My Continuing Struggle with 7fold Dialectic
I've been e-away for some time now, but I have not been entirely idle, Anthro-wise. I have produced a piece of writing, which I will post immediately following. It could stand alone, I suppose, but I will offer a few words to explain my absence from these lists, if nothing else -- perhaps also to serve as an introduction to my following post, hopefully to make it a little more comprehensible.
My offline life during recent months has given me even less time online -- less, that is, even than I have been wont to complain about. I have sometimes not gotten any time online for weeks at a time, even once for a month at a stretch. And even when I have gotten online, it hasn't been for long . . . . my usual complaint, only more and more so. -- So, I haven't read much of what has transpired on these lists; sometimes I have just skimmed and not much more. And I must apologize to those who have sent me stuff to read; I have read hardly any of it.
My offline life has been, and still is, something that I might, optimistically and hopefully, consider to be a "trial". But less optimistically and more realistically, I must confess that I am not doing very well with my "trial". I sometimes feel as though my life is going down the toilet, and I am losing control of myself in ways that I had thought that I had long outgrown. I am in a jumble of runaway thoughts and emotions, and I am being harried, hurried, harassed, and my buttons are constantly being pushed. I am being forced to realize how little progress I have made along the Path of Knowledge as given by Steiner. I am repeatedly breaking almost every rule in *KoHW*, and I keep losing my temper, even though I try not to. It's sometimes almost as though I am watching someone else acting badly. And it's about the most I can do to get through a few days without cussing; if I do, it's only because I hadn't been especially provoked for a few days. When I am provoked, my mouth might launch efbombs all over the place before I can catch myself. Sometimes I have launched serial salvos of efbombs involuntarily while I am thinking: "I shouldn't be doing this; I shouldn't be doing this." And the Gay Liberation Front might be glad, and surprised, to be informed that there are as many CSers as I have named on the highway. But at least I don't run off at the mouth this way within the hearing of others, as far as I know.
So it goes. I haven't even been able to pull my mind together enough to read much more of Bondarev's *PoF* book. I am one of the few people in this world to be privileged to have a good deal of Graham Rickett's English translation, and still I haven't done much with it. And I can't use lack of time as my only excuse; it isn't due only to lack of time, but also to lack of self-application, and probably also to lack of smarts. I fear that I will sprout wings and fly over the Moon before I will understand this book. (And truth be told, I haven't managed well even the little time that I have had.)
But I haven't failed altogether in this regard; I am still trying to work further into the core idea in Bondarev's book: the 7fold dialectic. Around the time of my last post I was starting to gather material and thoughts for another attempt at 7fold parsing. But then I ran out of energy for the project and dropped it, even though I had a little money invested in it. I couldn't work myself up to doing more of the same kind of stuff that I had already done. I had done some 7fold parsing, some fairly difficult, and I felt that the time had come for me to take the next step forward. But I didn't know what that next step might be, other than to try to think 7foldedly myself. I hadn't done well with that previously, but I was about ready to try again. As I said before, there was that promise I made to myself that I would at least learn how to *think* in this incarnation. And if real thinking be 7folded, then I must learn how to do it 7foldedly.
So, I set about to try to solve a problem through 7fold thinking, as best I understood Bondarev's exposition of that procedure. But I didn't want to approach just any problem, and especially not one that Steiner had already solved for us, at least not one that he had solved to my knowledge. So, I chose a problem that I had within myself about one of Steiner's own deeds, a problem that really bothered me. Something bothered me about Steiner's approach to and recommendations for agriculture. -- And my attempt to solve that problem through 7fold thinking is the substance of my following post.
This attempt has stretched over almost half a year, off and on, a lot more off than on. And I am still not entirely satisfied with the result, but after so much time I feel that it is high time to bring it to some kind of conclusion, however imperfect it might be. I have stared at it for so long that I can hardly even see it now, much less judge it objectively enough to improve it much. There were long stretches when I hardly worked a lick on it, and there were times that I hardly even cared whether thinking was 7folded, or 14folded, or 98folded, or whatever; I just wanted relief from my inner misery. And I remembered that sometimes objective thinking had done that for me, and that was mainly what I wanted then from thinking. Still, after a while, I always pulled myself together and got back around to my attempt. -- I hope that even a flawed result is better than no result at all.
