Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: Karmic Relationships 2: Esoteric Studies

Karmic Relationships 2: Esoteric Studies Karmic Relationships 2: Esoteric Studies by Rudolf Steiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Steiner studies lives like Goethe studied plants. He sees the Ur-person:

"In these investigations it may be more important to observe a man's gestures or some habitual mannerism than to consider what he has achieved perhaps as a figure of renown. The mannerisms of a person, or the way he will invariably answer you — not so much what he answers but how he answers — whether, for example, his first tendency is always to be negative and only when he has no other alternative, to agree, or whether again in quite a good-humoured way he is rather boastful ... these are the kind of traits that are important and if we pay special attention to them they become the centre of our observations and disclose a great deal. One observes, for instance, how a man stretches out his hand to take hold of things; one makes an objective picture of it and then works upon it in the manner of an artist; and at length one finds that it is no longer the mere gesture that one is contemplating, but around the gesture the figure of another human being takes shape. The following may happen. — There are men who have a habit, let us say, of making a certain movement of the arms. I have known men who simply could not begin to do anything without first folding their arms. If one visualises such a gesture quite objectively, but with inner, artistic feeling, so that it stands before one as a plastic, pliable form, then one's attention is directed away from the man who is actually making the gesture. But the gesture does not remain as it is; it grows into another figure which is an indication, at least, of something in the previous incarnation or in the one before that. It may well be that the gesture is now used in connection with something that was not present at all in the previous incarnation — let us say it is a gesture used in picking up a book, or some similar action. Nevertheless, it is for gestures and habits of this kind that we must have an eye if we are to keep on the right track."

Some other cool insights:

- If you ponder a lot, you'll be thin and delicately built in the next life. If you think a lot, you'll have great skin.

- Spotted skin, freckles, or some other kind of skin impurity means that there was not very much thinking in the past life.

- If a person's upper trunk is longer than the lower trunk both passed through the spiritual world before life quickly and need little sleep (which are parallel). On the contrary, a long lower trunk and a short upper trunk means that you passed through the last life slowly and need more sleep.

- Those who ascend very high in the spiritual world after death will "eat to live" in the next life. Those who don't go do high will "live to eat."

- Those who laugh at everything, even serious things, he went through their past life without paying attention, half-asleep, as it were. Those who are more serious led their lives to good purpose.

These parallel Swedenborgian correspondences very strongly: skin corresponds to everyday thought (memory-knowledges), the stomach to the purgatory-like world of spirits, and laughter corresponds to permeability in thought. You can imagine Swedenborg describing those in the spiritual world receiving the kinds of bodies there that Steiner says they will receive in their next life. This is not insignificant, especially considering that everything trickles down.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What Happens When You Try To Stop Thinking

The people of the earliest church breathed internally, so that their breathing was harmonious with and similar to the breathing of the angels. .... Such respiration varied with all the phases their inner being went through. It changed over time in their descendants, however, up to this final generation, in whom everything angelic died out. When that happened, they forfeited their ability to breathe in unison with the angelic heaven as well. This was the real reason for their extinction, which is why it now says that they passed away and that those with the breath of living spirit in their nostrils died. From this time, inner breathing ceased—and along with it people’s contact with heaven, and therefore the ability to intuit things in a heavenly way—and external breathing took its place. Since contact with heaven ceased in the process, the people of the ancient church (which was the new church) were no longer capable of a heavenly character, as the earliest people had been, but only a spiritual one. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven, 805

"Modern human beings say "I am" all the time. "I" is a word we use very frequently, as a matter of course, from morning till night. For these people of ancient times, however, saying "I" or "I am" was not something they took for granted in their ordinary, everyday experience. It was something that they had to acquire through effort. To achieve an inner experience that allowed them to say "I am" with a certain degree of truthfulness - in other words, to become conscious of their own existence such as the breathing exercise I described. The "I am" experience, which we take for gratned, was made possible for the people of ancient India only when they made an inner effort to alter their breathing. To wake themselves up, so to speak, they first had to "kill off" their environment, at least as far as their perception of it was concerned. Doing so allowed them to achieve the conviction that they themselves existed, and they could then say "I am" to themselves. This "I am" gave them something we now take for granted, namely, the inner development of the intellect, the possibility of developing internalized, detached thinking." - Rudolf Steiner, Historical Changes in the Experience of Breathing.

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." - John 3:8

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. "Don't I have to read that book today?" And with that thought a huge surge of air comes through your lungs. No longer is it "Breathe in. Breath out." Now it's BRRREAATTHHE INNN....BREATHEEE OUTTTT. Erratic, irregular, your breath has now lost its tempo.

