THE SOUL OF TODAY: THE SPIRIT AS THE SIGN OF THE TIMES
If we do not develop within ourselves this deeply rooted feeling that there is something higher than ourselves, we shall never find the strength to evolve to something higher.
Humanity is passing through a difficult phase in its development, and of concern is the potential risk of being plunged into deeper states of materialism and automatism. These two states are often in cooperation together, for the deeper we become embedded in material forces then the greater are the influences that can make us act without conscious thought or intention. It can also be said that there are certain forces, or agents, in this current time that are pushing for greater immersion into materialism in order to paralyze or prevent humanity’s spiritual development. In this regard, even the notion of anything ‘spiritual’ has come to be either ridiculed, diluted into commercialism, or hijacked into pseudo-spiritual forms (such as corporate retreats and online guruism). It is important that we now cast a critical eye upon the state of human society and the nature of our times. This is not to criticize but to draw attention — to be aware of its aspects — as if to shine a light upon it. It is necessary to look beyond the ‘scenery of external affairs.’
For those people caught up within the external civilization of the moment, with its impacts, distractions, and stimulations, it is difficult to acknowledge the existence of knowledge and perceptual understanding that lies beyond the conditioned senses. Yet it must also be said that now is the time for people to live, and be guided, more in accordance with inner, or esoteric, principles than ever before. It is this connection with one’s inner life that brings greater awareness onto external events. And without this awareness, this degree of perceptive insight, then we allow greater concentrations of power to be wielded in the hands of the few, who will exercise this control over the masses in a negative way. What is necessary is awareness and intention emerging through each individualized person. It is this state of individualization, as opposed to group/mass behaviour, that marks the correct stage of human development for these times.
Taking the work of Austrian thinker/mystic Rudolf Steiner, the state of human perception and awareness can be recognized as relating to three soul stages: sentient, intellect-mind, and consciousness. Within the stage of sentient soul (i), the human being lives primarily within the world of the senses. They are drawn into their passions, desires, and are easily manoeuvred or manipulated into following trends, politics, and mass movements. These people form the majority, are swayed by the media, and are the general masses that move with the machinations of the mob. They are influenced by the ‘influencers,’ convinced by the consensus narrative, and swim in the mainstream. The second stage, that of the intellect-mind soul (ii), represents the person of the intellect who strives to free themselves from the rash impulses of the senses. They are aware of these tendencies yet steer themselves by rational thinking. They also attempt to keep their feelings under check and express their heart’s desire through critical engagement. At the same time, this rational ordering often allies such people with conservatism, dogma, ideologies and a sense of righteousness. As they can manipulate others, so too can they be manipulated by their own allegiance to fixed systems. They can be blinded by ideals and uncritical of their own weaknesses. Such people can appear exceedingly clever whilst lacking humanity. Broadly speaking, such people fill the ranks of the political and leadership organizations. And the third stage, that of the consciousness soul (iii) has yet to fully emerge within the current epoch. It is this stage that deals with the formation of the aware individual who is not easily influenced or swayed by the emotional-psychological masses, and the strategies employed for these persuasions.
The phase of individualization within humankind was, and continues to be, a necessary step to release the human being from the previous mode of group consciousness. The egoistic self was required in this transference into individualization. Yet the danger now is that this operational ego grows beyond its function and becomes a dominant aspect of the human being. Acting and striving from the egoistic self is what leads to the imbalance and inequality of the world. The stage of individualization is bound up with increased egoism, yet this is a necessary relationship to reach the depths of self-realization. It becomes troublesome when the ego, instead of leading to inner growth, gets projected externally and becomes the major aspect of the outward personality. This can lead to stunted inner growth and continued external ego projection. The extremity of this is when a person sinks back into group consciousness and seeks security within a group environment. This can lead to cultic tendencies, as well as nationalism and other ideological and religious groupings. Part of the polarity tension in world affairs has been the pull between the dominant egoists and the group mentality masses. However, it can also be recognized that this stage of growth has to be lived and experienced in order to be moved through. The strains and stresses increase when people seem incapable, or are disallowed, from moving beyond this stage of human development. In this case, the person remains at the level of the lower ‘I’, which is a mass phenomenon and below that of full individualization. The lower self becomes the dominant expression of the personality, and this can literally run amok, getting entangled in passions, persuasions, disagreements, and disputes. The worst case of affairs is when societies establish structures, systems, and forms of management that cater to this lower stage of human development. People are then caught in a loop, where the base behaviours of this lower individualization are sustained and supported, deliberately creating a civilization of stagnation and stunted growth. The task here is for people to take the direction of their life into their own hands.
