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Working Together Digitally and Staying Whole

Working Together Digitally and Staying Whole

by Michael Soule

 

Almost overnight, there has been a significant shift towards the use of screen technology as a primary means of communication. While this technology is not new, social distancing has brought us into a new level of dependency on it. As a consequence, many people are experiencing increased stress and a lack of vitality, phenomena described recently in articles in the National Geographic and the New York Times.

 

We already know about some of the negative effects of extensive screen time:  exposure to EMFs and screen light; the lack of physical movement; and an overstimulation of the eyes.  All of these are particularly harmful when not balanced with in-person human interactions, time in nature, full-body movement, and play.

Here are some thoughts about how to counteract these effects and stay healthy both in this challenging time and beyond.

Be grateful every day for the opportunity to connect online. Appreciate everything and everyone who has helped make our computers, the internet, and video conferencing possible and be grateful for the technologies themselves.  They are truly amazing tools. When we are grateful for something, our relationship to it changes for the better.

Appreciate Real Human Connection.  Do not think for a moment that web calls can replace real-time face-to-face in-person meetings. They are only a substitute for those situations where it is not safe or spatially possible to meet in person. The power of human connection cannot be replaced by a virtual meeting. Even now we can find ways to connect with people in face-to-face conversations from a safe distance. Do not underestimate the power of a single in-person conversation to bring joy into your day.

Have the Right Expectations.  Do not expect virtual meetings to provide you with the warmth and the range of experience that in-person meetings offer. At the same time, treat an on-line meeting with the same respect you would an in-person meeting. Many people are finding it helpful to prepare for an online meeting by imagining the others who will be on the call and thinking about them ahead of time. Even when we are meeting face to face, this is a helpful practice.

Create a Comfortable Space. The space you create for the meeting is important whether you are all together in the same place or in a virtual setting. Be comfortable. Be aware of what is behind you that others can see. Dress appropriately. Limit background noise. Try not using background pictures of a different setting, as this can be distracting to you and the others and it adds nothing to the meeting. It just brings in another illusory element to the event. It is helpful to have something beautiful to glance at when you need to turn your eyes away from the screen. It is much like driving – it is good and less stressful to keep your eyes moving, not just peeled on the road ahead. Sit where you can occasionally glance out the window or glance at something beautiful.

Be Conscious of Your State of Mind.  Take a minute or more before the meeting to check in on your mood and your frame of mind. Your thoughts and feelings are real and have an effect on you, on the space around you, and on other participants. Bringing your most positive self to the meeting may have a significant effect on what can happen in the meeting. Simple rituals can also help you feel more present. Consider lighting a candle or holding a stone in your hand. Consider turning off the video for parts of the meeting/conversation. Just listening, without added visual distraction can be less stressful.

Go Slowly, Breathe, and Look for Balance. The added stress of web conferencing requires more rest time for both your mind and your body. Find a few moments each day to be quiet, especially between meetings. The mind and the computer can move at a pace that the body cannot. Virtual meetings are better when breaks occur regularly that allow everyone to breathe out and recenter. You will find your own rhythm for this. Many people use games, breaking into small groups, or other activities to break up longer sessions. Make sure that the mission of the group is touched upon regularly. Make sure that everyone touches in (when groups are not too big). Begin and end the meeting with an inspirational quote or poem.

Recognize the difference between the picture and the person. It helps to remember that the other person is not what you see on the screen. The screen offers only a facsimile. The real person is vastly more dynamic, complex, whole, and wonderful than any screen image can convey. In many ways, the picture you have in your imagination, with all of its connections of memories, stories, feelings, etc. is a much more living picture of the person than what you see on a screen. Bringing an image of the other into your mind can help the screen connection be more living. When meeting with new people, take a few minutes to introduce each other, to share something personal so that the screen image is more alive. It helps to think of the person(s) before the meeting to bring more life to the online interaction. The interest you take in others, whether in person or virtual, can make a significant difference in the quality of your connection and your time together.

Take an Active Interest, Stay Open-minded to Others. Keeping an open heart and mind to colleagues, friends and new acquaintances can make a significant difference in the quality of interactions with them. There are many practices to help maintain an open attitude with others.  Try to see them in a positive light. Be grateful for how they are part of your life. Loving interest is a living force that can overcome all manner of interpersonal hindrances.