Then the thought passes and you, gratefully, return to rhythmic breath. But the thought of thankfulness turns into another thought: "am I thankful enough? Am I tied enough to the things of the world?" BREEEAAATTHHHE! You've lost it again. "Dammit. What to do? What to do?"

So you try to regulate your breath. "In two three four, out two three four, in two three four, out two three four" It works. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. "But wait? Have I lost count? Am I on two or four? What about the out breath? Is it shorter?" BREAAAAATTTTTHE! "Shoot."

"Calm. Relax. You're just in your own head. You're thinking too much. If you just...." BREAAATTTHE! "Crap! I did it again!"

"Thinking about thinking always does this. But wait? Am I thinking about thinking about thinking? Am I...." BREAAATHHE!

"If I...if I just...if I...if............" breathe ..... in .... breathe .... out ........... breathe ........... in ............ breathe ............. .out .................... breathe .................... in .................... breathe .................... out ....................

"Whoa! That was perfect! I was breathing calmly and naturally. I was" BREAAATHEEE. "Crap."

"OK....breathe in. Breathe out." Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe .... in .... breathe .... out ..... breathe ... in ... breathe ... out .... breathe ....... in ............... breathe .................. ou t...................

Agh! That was.....that was....what was that? Where was I? Was I anywhere? I saw the colors. I felt the ground beneath me. I felt my breath. But I didn't! I didn't. There was no I. Can I do that? Can I just....breathe...? I can't. I can't. Too scary. I can't.

I can't. Of course not. I've never been very good at breathing. Good thing I don't have

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How You Feed Angels

A thought for you to consider: any thought, desire, or deed that comes from love feeds beings who live in higher worlds. If you merely think: "That man reeking of cigarette smoke is a magnificent son of God," you are feeding angels. If you just have a feeling of love for your husband, you are giving water to those in the spiritual world that would otherwise be famished. And this helps them, in turn, nourish us. It is not unlike the reciprocity of breath between plants and animals.

This is also true for less pure kinds of love. Sexual desire does indeed feed angels, but that doesn't mean sexual sin isn't sin.  For sexual sin is an example of love in "arrested development," and if you don't develop it now, you'll be stuck with a heavy bag of karma that will need to be worked out in some other realm or epoch (this is what Purgatory means in some spiritual traditions). Every porn addict wants to experience love, and they assume it belongs only in the genitals when, in reality, that love ascends from there to the heart. And lest you think you need to be married to experience this, mystics report that the intense exchange of love that marriage embodies can also be acted out in everything you do. Transmute sexual desire into your love for everyone, for everything, for the gods, in the same way that sex in marriage gradually become merely an expression of something higher. For every act of love is an act of intercourse between heaven and earth, and like intercourse tends to do, it makes something where there was nothing. So, love!

The gods feasting on the kind words you gave to someone on the bus today.

This interdependence applies to all stages and kingdoms. Just as humans and animals depend on the world of plants, so do the gods depend upon mortals. Greek mythology expresses this poetically, saying that from the mortals the gods receive nectar and ambrosia, both words meaning love. Love comes into existence through human beings, and love is food for the gods. The love engendered by mortals is breathed in by the gods. This may seem very strange, yet it is a fact more real than, say, electricity. At first love appears as sexual love and evolves to the highest spiritual love, but all love, the highest as well as the lowest, is the breath of gods. It might be said: if this is so then there can be no evil. But it must be remembered that, just as wisdom is born of error, so love can only evolve and reach perfection through conflict. However, love will be guided by the wisdom that is the foundation of the world. - Rudolf Steiner
The gods need us as much as we need them; we work for and alongside each other. A quirky story about the energetic reciprocity between the human and divine realms comes to us from Mesoamerica. The Huichol Indians tell a marvelously strange story about the journey of the souls of the deceased. The soul must trudge along to the garden of the dead, carrying with it a bag filled with the genitals of everyone it had ever made love with during life. Periodically tiring, the soul attempts to hide its burdensome bag on the side of the road, prompting a divine voice to chastise, “You wanted to enjoy yourself in that other life, now you must carry all of that on your back to arrive here.” Upon finally arriving at the dancing ground of the dead, the soul is welcomed by a cheering crowd of ancestors gathered around a central fig tree bursting with ripe fruit just out of reach. The soul must then reach into its bag of genitals and toss each at the tree, knocking down the fruit. A festive feast ensues. “This inspired little story conceals a profound belief that human (for lack of a better term) ‘energy’ is needed by the divine world as much as divine energy is needed by the human.” This story has intriguing twists and ambiguities. At first we might think it is telling us the soul is being scolded by Irish priests for past pleasures. But rather it is saying that after a hard journey, past pleasure creates a feast for the spirit world. Apparently, the dead depend upon the erotic life of the living. One implication is that all liaisons—all energetic, erotic encounters—are eternal. Although the extremely promiscuous may not make it to the garden for quite a while, there is no moral judgment implied by the story, but simply a practical question of how large a bag we can haul. - Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You
The angels who are with a person perceive individually the particular qualities which are present from the mind in an action. Spiritual angels perceive those qualities which are present in it from the intellect, while celestial angels perceive those qualities which are present in it from the will. This appears to be a contradictory statement, but still it is the truth. It should nevertheless be known that those elements of the mind which are applicable to a subject presented for consideration or under consideration are at the center, while the rest are positioned round about according to their relevance. Angels say that they perceive a person's character from a single act, though in a varying likeness of his love according to its determinations into affections and so into thoughts. In a word, every action or every work of a spiritual person is, in the sight of angels, like a flavorful, useful, and beautiful fruit, which when opened and eaten yields flavor, utility, and delight. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Love and Wisdom 279