There are some reasons why I am bringing this attempt before this little e-public. Ideally, I would like to have a discussion with some co- workers. But my situation is such that I could hardly take part in this discussion, even if I could find some co-workers. Even so, I invite comments and suggestions for improvement; but be forewarned: I might not get around to responding to such.
Still, I allow myself to hope that my launching this 7fold attempt into e-space might inspire other people to make their own attempts. And I think that more people making more such attempts are needed; as far as I can see, there aren't many now. (Granted, I don't see very far, even in English cyberspace; hopefully, some are already "out there".) As Bondarev says, the general culture has reached the point, a crisis, where this kind of thinking must become a general possession of Mankind, if culture is not to decline into a new barbarism. This kind of thinking must become exoteric as the foundation for "the New Cultural Epoch". And for this vast undertaking we need an army of 7fold thinkers, and I am trying to recruit volunteers for this army. Maybe my example, however weak and clumsy it may be, will inspire others to enlist.
I have written my attempt so that, I would like to expect, the reader, if he read closely enough, can almost see me at work. I have shown much of my own process, including almost raw notes (*almost*, with a little clean-up and redaction). And I have asked myself how much of my personal struggle I should make public. It is a basic requirement, as taught by Steiner, that the esoteric student shouldn't "chatter" about his inner experiences; if he does, he loses whatever incipient abilities that he talks about. But I have considered: what I am talking about here isn't really esoteric; as Bondarev says, it can and should become very exoteric. It has some tenets in common with esoteric work, but it is still not so deep as the esoteric. Anyway, in my following post I am talking about nothing more exotic than mental imagery and deep feelings. (And anyway again, I am leaving out the really personal stuff.)
Probably the esoteric, or quasi-esoteric, principle that has been most powerfully impressed upon me during this 7folded attempt is the need for the soul-quality of *reverence*. Reverence doesn't come easily for me, but it seemed that the only way I could make any progress at all with my attempt was to work-up some, somehow. I found that I could not "think" 7foldedly in anything like the usual frame of mind: I had to "repent", as the Baptist (or his English translators) said; I had to change my state of consciousness. Certainly I had to follow the thoughts where they wanted to go, rather than trying to think as I might please -- but this principle is required for any kind of objective thinking; this practice alone will not get one beyond a certain point, beyond to the next level. To get further, it seemed, I had to change my whole soul-mood; I had to enter a deepness, a solemnity, an earnestness that isn't at all usual for me. I suppose that this is a fundamental principle, perhaps the most important, in common between 7fold thinking and esoteric training as taught by Steiner. In the beginning of *KoHW* RS says that the esoteric student must *begin* with a habit of reverence and that without this the student won't get very far at all. And so it seems to be also with 7fold thinking; I couldn't get very far without getting myself into a mood of, for lack of a better word, "reverence". And for someone such as myself, *reverence* is usually hardly more than a foreign word; I hardly knew what it meant. I had been working at it somewhat for years, as for years I had been trying, not very well, to be an esoteric student -- but now I had to work at it all the more, sometimes desperately, and probably contemplating Steiner's own actions was a good training for me. Steiner himself lived and worked in a state of deep reverence that is hard for most of us, probably, to imagine, and the only way to understand Steiner's actions is to get oneself into an at least similar mood. Not easy to do; it's work, sometimes painful.
And really, understanding Steiner, as we all know, isn't easy. It takes work, and not just any kind or work, but work upon oneself. This is a "process" in the psycho-therapeutic sense of the word: one must gain in awareness of oneself, bring the subconscious into consciousness, and change oneself so as to live in accordance with Reality. Such a "process" of change usually entails some pain of some kind, and who wants to inflict the real pain of self- change upon oneself? -- Sometimes during my hiatus I have glanced over into the WC e-group, to reconnoiter enemy activity, as it were. Of course, I didn't have much time for that, just enough to scan some of the blurbs and skim some the posts that looked interesting. And this did help to inspire me, or shame me, to work upon my attempt at 7fold thinking: the enemies of Anthroposophy were getting their "work" done, such as it is, but I wasn't getting my work done; so I'd better get to work.