Separateness and Wholeness. In an online meeting, the digital nature of the medium cannot capture the wholeness of the meeting or the group. The participating human beings give the meeting a sense of wholeness, purpose, and camaraderie. To be really enlivening a meeting needs to provide a sense of individuality and wholeness.

We always live life on two levels at the same time.  We experience our life as a world of separate things, people, and places. At the same time, we also experience life and the world as a unified whole,  interpenetrated, interwoven, and full of unexplained wonder.

It is the combination of these two levels that allow us to create wholeness out of separateness.

One image that can help is to remember that the physical distance that separates people also connects them. We stand on the same earth. We breathe the same air. We are warmed by the same sun, see the same moon in its phases, and wonder at the same stars. The mountains, the valleys, the rivers, and the seas are all connected. Through them, we are and can feel connected and in touch no matter where we are.

All of these suggestions have a common foundation – the practice of interest, respect, and care for the self and others. One possible result of this global pandemic will be a much greater understanding and consciousness of the ways we are and can be connected, heart to heart, even over long distances.

Michael Soule

Whidbey Island

May 2020

Between Our Demons and Our Gods: Human Encounter in the Light of Anthroposophy – Elan Leibner

Between Our Demons and Our Gods Human Encounter in the Light of Anthroposophy Elan Leibner

AWSNA Summer Conference

June 26, 2017

When Melanie Reiser asked me if I would speak at the opening of this conference, she read me AWSNA’s Shared Principle #7. It begins with the words “Waldorf schools are self-administered. This work is strengthened by cultivating a shared anthroposophical understanding of social interactions.” She said, “Talk about what that means.”

My mind quickly turned to my earliest days as a Waldorf teacher. There were two teachers in the school I joined, and every week during the faculty meeting a strange ritual would unfold: some topic or other would be up for discussion; sooner or later, one of the two would take a stand, usually in strong, confident words. With the predictability of a Swiss watch, the other would take the opposite point of view. It didn’t matter whether we were talking about a child, a festival, or where teachers should park their cars in the morning. Sometimes it even seemed that one of them would try to take the point of view that the other was usually espousing, as if to make nice. No matter: the other would contradict his usual approach just for the occasion, as if saying, “I usually stand for X, and you stand for Y, but today, since you suggest X, I must advocate for Y.” It became clear to me that the topics   were not really what mattered; rather, it was the encounter between these two that had its own special signature gesture. Two consequences of these weekly events were that the meetings often felt both predictable and exhausting. I can even say predictably exhausting. I would like to leave this little image, surely not one that is entirely unfamiliar to many of you, as an example of one kind of encounter.

The other example I want to present is from a College of Teachers meeting several years later. The context is a review of the work of the College during the previous school year. A colleague said something deeply significant: “Two things really strike me about our meetings: the first is that they always surprise me. We find new ideas and solutions that no one seemed to have when the meeting began, and I personally often leave feeling that I have more energy than I had when I came in.” So that’s a different kind of encounter, with radically different results. I would like to posit that surprise, in the good sense, and renewed energy are two hallmarks of the encounters we should foster.

Back to Melanie and the shared principle: I pondered the wording, particularly wanting to focus on the “anthroposophical understanding of social interactions.” In the end, it struck me that anthroposophy has one essential contribution to make to the study of social interactions. It is strikingly simple to articulate: spiritual beings interpose themselves between us as we meet. Whatever techniques, practices, policies, and structures we can find helpful from the world outside of Waldorf education, this essential insight will always form a dimension that must be taken into account. Spiritual beings interpose themselves between us as we meet.

Mainstream psychology and sociology books that have looked into the area of social interactions have not been able to explore this possibility, for three reasons: first, because the requisite conceptual framework that would allow for this contribution is missing. Second, therefore the language that would allow for an articulation of insights is missing or ignored. And third, the capacities that would need to develop in order for meaningful research to unfold are nowhere to be found, since no one recognizes that they are needed in the first place.