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Karmic Relationships V.1

Karmic Relationships V.1 Karmic Relationships V.1 by Rudolf Steiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book gave me this thought:

As per Anthroposophy, the will projects itself forward and thought looks backward. That is, the will incarnates in the future; thought grasps what embodies itself now from the past. That makes a lot of sense to me: it implies that my body and my physical life is the embodiment of something spiritual from the past; to quote the Book of Mormon, it is as if my body was "a treasure laid up from the foundation of the world." And as for the will aspect, to quote the Book of Mormon again, "that which you send out will come back to you again."

I am a Mormon, if you can't tell, but I'm very sympathetic to Steiner. And the similarities above are very palpable to me: in both, my life is willed by something ancient and spiritual, and in both, the actions I make in this life build a future body. The question is whether that ancient and spiritual thing is a past life/lives or merely a pre-existence, and also whether the future body is a future life or a resurrection.

In truth: resurrection AND reincarnation happen at every moment. Every moment repeats the moment before, albeit with a difference. The same is true with ideas and thoughts: every thought reincarnates in any thought with which it comes into contact, again with a difference. And with people in one's life: we repeat in each other. This is all reincarnation. If you want to deny the existence of reincarnation, try explaining how you are the same person you are now as you were a year ago or even a moment ago. Or how your arm is the same person as your head. That moment and this one, that organ and this one, are different; and yet there is a sameness. That sameness in difference *is* reincarnation.

I have no doubt that there are threads of continuity between my life and others in the past. I also strongly suspect that some are much more significant than others. They are those who repeat themselves in me. I am them...with a difference. To ask whether or not to call that reincarnation is splitting hairs.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Book of Mormon: The Freedom of Imagination

In this post, I intend to claim something very radical: the Book of Mormon is not historical but is instead a deliverance from history into imagination. But it will take a lot of preparatory explanation to even get to that point. So strap yourself in.

The Production of Time

Pause for a moment and look at the sun. Well, maybe not really, but at the very least, think about looking at the sun. You see its light, feel its warmth. But is what you see and feel really the sun? Well, in a way, no. It's the sun as it was eight minutes ago. Because light only travels at a finite speed, light from the sun only reaches us after a certain time. And, until eight minutes have passed, you have no idea what the state of the sun is at a given moment. For all you know, it may have fizzled out five minutes ago, but you'll still be able to get a tan for the next three.

This is true of anything, near or far. The table in front of you conceals something invisible beneath: it is the product of a process, not a reality in itself. Quantum physics (insofar as I understand) it teaches us this much: that every particle is nothing more than a propensity until it is observed, at which point it collapses into a given position. By extension, this works for any particle or any collection of particles: like the screen you're reading this on or, you know, your body. Like the sun, we only see the particle as it has manifested. The manifest-ing, the eight minutes before the light reaches us, the tangle of possibilities that particles (and anything made of particles) collapse from, is invisible. 


So what is it that lets the production of reality appear as a product? It is what lets you see the images in front of you, what lets you hear sounds, what lets you see the world: your imagination. I use imagination in the broadest sense possible as any faculty to assemble a concrete gestalt out of living potential. I also use it because Rudolf Steiner uses the term this way, and I'll be invoking his ideas later on. Imagination, therefore lets you see the present, the manifest-ed, the "ta-da!" of what the past "proudly presents." 

But how do we encounter the past? Not the past of memory, but the past wrapped up in the present as the production of what it "presents." It happens in a different way: through logical thought. When we scientifically investigate the composition of substances, we abstract away from the sensuous "present" of imagination into an abstract conception of what brought that present about. Instead of seeing the coolness of water, we see hydrogen and oxygen. Instead of a person's face, we see cellular tissue. All this is not without value.

