In need of a bugfix release

2 Dec

One of the candidates for a coherent world view implementing a form of transcendental humanism, is Anthroposophy, “Wisdom of Man”.  Rudolf Steiner’s program is often presented as a humanistic one, in particular in the context of philosophy and the Waldorf shool  movement, but upon closer scrutiny, it reveals itself as another case of transcendental heroism. As such, it has very much in common with Theosophy, the spiritual movement from which it forked.

It pretends to be a science, and there is indeed nothing to indicate that Steiner did not himself believe that he had succeeded in creating a “spiritual science”.  But alone the use of “the spiritual world” as a well-defined concept, when there are, according to Steiner himself, several beings with diverse agendas in operation there, makes it clear that Steiner’s attempts, at best, resulted in a systematic exploration of his field.

As such, it is far from meeting the modern requirements of science, and what is worse, is that the imperative of developing the faculties for “spiritual research”, which Steiner stresses, easily gets in the way of developing the human qualities needed for such extremely demanding explorations.  The very idea of a spiritual science may be very good, but the route to qualification, as laid out by Steiner, e.g. in “Knowledge Of The Higher Worlds And Its Attainment” (“Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten?” Gesamtausgabe (GA)  10),  “Theosophy” (“Theosophie” GA 9) and “Directions for an esoteric schooling” (“Anweisungen für eine esoterische Schulung” GA 245, 267, 268) is simply not adequate.

In my opinion, there are quite a few good ideas involved in Steiner’s project, and the movement he started has been practically succesful in a number of fields, not only the Waldorf schools.  In many ways, this is in spite of Steiner’s “coherent” anthroposophical foundation, which today easily contributes to suppressing innovation, and anthroposophy is very much in need of a bugfix release.

But the chances of such a thing happening seem to be rather slim.  One basic problem, is that the people who could have helped out don’t have the motivation to dive so deeply into Steiner’s work as is necessary, and educated anthroposophists tend to be rather much sophists when it comes to challenges of Steiner’s position.

There are some who engage, though. A former German Waldorf school student, Ansgar Martins, is one of the rather few working both critically and very seriously with Steiner’s opus.  His activities can be followed on his blog http://waldorfblog.wordpress.com/.

Hartmut Traub is a German philosopher who has worked very thoroughly with Steiner’s early books, before Steiner’s conversion to Theosophy, several entries at Martins’ blog provide an easy access to his work on Steiner, e.g. http://waldorfblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/steiner-und-spinoza/ and http://waldorfblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/traub3/

Christian Clement is working on text-critical new editions of Steiner’s early works, it may be monitored thorough his Facebook page for the project: https://www.facebook.com/steinerkritischeausgabe.ska

I’ll be happy to update this post with more initiatives and links.  As the heading is “bugfix release”, this is not the place to discuss contributions that consider Steiner’s work as basically only buggy, with little regard of eventual substance.  In my view, the contributions to research  on Steiner by Peter Staudenmaier and Helmut Zander belong in this category – which is not to say they don’t have considerable value.  They just aren’t very helpful in developing a transcendental humanism.

What could “transcendental humanism” be?

8 Jun

“Transcendental humanism” – between “transcendental serfism” and “transcendental heroism”

This blog will center around issues concerning “transcendental humanism”.  To some, this might seem like a contradiction in terms. But, as the wealth of religious and spiritual practices and beliefs throughout history attest, it is rather less normal for humans to stay safely within the realm of the well known than to seek contact with realms “beyond”.  Whether such contact is compatible with humanism, is not immediately clear – many religious systems will tend to insist on “spiritual” and “ordinary” man belonging to entirely different levels of being, and that surrendering ourselves completely is the only way to   transcend our physical confinement. It might be called “transcendental serfism”, and will typically not have much interest in developing humans potentials as far as transcendental matters are concerned.

In other systems, we are invited to develop our “divine” facilities, to participate in different projects like “transformation of the Earth”, often being bestowed with extra powers. Such invitations may be called “transcendental heroism”.   In this direction, development of “higher facilities” are often expected or even mandatory, but this will often rely on using certain “services”, the exact nature of which will remain concealed.

Sticking to the principles of humanism may at first not lead us very far in “higher realms”, and it may even go directly against commandments of “God”, but whatever we may attain, will be of a secure and relatively transparent nature.  And our eventual enterprises in the “beyond” may be directly modeled on the processes we have with fellow human beings.