When we undertake the task of leading an organization as a team, clarity about, and a conscious cultivation of the relationship with spiritual beings is an ever-urgent pair of challenges. We will first look at the historical development of our relationship with certain spiritual beings and then consider   a few suggestions   for cultivating healthy human encounters in light of the presence of those beings.

Soul Encounters as a Particular Challenge

The image of the human being in anthroposophy is of a threefold being: body, soul, and spirit.

Physical encounters are not usually overly challenging in the context of a Waldorf school. Our body odors or sloppy attire don’t commonly rise to existential levels of crisis. Spiritual aspects can sometimes create crises, for example around differing interpretations of pedagogy, but it is not very common. In this article I will focus on the third aspect of the human constitution, namely the soul.

Because they are often shrouded in the miasma of emotions, difficult soul encounters challenge us in ways that can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. They lack the clarity of spiritual principles, so they remain nebulous, but they carry a powerful surge of emotional intensity.

Rudolf Steiner describes two phases in the relationship of the “I”, the Self, to the lower members of the human constitution. The first phase entails an unconscious, the second a conscious set of transformations. The first phase produces an elaboration of the lower members (developed for us by spiritual beings) into three soul layers. The second phase produces three layers of spirit. I would like briefly to describe the stages of the first phase, and to characterize the resulting soul layers. In anthroposophical nomenclature, all of these layers have particular names. My language here, as possible, will avoid these names in favor of signature gestures. This is not to deny the validity of the usual terminology, but in order to encourage both you and me to avoid familiar  words that we, too easily, assume we understand, perhaps more than we actually do.

Historical Context

At the outset of the transformational process just mentioned, the human constitution included three facets that Rudolf Steiner called physical, etheric, and astral “bodies,” as problematic as that English translation can be for the second and third of them, since they lack obvious physical characteristics. (The German “Leib” is not as problematic; it is used as the word “body” is used in expressions such as “body of knowledge”.) The first was a physical body. We can think of it as the material level that we share with all mineral, living, and sentient beings. The second was the life “body,” which we can think of as the level we share with living organisms that grow and reproduce, namely plants and animals. The third Steiner called the astral or soul “body.” It is the level we share with all sentient beings, namely animals. Its signature gestures are movement, both inner (as in a response to stimuli and circumstances) and outer (in autonomous movement such as plants cannot achieve); another way of saying it is that beings endowed with an astral body exhibit some degree of consciousness.

When the human Self, or “I,” was introduced into evolution, it began interacting with the existing “bodies.” These interactions were completely unconscious initially. And although they have produced increasingly conscious results, as we shall see, they only recently began, themselves, growing more wakeful within us.

The Desiring Soul; The Spirit of Fun and Freedom; Illness, Suffering, and Pain

At first, during a period that Rudolf Steiner calls Lemuria, the Self began interacting with what we have termed the astral body. The mere instinctual, animal-like responses to stimuli grew more individualized. People could begin to like and dislike aspects of their environment in ways that differed from their peers. Rudimentary personality began emerging. At this point, an important spiritual intervention took place. Up until then, only benevolent spiritual beings were involved in earth evolution. But now, spiritual beings of an adversarial level equivalent to what Western traditions call angels developed a different relationship with humanity. Collectively, we can refer to these sprits in the singular as The Spirit of Fun and Freedom. Genesis depicts it as the serpent; elsewhere it is called the Devil, or also Lucifer. It introduced the possibility of error into human conduct. The result was, on the one side, a greater level of separation from the divine origins of humanity, and therefore freedom for the human being, and on the other the development of desires, cravings, and lust for sensations. It was the first elaboration of the human soul, and we can call it the Desiring Soul. Think of the moment when you meet a person and feel either an irresistible desire or an equally strong repulsion towards that person. On a more trivial level, you open a catalog that just arrived in the mail, or surf the website of a merchant, and suddenly you cannot live another moment without owning an item that five minutes earlier you did not even know existed. Or you see something that someone else has and you really, REALLY want it.

An important characteristic of the Desiring Soul is that it is inherently insatiable. No amount of goods, food, or pleasure is ever enough for more than a brief interval of time.