And yet there is another way to investigate the "production" of things, the "past" that brings about the "present": again, by imagination. Only this time it doesn't just deliver the present as we think of it. It "presents" the past: we perceive the production of things instead of just reasoning about it. We see the production as production. This is, understandably, hard to believe. It takes a leap of faith, since this style of cognition is different from the accepted style of thinking and perceiving. Nevertheless, it is real, and it can be achieved. In fact, when people have visions of higher worlds, this is exactly what they experience: the production of the physical world from the spiritual world. The spiritual world is the production or manifest-ing of the physical world. To quote Adam S. Miller, it is the "supercharged fullness of time," lodged in the eight minutes that it takes for light from the sun to reach us.

Stuck in the Past

Therefore, insofar as we use logical concepts, the past is behind a veil. We see the composition of things abstractly, not concretely. We may "live in the present moment" and experience the life therein, but as soon as we start thinking conceptually, we have obscured that life by fleeing to a dead vision of what is past. Thus, insofar as we use concepts, we die and are held captive by death. To live, we must think imaginally (through imagination), not conceptually. 

This is Christ's purpose: to deliver us from captivity to the deadness of concepts into life. As per Mormon doctrine, death is separation (of matter from spirit; of God from the human being), and concepts do nothing better than separate. They distinguish, demarcate, and delimit. For the spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner (whom I deeply respect) this conceptual, death-dealing factor is called Ahriman. In his cosmology, this spiritual being was tasked by higher beings to initiate humans into a consciousness of death, whereas before they cared as little about it as your cat does if another cat dies. Ahriman does this through concepts. The more we think in concepts, the more the spiritual world recedes from the physical world, and death becomes more and more of a looming terror. And while this conceptual descent was needed for our growth, Ahriman has a tendency to go too far. The world was hardening until Christ came, and people began to be trapped by the rigidity of the conceptual thought that is Ahriman's harbinger. Christ, then, had the unique distinction of being a god who experienced death, and as such could he could introduce life into the dead world of concepts. 

Christ is what brings life out of death: he vivifies our thinking, making it pliable and full of hidden implications. Receiving his grace, we can relax the Ahrimanic rigidity of our muscles and ease into the world not as something dead and mechanical but as something life-filled and safe. He imbues the world with life where before it was full of mechanical rigidity. Christ is what loosens, whether what is rigid is muscles or the falsity of conceptual thought. In other words, he's what helps the production of reality break the surface into the product; he's what makes the latter a correct image of the former.

The Book of Mormon as Imaginal Liberation

And now we can finally get to my main point. If 1) everything is only a present that manifests an ongoing "production," 2) if this ongoing production is the true meaning of the past, 3) if we are cut off from that ongoing production by conceptual thought, and 4) we are connected to it through imagination, and 5) Christ inspires this new perception of that living production of time, then what does that mean for the Book of Mormon? Well, the Book of Mormon is a revelation of the livingness of the past. It short-circuits conceptual thought and takes us directly to the composition of the present that we assumed could only be perceived abstractly. That is, the Book of Mormon is our composition, what composes us, what makes us up. Not in the sense of genes, molecules, or heredity, since these too are finished products. Instead, the Book of Mormon is that composition perceived imaginally, the headwaters of our lives on earth presented to us in images. 

Frankly, the Book of Mormon isn't historical. History is a system of concepts: a finished production, a catalog of artifacts and documents. It is dead, not alive. But the Book of Mormon is full of life. It comes to us with the visceral concreteness and pregnancy of meaning proper to a dream. It is imagination, or more accurately, it is the imaginal perception of actual history. For the events in the Book of Mormon did happen, albeit in a weird way. As far as I can tell, the Book of Mormon is the way that imaginal consciousness perceives remarkable events of ancient America's past. That is, it is the imaginal history of the continent. What does this look like concretely? Well, Rudolf Steiner once gave a lecture in which he writes that, if you clairvoyantly investigate, you discover remarkable events that occurred in ancient Central America:

Now at a certain time, a being was born in Central America who set himself a definite task within this culture. The old, original inhabitants of Mexico linked the existence of this being with a definite idea or picture. They said he had entered the world as the son of a virgin who had conceived him through super-earthly powers, inasmuch as it was a feathered being from the heavens who impregnated her. When one makes researches with the occult powers at one's disposal, one finds that the being to whom the ancient Mexicans ascribed a virgin birth was born in the year 1 A.D. and lived to be thirty-three years old. These facts emerge when, as stated, one examines the matter with occult means.