Anyway, the point I'm getting at here is what I perceived to be the utter lack of real thinking over there in The Snake Nest; there's plenty of cleverness, to be sure, and plenty of busyness, but no real work in the sense I am talking about, and no real thinking. I might say (with only a little exaggeration) that the basic "thinking" over there consists of what I might call "dancing the WC Three-step":
1. Steiner said such-and-such.
Now, even the slightest acquaintance with genuine thinking informs one that this "dance" is not a process of thinking but only one of reacting. If one *thinks* at all, one must realize that one's own beliefs etc. have no more inherent, *a priori* claim to truth than any conflicting proposition. Even to *begin* to think one must consider one's own beliefs and conflicting assertions evenhandedly, objectively; one must act in accordance with the principle that the Truth is true whether or not it is agreeable to one's subjective attitudes; one must act, through one's thinking, in conformity with the realization that one's own beliefs are no more *inherently* true than any contrary beliefs. -- This general principle is so obvious that few, if any, would deny it outright. (Well, there are some so-called "philosophers" who deny the reality of objective truth, but I suppose that they are "few" as compared to the human race upon the Earth.) However, it is easy to say as a principle yet hard to do in practice. To really *do* it in practice one must, first of all, do one's own thinking objectively; one must follow the thinking itself where it wants to go, not where one might want it to go. It is hard to realize, really, that thinking has a "will of its own", at it were. And to follow in one's own thinking the "will" of the thinking one must exert one's own will to suppress one's own usual beliefs, habits, opinions, etc. The first, most necessary task of such exertion is to stop one's own mind from running in its usual channels; one must stop one's own mind from determining one's "thoughts" (which are then really pseudo- thoughts) and instead force one's own mind into conformity with the (real) thoughts themselves. That is, one must bring oneself from a state of inner passivity to a state of inner activity. (Most of us, most of the time, are passive in relation to our inner habits, wishes, fears, opinions, etc.) -- This general principle, of course, is the first big lesson that Steiner taught in *PoF*. And again, it is easy to say but hard to do; it is especially hard to do for one such as myself who has mental traits that might add up to what is now called *attention deficit disorder*. (I would guess that, if the increasing prevalence of this diagnosis is a valid indication, then real thinking is becoming harder and harder for more and more people, despite that fact that we live in the "Consciousness Soul Epoch", when World-Evolution should be making such real thinking possible for more and more people. We truly live in an era and environment of conflicting upward and downward forces.)
If one can achieve this kind of thinking, then one might enter the third stage of the Hegelian dialectic: "synthesis". Here one considers objectively what can be said for and against both of the first two stages ("thesis" and *antithesis), what truth and falsity each contains, and what "higher", more complete truth can be drawn from such consideration. And to do this one must have, first of all, a little "good faith", that is, a willingness to follow the Truth even when and where "the truth hurts". (It seems to me that such "good faith" is especially what is lacking over in the WC, but The Snake Nest is a special, extreme case where Steiner-thought is concerned. All that might be the subject of other, long posts, and I have already made some of them. But I feel that pursuing that thread here and now would take this discussion too far afield.)
Still, if one has such "good faith", one also needs to have some inner energy and strength, for it takes *work* to get control of one's own mind and to force it into conformity with objective Truth, to think objectively. And I do have a lot of trouble gathering up such energy and getting myself to *work* consistently at a line of thought. This is so, even though I know from experience that real thinking, if sustained long enough, usually suffuses me with a healing balm for my soul. Well, the literal definition of *addiction* is *continued behavior despite adverse consequences*; I suppose that I, like so many others, have my own addiction. My addiction is to inner sloth, even though I know that it has adverse consequences for me. That is my problem, but I strongly suspect that plenty of other people have the same problem.
-- What all this means for the prospective 7fold thinker is that good faith, inner exertion, and objective thinking can get one as far as the classic Hegelian dialectic goes. But to go further, to enter into the specifically 7folded dialectic as described by Bondarev (and as I understand him), one needs to employ still other mental faculties. The fourth stage, according to Bondarev, is that of "beholding" (*Anschauung*), and as I understand it, this is a quasi-visual experience. And Steiner, I think, talked about this (or something very similar) in *PoF*. There he called it *moral fantasy*. And RS did say it in his autobiography:
(from *The Story of My Life*; XX)
"I spoke at that time of 'moral fantasy' as the source of the moral in the isolated human individuality. I was far from any intention of referring to this source as to something not wholly real. On the contrary, I wished to point out in fantasy the force which helps the spiritual world in all its aspects to break through into the individual man. Of course, if one is to attain to a real experience of the spiritual, then it is necessary that the spiritual forces of knowledge should enter into one - imagination, inspiration, intuition. But to a man conscious of himself as an individual the first ray of a spiritual revelation comes by means of fantasy; and we observe, indeed, in Goethe the way in which fantasy holds aloof from everything fantastic, and becomes a picture of the spiritually real."
