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My Continuing Struggle with the 7fold Dialectic

Sept. 2010

To all:

This is my first post to the "Anthroposophical Methodology" e-group, so it will be, in part, an introduction of myself. I am just now joining this group, and I do not know who are the members, nor have I read any of the previous posts. Since this group apparently is devoted mainly to working with Gennady Bondarev's methodological concepts, I will take the liberty of presuming that everyone here knows what I am talking about when I refer to the "7fold dialectic", and so I will assume that no explanation of the term is needed here and now.

My concern with the 7fold dialectic began almost a year ago, when I got a preliminary text of Graham Rickett's translation of the first parts (appx. 155 pages) of Bondarev's tome on Steiner's *PoF*. I had already been working with *PoF* for more than a quarter-century, and I had thought that I had made some progress in that work. A post that I wrote to the now- defunct Yahoo "Anthroposophy" e-group might give one a fair picture of the position that I had reached. Since that group's archives are no longer online, [This has now (April 2012) changed.] I will send separately that post for reference, for anyone who might be interested. -- As suggested in that post, I had reached the point where I was less interested in reading *PoF* than in doing it, especially in doing the kind of thinking taught in that book.

And I had believed that I had made a good deal of progress in that direction; at least that seemed to be my experience. The transition from ordinary, "brain-bound" thinking to controlled, willed thinking "free from the body" had come to be practically an everyday experience for me. And my aim was mainly to deepen and expand this experience and to make it more of a "habit", for want of a better word. My ideal was, and is, to have my thinking determined by the "things themselves" and by thinking's own internal energy of the expansion of understanding of meanings -- not by anything in my merely personal make-up -- and further, to make this way of thinking a constant for me, not only a rarity.

This aim was a kind of "promise" that I had made to myself. Over the years, I had been reading Steiner's other works, including of course *KoHW* and *OS*, about attaining true clairvoyance and initiation, and I had made some weak attempts at the "exercises" on the "Path". It was becoming apparent to me that I would likely not reach initiation anytime soon, probably not in this lifetime. To make a long story short, I more or less came to the determination that, even if I accomplished nothing else in this incarnation, I would at least learn how to *think*, really think as Steiner taught us, mainly in *PoF*.

And, as I said, I believed that I had made some real progress. -- But suddenly, along comes this Anthro-Russkie Bondarev telling us that true thinking is really seven-folded and that the crucial turning point is the fourth stage, that of "beholding" (*anschauen* ). I had already understood "beholding" to be a kind of low-grade clairvoyance attained mainly in a visual way, but by visualizing processes as did Goethe with plants, etc. But now Bondarev seemed to be saying that "beholding" was the crucial stage in conceptual, non-visual thinking -- and I had not experienced my own thinking in this way. (There were some visual experiences, but I had not experienced them as cognitive in any definite way.) I had never noticed any 7folding in my own thinking, even as Steinerish as I had believed it to be. And worse, I couldn't really see Steiner's own thinking in *PoF* to be 7folded as Bondarev parsed it in the early part of his own *PoF* book.

Here is some of my initial reaction to the first chapters of Bondarev's book, in a post I wrote almost a year ago:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_now/message/ 1083

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/steiner/message/5091

Just about that time my offline life was disrupted so as to severely limit the amount of time and energy that I could spend on Anthroposophy, and more so to limit my time on the Anthro Internet. My time online hadn't been much anyway, and now it was even less. And my offline life was (and still is) filled with experiences that shattered my concentration and provoked me to negative feelings, acutely and chronically. But even so, I couldn't leave this "7folded thinking" stuff alone: to fulfil my "promise" to myself I had to find out about Bondarev's 7fold dialectic, whether it was real or whether it was a crock.

Even though I couldn't quite grasp this 7fold dialectic, I still had to take it seriously. Everything else in the world is 7folded; why shouldn't thinking be also?Bondarev makes arguments in this direction, which are intriguing but over my head somewhat; still I do grasp the principle of "as above, so below" -- it does seem to run through all Creation. And there were *ad hominum* considerations also; illogical in a deduction though they are, they can be nonetheless psychologically weighty in practical life. I had already known some of Bondarev's work, going back a good number of years, when I first saw "The Principles of Christian Ethics" (and more) in English on Rudolf Saacke's old website. That essay was surely impressive and inspiring, as was the whole *Kreuzung* (*Crisis of Civilization* ) when I got the English proofs of Graham Rickett's translation from the late Nelson Willby. Bondarev was, to me, an obviously important Anthroposophical thinker. I even for a while considered the possibility that he might be the reincarnation of Rudolf Steiner, though I soon discounted that idea. And thus it was quite puzzling, to put it mildly, for me that Bondarev was expelled from the Anthro Society for reasons that were fairly obviously spurious. More recently, I even put on the Web some chapters from the English version of that book. (Willy Lochmann has since put pretty much the rest of that book in his English pages:
http://lochmann-verlag.com/englischetexte.htm)