Here, a European clairvoyant with no apparent knowledge of Mormonism says that he discerned the existence of a Christ being in Central America who, it turns out, delivered them from evil organizations with gruesome Ahrimanic rituals. This is the essentials of what the Book of Mormon describes. I point this out not to claim that the Book of Mormon is wrong but quite the opposite: that clearly the Book of Mormon depicts actual events that can be corroborated by other spiritual investigators. However, the Book is unique because it has been freed from the conceptual history of these events into the freedom of imagination. It only depicts the historical events through a haze, much like a dream would depict the issues in your life. But that "haze" gets at something more essential: the production of those events as opposed to those events as products, depicted through dynamic, pregnant images. 

But this is more than an example of something outside history. It has concrete effects: it frees you from history too. As the words of Christ, whose mission is to deliver us from the death that characterizes history, you would expect this. But the Book of Mormon is also the words of man: through the Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian of Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni, and the English of Joseph Smith. Insofar as the Book of Mormon is the word of man, it is buried in the ground of Ahrimanic rigidity: the placement of its words is weak, as Moroni laments in Ether 12. But insofar as it is the words of Christ, the Book of Mormon is the deliverance from that Ahrimanic rigidity. If Christ delivers us from captivity, the Book of Mormon is a tool by which he does so. For the Book of Mormon is a path outward from conceptual thinking into imagination. Whereas concepts imprison us in a dead world of finished products, the Book of Mormon awakens us to the ever-living, ever-expanding world in which treasures are laid up for us from the foundation of the world and revelation is unveiled line by line, precept by precept, to eternity. For the Book of Mormon is never finished. The livingness of the past never is. By using stories, images, and precepts that one is invited and sometimes spontaneously compelled to liken to one's own life, the Book of Mormon shows us that our life is more than we thought it was. There are hidden treasures in our very flesh, revelations buried in our bones. This is imagination: an unbidden, heretofore impossible perception of the composition of our souls. We see within the eight minutes it takes for light to reach us from the sun. We catch a glimpse of the back of our head in a mirror. We see as we are seen.

This is deep stuff. If you would like a concrete image to remember this thought, I can think of no better example than that of gold plates being lifted out of the ground.The ground is the Ahrimanic specter of conceptual thought, rigidity, and the death that they are; the gold is the life within all things trapped by it. To lift it out means to deliver life from death: that is, to free the livingness of imagination from the rigidity of concepts, to make the world thus trapped infinitely pregnant with meaning, to make the finite endless.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why Certainty is the Root of all Sin

The world is ambiguous. From one perspective, the United States is the best country in the world. And yet from another perspective, it is one of the worst. The LDS Church is overwhelmingly bright; it is also overwhelmingly repressive. I am erudite and loquacious;   I am also sloppy and unkempt. This ambiguity is a part of the world's nature. You cannot make it fit any clean grid. Messiness is the way of things.

And yet we all try to avoid it. Talk to someone who prides themselves on being responsible and point out the ways in which they're not responsible, and watch what happens. They won't only consider it unkind; they'll respond to it with a biting fury, tinged with fear, uncalled for by the situation. Ambiguity is scary. We pride ourselves on being one part of an ambiguous cluster of characteristics; if you point out that this dividing line isn't absolute, people will get scared.

This "other side" of the ambiguous cluster is what Carl Jung called the "Shadow." It's the parts of our nature that we repress and disown because they don't fit with our clean self-image. We all have one. We couldn't be human without one. But the Shadow is still a problem. It's behind all racism, hatred, and prejudice. It is at the root of things like the Holocaust. And yet the solution isn't to get rid of the Shadow, since it's an inextricable part of you, and you'd only be getting rid of yourself. Instead, you need to acknowledge it as a part of you. And you can only do that by stepping out of the rigid self-image you've made of yourself. To cure the Shadow is to step out of this certainty into ambiguity.

Thus, everything that we see as "this and not that" has a Shadow, and the Shadow is the "that" we thought "this" wasn't. To say that the United States is unambiguously the best nation on earth represses the ways in which that is not true. And because we've repressed those negative perceptions, they pop up, disguised, as the hatred we give toward other nations. But the (extreme) truth is that those in the United States who hate ISIS for killing are guilty of the very sins that ISIS are committing. This follows because we are all connected; this is that.

Does that mean that we are all evil? Yes and no (ha!). Evil is not the Shadow. Evil is, instead, what creates the Shadow by splitting it off from the acknowledged view of things. Evil is the rejection of ambiguity. Or to be more radical, evil is certainty. Evil is to say that "this is not that," and to make the division between "this and that" absolute, we try and destroy "that." But then what is goodness? Well, goodness is to embrace ambiguity. Or, since ambiguity is the true way things are, goodness is the love of truth. It is to say that "this is that," that everything is welcome at the table of what we acknowledge. Or in other words, goodness is ambiguity is love, for what is love but a willingness to acknowledge that, in some mysterious way, I am both me and the other at the same time?

