lord's Prayer. Steiner says on page 68, "Now the time has come when people must know what was the purpose of these prayers. We should say the Lord's Prayer, and do so every day. There is nothing more we need to know about human nature than what is in that prayer." What can one say after these words but a hearty, AMEN.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------
Footnote 1. The Lord's Prayer Essay by Bittleston can be read here: http://www.doyletics.com/arj/lordpray.htmReturn to text directly before Footnote 1.
Footnote 2. These are variously called, the spirit self (manas), life spirit (buddhi), and spirit man (atman).Return to text directly before Footnote 2.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Return to text directly before Footnote 3.
Footnote 4. Skeptics often accuse Rudolf Steiner of such retrofitting, because of their own predisposition to question everything with the simplest and most obvious objections based on science's sensory data. Unfortunately, few skeptics ever question their own predispositions to physical interpretations, up until now.Return to text directly before Footnote 4.
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Footnote 5. The definition of property and the distinctions of primordial, primary, and secondary I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Andrew Joseph Galambos, and so does anyone who uses them. They are described in detail in his book, Sic Itur Ad Astra.Return to text directly before Footnote 5.
Footnote 6. This aspect of avoiding temptation is often written as staying on the "straight and narrow", but there is only one meaning of "straight" which might fit here, "honest and forthright" and most of the others do not fit at all. The definition of strait indicates clearly what it is "strait" which belongs in this old saying.Return to text directly before Footnote 6.
Footnote 7. In what I consider to be a necessary and sufficient definition of evil, Steiner wrote, "Evil is a good out of its time." When one truly comes to understand the cosmic path that we as humans are on, only then can one understand the perfection of this definition of this frequently misunderstood and misapplied word, evil.
Return to text directly before Footnote 7.
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