In order to mitigate the results of what The Spirit of Fun and Freedom wrought, the benevolent spiritual forces had to introduce illness, suffering, and pain into the life of humanity so that we would not utterly succumb to the temptations of the senses. This may sound cruel to the modern mind, but we can also think of it as being given the opportunity to learn to live with consequences. Other terms for that are growing up, or maturing. Like a young person coming into adulthood, one has to learn there is a price for bingeing on anything, and sometimes even for trying just a little taste. A hangover after a night of drinking is one small example of how our desire for sensations can result in adverse consequences.   Addictions of all kinds are further examples.

The Explaining/Planning Soul; The Spirit of The Machine; Karma The next step in evolution involved the Self-penetrating and unconsciously transforming the life body. This took place in the period that Steiner terms Atlantis. Living organisms grow in lawful ways, which shows us that there is an intelligible pattern governing their life cycles. This pattern is coded, so to speak, into the life body. When the Self-finished “working through” the life body, the result was a second layer of the soul, one that we can designate The Explaining, or Planning Soul. To get a feeling for it, we can imagine that the Desiring Soul wishes for some item or experience. It is the role of the Planning Soul to figure out how to satisfy the wish of the Desiring Soul. For example, we can plan on buying it, stealing it, or killing our neighbor in order to get it. All three would achieve the desired result, and for the planning soul there isn’t yet a particular preference for one over the other, except expediency. In the realm of knowledge acquisition, the Explaining Soul does just that: it explains things, which means replacing mysterious phenomena (e.g., nature’s) with models that are easier to comprehend. The entire edifice of natural science is the glorious, and problematic, triumph of the Explaining Soul, essentially replacing the mysteries of nature with mathematical formulations. It is immensely satisfying to feel that we know what something “really is,” even if, for example, we are not much closer to understanding the nature of pleasure when we say that pleasure “really is nothing but” the body secreting certain hormones (e.g., serotonin, oxytocin, or dopamine). We have just turned our gaze to where the street lamp is lighting a section of the sidewalk, though it isn’t where we lost the keys, or at least not most of them. But we are left with the satisfying illusion of knowing. In effect, we made the world into math, and now a blind person understands color as well as a seeing person because “color is nothing but an angle of refraction, or a wavelength, that can be expressed mathematically.” The same goes for all other senses and even for consciousness itself. We think that we have explained them, but we have really only explained them away. The world disappears, and all that’s left is math.

When the Explaining/Planning Soul came into being, there was a second intervention of spiritual beings, this time of the adversarial level equivalent to that of the archangels. We can name them, in the singular, “The Spirit of the Machine.” The Persians, and anthroposophists,   name it “Ahriman.” Others call it Satan. Initially, this spirit’s influence led to the possibility of what we call sin. Sin differs from error in being deliberate. Human beings could now know in advance that they were violating the intended order of the universe. A second consequence of the presence of the Spirit of the Machine was that knowledge of the spiritual origins of existence was gradually lost, and people could not see beyond the senses. We can see, therefore, how materialism could develop.

To mitigate the influence of the Spirit of the Machine, the benevolent forces introduced death and the law of karma. We shall return to death a little later. But karma is really a wonderful thing! We usually think of it as the source of all manner of difficulties, but we should be eternally grateful that it exists, for it allows for the balancing of sins. Imagine if your sins were written into your being in such a way that it would be impossible to make matters right. Next time you find yourself in a karmic knot, be glad and thankful for it. You may not be able to untie it yet, but at least you have the opportunity to try.

The Understanding/Empathetic Soul; The Spirits of Darkness;

AHAVA

The third chapter in the Self’s unconscious transforming of the lower members was its penetration of the physical body. It is still ongoing, and has been bringing a third soul facet into existence. This facet we can designate “The Understanding or Empathetic Soul.” Its chief attribute is that it can serve as a moral compass. In the example I gave earlier, the Planning Soul can find different ways of satisfying the cravings and wishes of the Desiring Soul. How would one choose which of these ways is best? For the materialistic-thinking Planning   Soul, expediency is the only arbiter. But what of ethics? If the former can say “true or false; fast or slow,” the Understanding Soul can tell, and FEEL, good from evil. It is the soul facet that can understand, rather than merely explain, and that can empathize with another human being. After the increasing distance from the phenomena that the Desiring Soul and Explaining Soul produced, the Empathetic Soul can re-connect with phenomena, this time without disappearing completely into a dreamy or sleepy state of consciousness. “I” can understand “you,” rather than merely feeling attraction or repulsion, as with the Desiring Soul, or explaining you (using extrinsic measures) to myself as with the Explaining Soul.