So evil, the sin of which we are all guilty as human beings, is certainty. We arrogantly believe that we know what is true and reject anything that doesn't fit that model. This is the sin of the Fall, to assume that we know what is good and evil, a sin that recurs again and again within the first few years of every child's life. Then how are we to heal from it? Well, the Book of Mormon says it very clearly: to come unto Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And that follows exactly from what I have described.

In the ambiguous state, everything is tied together with everything by infinitely complex threads of love. We are all tied together through the threads that spool out from our hearts to the hearts of others. This web of hearts is ambiguity, is uncertainty, is love. To acknowledge that "this is that" that I am not you, that you are not me, that the United States is not ISIS, that I am not one of the sinners, that I am immaculately clean and pure - all this is the sin and arrogance of the "knowledge" of good and evil. But to heal form this sin is to acknowledge the love that ties me together with all things, both evil and good. It is the fracture the walls that divide me from what I've rejected. It is to minister to the rejects and outcasts, not just the lepers, but also the lepers in our own souls. It is to break my hard heart and acknowledge that, yes, I am guilty of the very things that I hate in others.

The have a broken heart is to break the hard-heartedness that characterizes all certainty. To have a contrite spirit is to acknowledge my complicity in whatever I have rejected. But there, in that ambiguous state, crucified between opposites, a light dawns. You see that paradox is not chaotic. Birds are able to build their nests and flowers are able to weave their petals without blueprints. Trees don't have to compartmentalize. Animals and plants don't know separation; and per Mormon doctrine, that means they don't know death. They never left the Garden of Eden.

But we, who have been exiled from it, can return to the paradise our animal neighbors never left. By embracing ambiguity, by seeing the paradox and poetry of the world, we step back into the paradise where, instead of knowledge, life rules. And yet we are better for having left on the sabbatical that is the Fall. No animal knows life; they just live it. But we can. That is our privilege as God's children: to step out of life long enough to realize how much we miss it, so that we, homesick, inherit all that our  Father has. For we are dead; and we will be alive again. We are lost, but we will be found.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Instagram: Shared Identity in the Spiritual World

#RudolfSteiner describes how in the #spiritual world, identity works in a weird way. In the world before birth and after death, you can only get to know someone by becoming like him or her. You have to, in a very real sense, transform yourself into that person to know them. Individuality goes away, at least in the sense we think of it physically. Identity constantly shifts. We put on different faces from moment to moment. In the spiritual world, there is no "me" or "you." There's only a shifting-weaving sense of presence, a quality of sympathy and antipathy that differs not only in degree but also in quantity. If you really detest country music, imagine finding yourself really loving it. Or if you are attracted to one gender, imagine suddenly finding yourself attracted to the other. These are the kinds of transformations that occur in the spiritual world. But, of course, the physical world is different. Here, I am "me" and "me" alone. This lets us have a will, to be able to will things as an individual, something the spiritual world lacks. *Will* is what makes us a single individual, and we can only will by means of a physical body. That's why we're in the physical world in the first place – to become a permanent *me* - since it's something beings in the spiritual world lack and long for. Such a "me," I'm sure, gives the spiritual world an identity to live in from there on out, much like a transit stop they can enter and leave. But we long for something more than permanent identity. Or at least I do. Identity is a nice thing, but the adventure of weaving *between* identities seems so wonderful to me. To be a different person every day. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. #spirituality #religious #anthroposophy #waldorf #NewAge #shaman #pagan #wiccan #occult #LDS #Mormon #spirit #spirits #Christian #Christ #God #faith #hope #love #faithhopelove #afterlife #intuition #intuitive #empath #empathy #meditation #meditative
A post shared by Christian Swenson (@swensonthechristian) on

Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path

Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"[Intuition] is a perception in which the perceiver is himself active, and it is an activity of the self which is also perceived. In intuitively experienced thinking man is transferred into a spiritual world as perceiver. What comes to meet him as perceptions within this world in the same way as the spiritual world of his own thinking comes to meet him, man recognizes as a world of spiritual perception. This world of perception has the same relationship to thinking as the world of physical perception has on the physical side. When man experiences the world of spiritual perception it will not appear foreign to him, because in intuitive thinking he already has an experience which is of a purely spiritual character."

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why the Word "Letoosen" Is So Important

So lately I've been having some, for lack of a better word, visions. But I don't want to make a claim that I'm somehow special because of them. Like I've said before, I'm not a prophet. They're not that different from dreams, actually, with the exception that they happen during the day. And moreover, they mainly happen through sound.

But there's more to it than that. This isn't regular imagination, a "sound in the mind's ear," but something louder. Not quite as loud as regular sound (to where you could confuse it with someone in the room's voice), but it's much closer than, say, a song in your head.