I note that the German word *Phantasie* does not have the negative connotations that the English *fantasy* does; the German merely refers to the faculty of creating vivid mental images, not necessarily to a wish-driven escape from Reality. Such image-crating "fantasy" might not be quite "Imagination" with a capital *I*, but it can be the way to get "the first ray of a spiritual revelation". (And neither does Bondarev, if I understand him, intend the 7fold dialectic to be the esoteric "Imagination", but to be an exoteric development which must come into the whole culture.)
If such "fantasy" is to become "beholding", then, I think, it must indeed become a "ray" of "spiritual revelation". But the "spiritual" is, in reality, an assortment of *beings*; if one is to get a revelation, it must come as a gift from a being or beings. A real, true revelation can come only from the Good Beings. And the Good Beings will give such gifts only to the pure in heart. Ergo, if one is to achieve "beholding" in Bondarev's sense, then one must be pure in heart. -- Now, this fact might present an impasse for most of us; surely for one such as myself. I have enough self-awareness to know that I am not pure in heart, and therefore I might give up the attempt right here. But I could not allow myself, after all that I had gone through over many years, to just quit; I felt that I had to move forward. At this point, it seemed, realistic honestly [sic] with myself might slide into dishonest excusing of my sloth. I came to a thought, an attitude, such as: "OK, Robert; stop making excuses and *get pure*." And I was desperate enough to try to get pure, even if only for a few minutes at a time. And - - miracle of miracles -- apparently even a few minutes of inner purity was enough to allow me to indeed move forward. I did "get" some mental images that did seem to be relevant to a solution for the problem that I had set for myself.
This fourth stage, this "beholding", is the crucial point where the 3-step Hegelian dialectic makes the leap into a higher realm. It is true that the mental imagery might become a stream of meaningless (or seemingly meaningless?) junk. How then to "get", and then to recognize, pictures that are meaningful and relevant to a solution for the problem at hand? -- I don't know any answer to this question other than to be purely unprejudiced: earnest . . . and more, reverent . . . even desperate.
Once in that higher realm, I tried to keep moving forward, into the fifth stage, which Bondarev calls *perceiving of the Idea*. I don't believe that I came to "see" the core Idea in the same way that, for instance, Goethe "saw" the Archetypal Plant, but I did get what seemed to be a visual clue to the Idea -- which I then had to "think out" in much the usual way.
The sixth and seventh stages turned out to be the most difficult and time-consuming for me; I did most of that work after I was already into the write-up. And I will let that that write- up, my following post, stand as an display of my work-process. (It seems that the latter four stages were, in a way, a recapitulation and expansion, on a higher, more "seeing" level, of the third stage, which was "thought out" in much the usual way.)
-- That's about all I have to say in this introductory missive. The reader will have to judge whether my attempt was a success or a failure, or something in between. I think that it was at least a partial success; in the end, apparently, hopefully, the thought-problem that I had set for myself did actually get solved. Maybe my 7fold thinking was somewhat ragged and artificial; I wasn't "just thinking" but trying to make my thinking conform to a template, such as I understood Bondarev's concept to form. And maybe I was straining to bring my thinking to a 7folded conclusion. OK; maybe I'll do better next time, if there be a next time.
But here's the thing: at least I did step up to the plate and take a whack at it. And I hope that my attempt, however skilled or inept, will inspire, or provoke, others to step up also. As I said, I believe that we need an army. You may say that you're not pure enough . . . well, neither am I; the pure in heart are in short supply. But: "Ya do the best ya can with what ya got."
A final note: When I could work myself up to it, objective thinking did in fact provide me with some relief from my inner misery, and it still does; it does when and if I can sustain it long enough. If I could put this stuff in bottles and sell it, I'd be a very rich man. But Steiner already, long ago, taught it in *PoF*, and it's not something one can "drink" passively; one has to *do* it.
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