The human being must establish an intention to develop their aligned individualization for it seems that there are forces opposed to this human evolvement. For this reason, it is now essential that a perceptive state of consciousness (referred to in Steiner terminology as the consciousness soul) is allowed to emerge among those people receptive and prepared for this. The consciousness soul can be said to elicit higher morals and values within the individual. This requires also that the person has an inner freedom and the ability to perceive and act beyond the confines of social conditioning. This is a form of perceptual thinking as opposed to programmed thinking. The human being has it in their power to transform themselves whilst participating in active life. In fact, life provides friction for the transformational process. And this transformation takes place in the innermost self, which later can be projected outwards into life. It is not enough to affect correct behaviour if the inner life is stunted (as is the case with so many people, especially those most visible upon the world stage). As Rudolf Steiner put it:
‘For every human being bears a higher man within himself besides what we may call the work-a-day man. This higher man remains hidden until he is awakened. And each human being can himself alone awaken this higher being within himself. As long as this higher being is not awakened, the higher faculties slumbering in every human being, and leading to supersensible knowledge, will remain concealed.’
Steiner also considered entropic forces (what some would call ‘evil’ or de-evolutionary forces) as a necessary part of human development. Such forces create the friction that fuels potential development, such as the friction between the road and the tire helps create the movement of the car. To a degree, such forces are unavoidable in physical existence. All development is a matter of stages, and each stage must be reached before attempting the move to another. Where is humanity at this current scale of development, we may wonder?
Each person must decide for themselves how they wish to live life. It can be said that a person who is ignorant of this decision, or who negates making such a decision, is more likely to fall under the sway of entropic forces, for it is these forces that target/attract the unaware or lazy souls. This recognition should encourage us to make perceptive choices in life. In every sphere of human life — whether social, cultural, or political — there are forces in operation that represent spheres of activity of greater magnitude than most people are able to realize. There are ‘universal forces’ that have been in contention — in motion — for a very long time. As for human beings, all motion, all movement, requires effort. That the many are unaware of this, only places more emphasis upon the responsibility of the few who are aware. This has always been the case and is likely to remain so for the time ahead. The inner impulse towards working for the greater good of humanity — the ‘macrocosmic good’ — comes out of genuine understanding and not general emotions or mass psychology. It is also the responsibility for such aware individuals to gain an understanding, a level of perspective, for perceiving the events of our time. It is this understanding of forces behind events at face value that helps in the growth of the consciousness soul. Just as we can recognize there are occult forces in play in the physical realm, so too does this suggest that there are forces operable beyond the physical domain. To not acknowledge this is the same as seeing the branches of a tree swaying in the wind and to consider that the branches are moving of their own accord and under their own volition. It is a fundamental error to mistake secondary phenomena for primary causes. And when a person acts out of limited understanding, there is the potential to serve not the good but ultimately the contrary. In terms of entropic forces (my term for ‘evil’), they cannot be banished for they form a part of existence; rather, they are to be transmuted into good for them to be overcome. And this is the task of our times, the task for the spiritual soul of today.
What is needed is a re-cognition and refocusing upon metaphysical realities. Rudolf Steiner stated that if all human beings were to decide that they did not want higher development, then this potential for development would come to an end. It is therefore the responsibility of those with awareness, and inner cognition, to maintain within humankind the urge for inner evolvement. The present task for responsibly aware people today is to seek out that knowledge which comprehends not only world forces but the primary causes of events in this phenomenal, physical realm. In doing so, the person is able to raise themselves beyond petty inclinations and selfish, egoistic behaviour. This is not a denial of physical reality but rather a strengthened recognition of the primary realm of spirit.
To conclude, it can be said that there are forces coming through into this realm that humanity has limited knowledge or experience of. This is not something to be afraid of, for these forces are a part of humanity itself. We-You-I are part of the same consciousness, only that material existence — the physical life — has split, divided, and splintered these aspects. Humanity, for the most part in recent times, has been living as if a partial existence — a semi-existence — for it has been cut-off from recognition of its Source and the greater field of consciousness. The planet Earth, as well as other planets in the solar system, are entering a new alignment where it shall be easier for these correspondences to be made. That this age was coming has been known for a long time by other groupings that have power and influence within human civilization. For this reason, these groupings have come together to create conditions across the planet — physical, mental, psychical — that would attempt to halt the emergence of greater perceptive consciousness. The attempts being made across the planet are for the realization of anesthetizing certain aspects of the human being so that it is less receptive to ‘spiritual’ or metaphysical truths and their correspondences. In other words, humanity is being further cut-off from its inherent connection to developmental impulses. Yet this approach has only a limited range of success. Humanity’s faculties can only be ‘blinded’ for so long. Evolutionary, developmental forces are far more powerful than supposed by these planetary power groups. At the same time, we need to recognize that events of world history are symptoms of the occurrences on the metaphysical level of reality, where primary, non-material aspects have their existence. These essential, primary phenomena have their impulses that come into being within the physical world of secondary phenomena. For most of humankind, these primary aspects are the unknowables.
It is time to become receptive to the forces available to us so that as a human being we can be of assistance rather than ignorant or, worse still, a hindrance. For those people capable of developing their understanding and receptivity to such impulses, it is time to begin the journey to know of the unknowables.
 Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (1947 English translation by George Metaxa)
Header Photo: taken by the author (Cordoba Cathedral-Mosque), June 2018
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