Moreover, I am completely aware that this happens in my imagination. They come in English, but if I was French, they would be in French.  And yet they do not begin in my imagination; the inspiration that comes through merely shows itself to me there. It is as if the inspiration, descending into my mind, clothed itself in what it found there.

However, there is a level where you can notice the pure meaning of these inspirations without any sound, color, or any other sensory content to go with them. It is pure meaning. Nevertheless, it does not happen instantaneously, but in a process extended through time. In that way, it's rather like music, only without any actual tone. The "tone" in this music is pure "quality.: You don't feel it in your body, but if it became less pure, you would feel it there. Likewise, you don't hear it in words or see it in color or form, although you very well might if it clothed itself in the contents of your memory.

As such, if you pay attention to this "quality," often sensory forms like color and words will happen anyway, even though you don't pay attention to it. It's like a word heard out of the corner of your ear. You almost don't hear it; in fact, you only notice it after the fact. These words and colors are the pure meaning mentioned above as it "descends" into your memory, and yet it only really goes to that sensory level if you're not looking at it. If you look at pure meaning, the meaning will descend into the sensory; if you look at the sensory, you get neither the sensory nor any meaning.

Recently, I've taken to recording this "detritus" of pure meaning. And while a lot of it is in meaningful English, some of it is purely phonetic. And this is really cool - instead of using words from a dictionary with a history going back thousands of years, it makes its own words based on how they sound. And this is able to communicate concepts that everyday language can't.

As such, I will try to communicate some of these phonetic revelations to you in the rest of this post. There were two questions: what is the best way to handle lust, and what is the worst way to handle lust? The answers were Letoosen and Mroon, respectively. Keep in mind that this is an embodiment of pure meaning. As we investigate the sounds here, we are coming close to that state of mind.

Summary: Letoosen is the process by which inner energy, experienced in sexual desire, yoga, love, the burning in the bosom, etc, is returned to the outer world instead of walling it up in the inner form.

The returning is the L, as seen in words like "let," "laisser," (French) "leave," and "lose." The sound "l" begins strongly and then slowly drops off. It is perhaps the softest consonant. Its quality is one of softly returning what one has wrongfully taken.  "L-" is the consonant of consecration. L is symbolically demonstrated by the act of leaving a present by someone who is sleeping, without a name tag. It is the antithesis of pride: self-emptying, humility, repentance.

Anonymous presents, the epitome of L.

T is a sign of distinction. It demarcates, divides, or even cuts the "l-" from the "oo" that follows, for L and OO are very different. "T" is very sharp, like an incision by a sharp knife through flesh, strictly cutting things off. The tongue sharply going against the front of the mouth when you make this sound demonstrates this cutting quality very well. See: strict, cut.

T to a T

"Oo" is the vowel of pure, fiery energy. It resonates with deep, self-possessed power, not unlike the color purple. This is unlike "ee," which beams away its power. If "ee" is a flashlight beam, "oo" is the energy held within the battery. "Oo" don't need no form. See: Aum, doom.

The fiery energy of OO

"S" is the consonant of transmission. It conveys. When you make the sound with your mouth, it never totally drops off. It is always in process and ends rather arbitrarily. Snakes, whose motion represents this quality, therefore stereotypically talk with exaggerated "ssss" sounds. See: sliding, slither, snake, serpent, process, transmission, seem, slow, speed, start, stop

Ssslumbe the Snake from Banjo-Kazooie

is what OO is transmitted to by L. That is, a soft but definite finish. To end a word with "s," which is always in process, leaves an anticlimax, not unlike those stairs in Super Mario 64.

This is what happens if you end a thought in S.

Instead, N has a definite quality - the tongue puts itself on the roof of the mouth with precision, like a surgeon's knife, and yet not with the abruptness of a "t." This "n" is a giving toward the outside, a termination, an end. It has the character of an authority figure who is surprisingly kind. It is justice infused with mercy, consonant infused with vowel.

McGonagall (justice infused with mercy)

Together, these sounds tell this story: that of a consecration (l-) of lust (oo) to the outside (-n) though a continual process (-s). Consecrating 'l-", energetic and powerful "oo," transmitting "s," the outside other "n."

On the contrary, mroon is the exact opposite to letoosen: holding in sexual or spiritual energy and hoarding it:

M gets things off to a bad start from the beginning. As the sound of the lips coming together, it is already rather soft and squishy. It is not decisive like the "t" above but kind of lazy. It withdraws into itself. It crawls underneath its own blanket. It hides from the world in similitude to the womb. "M" is the consonantal "oo," which, instead of being its own power, hides inside itself. M is the box the child hides in, the womb he came from.

This is M. You don't even need to read the above paragraph.