There is also a third intervention of adversarial spiritual beings that is beginning, and this one has a particular twist. These beings are       the adversarial equivalents to the spiritual hierarchy designated        in Christian esotericism as the “Archai.” The benevolent Archai are the ones that bestowed the Self on humanity, while these adversarial counterparts work in precisely the opposite direction. They encourage human beings to use the understanding capacities that the Self has been developing in order to manipulate others in purely egotistical ways. Sociopathy and psychopathy are examples of this type of action, and orgiastic behaviors, for example, point towards a future in which some people will arrange their entire lives to gear towards incessant sensual pleasure. The sociopath has a keen understanding of others, but does not care about their wellbeing. The psychopath is similarly insightful, but goes even further by actually enjoying the pain he can inflict. The twist in the narrative here is that, according to Rudolf Steiner, the benevolent spiritual powers cannot help us find redemption for acts committed under the influence of these new adversarial forces, which he names (using an old term for the Archai) the Asuras; every time we choose the path of pure egotism, a sliver of our divine Self is lost to darkness. This is a new reality in human evolution, and means that we are now increasingly capable of self-annihilation. It is darkness, the likes of which humanity has never encountered before.

But where great darkness appears, a great light must also be present. This light I would like to designate AHAVA, as the acronym for the “Archetype of Human Amity, Verity, and Altruism.” Conveniently, AHAVA means, “love” in Hebrew, and we can think of “the archetype of the human capacity for love” as another name or designation for AHAVA. I will use “the Love Impulse” to describe what AHAVA is trying to help us develop. Rudolf Steiner referred to it, in a term that was less problematic for his milieu than it is for our time, as the Christ Impulse. According to Steiner, there was a moment in history when AHAVA joined the earthly, human stream of being for a brief period. It penetrated the lower sheaths, or bodies, of a human being and, as a human being, shed blood into the earth as it died. This love- infused blood turned into life forces (ether), and the earth itself began, for the first time, to radiate light into the cosmos. AHAVA moved its sphere of action into the sheaths surrounding the earth, and the light associated with Love began radiating as the earth’s own emanation. This light was not yet physical, but if human beings take this Love Impulse into themselves, it will increasingly condense into physical light until the earth itself will become a new sun!

The Etherization of Blood and the Love Impulse

As if the idea of helping to make the earth into a new sun is not inspiring enough, Rudolf Steiner also says that every human heart turns a portion of the blood that passes through it into a fine stream of life (or etheric) forces that flows upwards into the head. When human beings take up the Love Impulse into themselves, the individual stream of etherized blood joins the etherized stream of the Love Impulse, and completely new capacities can arise in the soul. Those capacities are key elements of any potential progress for humanity, and, I suggest, for the potential survival and success of Waldorf schools. They entail, among other things, direct perception of spiritual realities and an ability to act out of the highest moral ideals.

.Human Encounter on the three levels; Proposed Practices

Thus far we have surveyed an evolutionary process and followed the appearance and influence of various spiritual beings, both benevolent and adversarial. It is time to “get down to brass tacks,” as it were: what can we do in  a school context in order to facilitate healthy human encounters, knowing that our demons and our gods, as the title suggests, are both eager for our cooperation?

I would like to take each of the three soul facets, or members, characterize its typical appearance in human relationships, and propose a salutogenic approach.

The Desiring Soul

The two archetypal gestures of the Desiring Soul are attraction and repulsion. A new colleague or parent comes into view, and one feels a strong attraction towards this person, or perhaps a strong revulsion. In our culture, it is not acceptable to express these sentiments. I don’t think that school communities would benefit by encouraging verbal expression of the animal-level desires and revulsions that we feel towards one another. The point here is not to externalize that which is ordinarily expressed only in anonymous online chat rooms. There are not only humane grounds for the idea of restraint but legal ones as well.

But I also think that suppressing the lower impulses of the Desiring Soul is not a good practice if it remains the only thing we

  1. Suppression leads to repression, and repression leads to illness. You can sit in a faculty meeting and find yourself wondering why on earth tensions run so high when the topic is seemingly so benign. The same two or three individuals seem intent on clashing with one another regardless of the topic, as in the example with which I started. The opposite can also happen: people agree with one another based on sympathy, or even attraction, and yet the root of their agreement is not the topic at hand or the wellbeing of the school. And when people manage to sublimate their attraction and repulsion completely, that, as noted above, can lead to physical and/or emotional illness. We don’t overcome a lower aspect of ourselves by pretending it does not exist.

So the two extremes of repression and expression are not healthy for us or for the school. What I would like to suggest is that ther is a way of processing the impulses of the Desiring Soul that can be healthy: engagement with the arts, specifically in what I would call chamber arts: eurythmy, chorus, speech chorus, drama, music making, and so on. There is a whole field of artistic endeavor, some extent and some waiting to be developed that would allow teams to work through the impulses of the Desiring Soul so that beauty can emerge out of the process. Since The Spirit of Fun and Freedom is also a key inspiration for artistic creativity, we would be using his gifts to neutralize his malevolent influence!

Another essential benefit of chamber arts is that they provide a strong impetus for recognizing the spiritual in our fellow human being. Artistic processes, when done well, move people through obstacles and long-established patterns, and allow them to grow. When we witness someone growing we know that we are in the presence of a “human becoming” entity. This experience should always leave us hopeful: what is problematic today may change in time. As long as we are hopeful, progress is possible. The main problem with our patterns of desire and revulsion is that, especially with the latter, we assume permanence. But when our “enemy” has overcome an artistic blockage or, better yet, helped us overcome one of our own, a layer of enmity is shed. Over time, enough of those layers can be shed so the two of us can see the better aspects of each other that were hidden from our view before. Real conversations, verbally or through correspondence, are another way of overcoming these impulses. They are seeds of the future social art of conversation. A striking and very moving example is the late-life correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. So I would like to throw down something of a gauntlet here to my art-teaching colleagues: there is a whole field of exercises that you can develop to help teams process the lower impulses of the soul healthfully. I want to be clear that individual artistic work can also be helpful. I have written a lot of poetry to process my life’s events. But individual work helps an individual. Chamber work helps those who are in the chamber, which in our sense is the relevant group within the school. It helps, in part, by inviting the spiritual beings that support harmony and collaboration to be active for the time people strive together artistically.

The Planning/Explaining Soul

The signature gestures of the Explaining Soul have in common that they are past-oriented and replace genuine encounter with analyses and prescriptions of all kinds. Since the birth of the Explaining Soul was accompanied by the possibility of sin, policies, and procedures are introduced in order to prevent sinfulness. This leads to a safer environment, but also to a stilted and warmth-less one. Every bureaucrat says, “That’s the policy; I did not make it, I just administer it.” The policy was no doubt created because someone did something that had the “flavor” of sin, so there was some justification for it. I do not suggest that policies and procedures have no place in a school. But they do present a new kind of challenge in that they eliminate the human being as a complex and individual reality in favor of a species-wide, one-size-fits-all approach.

A second common gesture of the Explaining Soul is the dissection of another person in psychoanalytic language. This language is invariably past-oriented. Parents or food or some trauma are held responsible for something that a person did or is doing. Again, there is some justification for this approach, but it comes with the danger that we distance ourselves from the other, and most importantly that we feel superior. Since we think we know why she behaves in this particular way, we could respond with empathy, but all too often we remain with the self-congratulatory mood of seeing the other “from above.”

I would like to suggest three practices that can help us work with the gifts of the Explaining Soul in order to neutralize its deleterious aspects:

  1. The first is enlivened study of inspired texts. The hallmarks of enlivened study are that it is experiential, context-rich, and deed- oriented. When we merely read a text in a faculty meeting, the effect is minimal and sometimes even negative. Study is best begun by bringing an experience, just as we know from the classroom that beginning with the will and proceeding through feeling to thinking is the best way to go, so also in the faculty study.