R is the consonant which designates something energetic but self-enclosed. It is made by closing off the back of the throat. It is hardly a consonant, since no contact is actually made in the mouth. It does not demarcate; it only gestures. It doesn't snap; it only bends. And it is indulgent; R is the act where you say: "It's OK; you can stay up another hour. No harm done."

R is about to take place.

Oo means the same as it does above, though there are insights to eternity in its sound.

So does N, but with the caveat that the finality isn't toward the outside, placed there by the transmitting "sss," but staying inside, since M and OO just reinforce each other in the bending-and-never-breaking R.

Mroon has the character of laziness: "m" is lazy, and where it might have been transmuted into activity by a consonant like "s" or a vowel like "ee," it is exacerbated by "oo" and rounded into itself by "r" before ending with a squelch in "n." It is the futility of laziness.

Where Letoosen disburdens itself of energy by giving away what it doesn't need, Mroon hoards it. Letoosen gives itself to others; Mroon sucks others into itself. Letoosen is charity; Mroon is greed. Letoosen is chastity; Mroon is lechery.

The solution to any problems you may have with addiction and compulsion is Letoosen. By consecrating divine energy to the others it belongs to, you "let" the "oo" go out. On the conrary, Mroon "stores" the oo. OO is best outside, but it needs to be forced out. The L the S  do this.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Swedenborgian Reading of Abinadi

Mosiah 12:1-7

1 And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying—Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.
2 Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy hand and prophesy, saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.
3 And it shall come to pass that the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord.
4 And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I will cause that they shall howl all the day long.
5 Yea, and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass.
6 And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain.
7 And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence—and all this will I do because of their iniquities and abominations.
8 And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations. And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people.
Mosiah 12:1-7's inner meaning, insofar as I can translate it correctly (with some help from Swedenborg's system of correspondences):

1 Truth comes to those who are too open-minded and curious about sin in the only way they'll let it, maybe in a book that's not scripture or through somebody they love, and says: the Lord wants you to know that you are full of false ideas; you have not come to me to be healed; therefore, I will oppose those false ideas and try to fix them, but it will involve great suffering.2 People like this will have a lot of reason to be sad. If you're like this, the Lord wants you to know that, because of your selfish and greedy actions, the false ideas in you that they come from will be a burden. They will become very painful to hold onto. Savage, intrusive thoughts will plague you; so will lusts and the thoughts that try to justify them.3 Your reasoning will be plagued by distorted ideas; this intensification means that those falsities are ending.4 And I will put you through this suffering, where you hunger for real truth and are reduced to despair,5 Where you feel trapped and enslaved,6 Where false ideas and lusts afflict you and take away everything that matters to you,7 Where everything you believed in seems to be ending, because you have done greedy and selfish things from your false ideas, and I want to heal you from them.8 You can always turn to me and I will heal these false ideas much more quickly. But if you don't, you will experience immense suffering. And even then, your suffering will become a great teaching tool for those who can see clearly.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Review: Making the Gods Work for You: The Astrological Language of the Psyche

Making the Gods Work for You: The Astrological Language of the Psyche Making the Gods Work for You: The Astrological Language of the Psyche by Caroline W. Casey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one of the most amazing I have read: a guided tour of the psyche, through the guise of the planets and the signs of the zodiac. Caroline Casey is uncannily able to articulate the "tone" of a planet or a sign in language that's deceptively clear.

An example:

"Pisceans want to—and often do, imaginatively and psychically—leave the decadent cities and occasionally the planet itself. This allows them to provide a needed perspective on life back down on Earth. Pisceans can be physically present and psychically gone, as in the trance states of Piscean psychic Edgar Cayce. Sometimes their unclarity, wooziness, and uncertainty of it all, as revealed in their rambling discourse, can drive you mad. “I’m either going to get married or go work on the Alaska Pipeline.” They cannot be reasoned with."

Notice the way she sneaks in ideas without you noticing. Her writing consists of islands of clarity insterspersed by twisting-snaking rivers of ambiguity that, while seemingly unclear, are actually clear in their own way: imagistically. Hers is an imaginal language, where metaphor is reality and reality is metaphor. Images are intelligble as images. What is Pisces? Two fishes. What does that mean? Well, let the fishes - their gills, their wateriness, the way they dart to the depths - teach you.

Her descriptions of the planets and the signs are like a speakable circumference around an unspeakable center. She does this masterfully. How does she do this? My only guess is that she had to "wrestle" with those energies to wrest them into physical form. She is truly a Trickter - she steals us fire from the gods.

PS - For those who like monotheism more than polytheism, consider this: the planets/gods are different qualities/energies,aspects of God, not unlike the 99 names of God in Islam. Christ violently cleansed the temple, taught esoterically, and loved tenderly. He is an embodiment of all the gods.

View all my reviews