Secondly, healthy study is context-rich. It arises out of and in turn creates context and relationships. Anything, even anthroposophical concepts, studied in isolation is a lie. For example, the cultural, political, and location-specific circumstances of Steiner’s lectures are important; we can also follow up a reading with a discussion of how the themes he develops might need to be articulated in our own circumstances. It is inconceivable to me that Steiner would be saying the same things in the same language a hundred years later. He was the consummate innovator and revitalizer of culture; how would he develop his themes in light of what has transpired since he first brought them forth?

Thirdly,   the study should be deed-oriented. We should ask ourselves what is indicated by this study for our work. How do we translate the inspiration of the text into action?

  1. The second “cure” for the Explaining Soul is a study of nature as a text. In the works of our contemporaries Craig Holdrege and Denis Klocek, for example, we have instances of research into the meaning of natural phenomena. When we seek for meaning, as opposed to explanation, we learn to read nature as a text. A text implies a creative force, an author, and this sense helps us overcome an ailment that the Spirit of the Machine has infected us with: the estrangement from our divine origins.

 

  1. The third “cure” is the study of projective geometry. The Explaining Soul typically traffics in mathematical explanations that replace the phenomena with numbers. Projective geometry is a mathematical field that requires imaginative capacities to unfold. It is, if you will, the redemption of our relationships with mathematics.

The Empathetic Soul:

Encounters that originate with the Empathetic Soul are most easily characterized as the experience that someone else sees us. Beyond gender, race, age, appearance, status, and all the other veils that hide us from one another, we are, each one, a human being, a species onto ourselves. When another person can see us, we are neither simply attractive or repulsive, nor are we explained through some pre-existing model (not even the anthroposophical one). While these interpretations will, no doubt, play into what another sees, he or she can see something else. It is an exhilarating moment. It is also interesting that it is also exhilarating when we manage to see another human being, really see. On the few occasions in my life when that’s happened, I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden. There is such simplicity and purity in an encounter that leaves your heart open and receptive, sans the veils that customarily come between people.

The question then becomes: what happens now?

When one person sees another, there are usually only two basic choices to be made: to love, or to hurt. I don’t mean sensual love; I mean that you have seen another human being, including his or her golden qualities and less-than-golden needs. To the needs you can respond with whatever it is you have to offer. To the other’s golden qualities you respond by calling them forth. Or you can put a hook into the need and begin to manipulate. You can also ignore, remain indifferent, but that is just another way of hurting. And you can try to undermine the golden qualities.

We have all met people of both kinds of resolve. In the presence of someone who has seen another and chosen love, we feel peace.

With those who lust for power and who utilize their insights for control and manipulation, we can feel helpless. They are far too clever and skilled to meet head-on. We can sense that ultimately only love can counter their power. It cannot redeem it, but it can serve as a countermeasure within individuals and communities. The opportunity for love to build momentum in our situation may take time. In the meantime, they can do a lot of damage.

As I mentioned before, there is no direct remediation of the dark impulses we are talking about. But if love is ultimately the antidote, there are a couple of practices that we can take up in order to strengthen our relationship with the Love Impulse. There are others, too, but we are focusing now on collegial relationships.

  1. The first is biography work. This is a fairly well developed field of study in our circles, with people who are skilled at facilitating excellent processes. Entering attentively into the images of another’s life and then taking those into our sleep life for several days can go a long way towards building a real feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood.
  2. The second is meditation. The path towards the Love Impulse needs to be taken up within each one of us. As Steiner develops this work, an essential aspect of it is that we first build up a picture, and then we allow what we have achieved to disappear, to die, as it were. Only the force we had built up in the process of forming the image remains. Apart from the value of meditative work as a spiritual path of knowledge, the practice of letting something die within us is a profound step towards Love.

When death is approached without fear, anger, or resentment, it can be the most amazingly graceful moment in the whole of life. We can “gift” our dying to those around us as their opportunity to care. In the realm of ideas, death means renouncing our ownership and attachment to what originally came to us, allowing it to be owned and revised by the group. And when we see another person, with their physical, emotional, karmic, or any other illness, we can ask ourselves: “Were she on death’s bed, would I love her?” If the answer is yes, and few of us would choose to attack or ignore a person on death’s bed, the next question is: “Why should I wait until she is on death’s bed to love her?”

We find, approaching our fellow human being with the mindset that “Love shouldn’t wait” that the twin experiences of surprise and invigoration meet us all the time. Just like a good College meeting!

 

References:

The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Forces (GA 107)

The Etherization of the Blood (GA 130)

From Jesus to Christ (GA 131)

The Gospel of St. John and it Relation to the Other Gospels (GA

112)

Engaged Community: A new book by Jon McAlice

“All education is self-education and, as teachers, we can only provide the environment for children’s self-education...where children can educate themselves according to their own destinies.” —Rudolf Steiner (1923)

Based on many years working in Anthroposophy and in Waldorf schools, and drawing extensively on Rudolf Steiner’s words, Jon McAlice’s radical, thought-provoking book opens the ­ field for a new vision of the collaborative possibilities available in schools that are established and sustained by parents and teachers for the sake of students.

Seeking to shift the conversation concerning school governance from a structural to a dynamic approach, McAlice emphasizes learning as a multileveled process of becoming. As he puts it, “a school is a working community dedicated to the art of becoming”—a community in which students and adults participate in the ­difficult task of creating a free, self-governing ecology of learning. For this, the adults must learn to trust one another and develop confidence in collegiality. Understanding the guidance of their common task, they must ­find the humility and honesty to listen without judgment and to speak with authenticity. To create a context in which “children can practice the art of self-education,” educators must themselves become examples of self-governing, creative, responsible human beings, committed to learning and self-development through encounters in which content and process merge in an experience of absolute freedom. Thus something new becomes possible.

McAlice shows how such an ideal can become a reality when parents, teachers, and students all work and learn together for the common goal of becoming more fully human within a dynamic, engaged, participatory learning community.

Engaged Community provides anyone involved in Waldorf education with the appropriate tools and language to take the hard work of dialog and conversation to a higher level.

"This is not a book with a recipe for governance in Waldorf schools. Jon McAlice has written a book about the "challenges" of governance in Waldorf schools in the context of the "mission" of Waldorf education. His book is a meditation on this relationship, and urges us to embrace the challenge free from our preconceived notions of how Waldorf schools "should" be run: to look at what is needed now, in our current situations, in our individual schools. At the same time, he shines a light on the manifold opportunities for growth, change, and development that are possible when we embrace this challenge." —Kevin Hughes, Waldorf teacher (26 years at Kimberton Waldorf School—as a class teacher, art teacher, and now member of the “governing team”)

 

Building Regenerative Communities: Strength in Collaboration

From the Introduction

Our intention in creating the guide is to facilitate conversations which promote deeper understanding, trust and community within and between organizations. We feel that such interaction may lead people to discover ways to collaborate that foster associative endeavors, perhaps discovering ways to share resources to support each others work.

The Guide provides a starting point for calling a circle and highlights a variety of tools from which to choose for setting up conversations. It contains several case studies which provide the content to initiate conversation. There are additional web, print and video resources to inspire and urge participants into deep discussion around themes of regenerative communities, associative economics and cultural renewal.

It is given freely and may be shared broadly. It may be posted on websites to encourage its availability.  ~ Mary Christenson and Marianne Fieber, June 2014

Download the guide here:   Building Regenerative Communities_Conversation and Resource Guide.final

How Spiritual Organizations Develop – LeadTogether Highlight #4 9-8-14

Dear Colleagues

What are the natural developmental phases of spiritually based communities and organizations? Bernard Lievegoed, one of the early leaders of organizational development work and long-time Director of the Anthroposophical Training Organization, NPI, in Holland, wrote “ The Developing Organization" in 1973 in which he outlined the phases of development of organizations. In 1988 he offered a new booklet to clarify his thoughts about the difference between the phases that economic businesses and educational institutions go through. Lievegoed offers that spiritually focused organizations involved in human development don’t follow the typical phases of pioneer, administration and integration, but develop in a much more organic fashion, from their early development through growth and into maturity. This booklet, “Institutions of the Spiritual Life” provides insights to better understand how the growth and development of our institutions unfold over time. We have added the booklet into our resource collection for you. (We've put it into a format so you can print it out as a booklet.)   Find it here.

Keep in touch.

Michael Soule

 Keep in touch, Michael Soule LeadTogether