And more recently I have seen the preliminary English texts of the first part of the *PoF* book, the *Weihnachtstagung* book, and even more recently, still more texts that I have only glanced at (and yet more recently, even more that I have not even glanced at). From that, and from other odds and ends (such as what I could understand from the German-language site "Lebendig-anschauen des Denken"), it is apparent to me that Bondarev is a flaming genius and very probably the most important contemporary Anthroposophical writer. So, I have to take the 7fold dialectic seriously, if only because Bondarev endorses it. Of course, even a genius might be half-cracked and go off the rails altogether sometimes, so I want to find out about this 7fold dialectic for myself. If it's a crock, I want to find that out; if it's real, I want to "see" (understand) it, and more, to *do it*.

In the little time that I've managed to give to the effort over the past year (approximately) , I've tried to work with the idea of the 7fold dialectic. To make a long story short again: I studied the part of the *PoF* book that was in English, and then I also went to the Russian Anthro site that has the whole German text
http://bdn-steiner.ru/modules.php?name=Books
-- and, even though I read German very poorly, I managed to figure out how Bondarev parsed the rest of Steiner's *PoF* and marked up my own hard copy (the Wilson translation) accordingly.

So, I bypassed the "foreign" philosophizing in the first chapters of Bondarev's book and tried to focus on the 7fold thinking itself. Again, if it was real, I didn't just want to read about it, I wanted to learn how to *do it*. -- And making a long story short yet again, part of this attempt was my trying to parse some of the simpler passages of *PoF* myself before marking down Bondarev's parsing, to see how mine compared to his. Disappointingly, my parsings only sometimes matched his. We couldn't both be right (could we?), so this disparity seemed to me to be proof that I hadn't learned how to "do it", even so far as to see 7fold thinking where it was already present (assuming that it was present as Bondarev asserted).

Another aspect of my attempts was to "meditate" on the question of the reality or the crockness of the whole concept of the 7fold dialectic. Eventually I came to the thought: "The 7fold dialectic is a closed book to you, Robert Mason, because you lack sufficient reverence." I came to this thought because I was aware that my effort to grasp the concept was motivated (in part, at least) by egotism, and that, conversely, the crucial stage of "beholding" was accessible only to the pure in heart. This was one of the first principles of Goetheanism, and I had already had enough experience with "living thinking" to know that wrong feelings, a "bad attitude", will surely prevent one from entering into the realm of that "living thinking". Really, "living thinking" is an experience of "love"; I already knew that. (For a little more on this theme, see my "background" post.) -- So, my lack of reverence in my attempts at 7fold thinking is itself pretty good proof that I was not really *thinking*, since if I were really thinking, I would *ipso facto* also have the right feelings.

Once more, my circumstances of outer life were, and are, making real thinking and healthy feelings vary difficult for me. So, I was aware that I was floundering; my attempts (there was more to them that I have related here) were failing, it seemed. -- That's about where I was a few weeks ago, when someone familiar sent me more of Bondarev's works translated into English. That correspondent said that he hoped that these texts wouldn't distract me from my work with the 7fold concept; I replied that I would be glad to be so distracted. But then I drew back; I read a little of the new English texts, but then I stopped. I wasn't quite yet ready to admit defeat. I had been at this 7fold stuff almost a year, and it was high time that I should be showing some progress; indeed I felt that I *had* to have made some kind of progress.

So I resolved to try again some 7fold parsing of my own. I knew that this "Anthro Method" e-group exists, dedicated to Bondarev's methodological work, so I conceived the idea of doing some 7fold parsing and putting it up here for discussion. Expanding the principle that "two heads are better than one", I thought, I hoped, that maybe some "group work" with the 7fold dialectic might break the logjam for me. I already knew that Bondarev said that the 7fold pattern runs through all of Steiner's writings, and I had already seen that one "M. Giersch" had already found the 7fold pattern at the start of *Theosophy*:
http://www.lebendig-anschauendes-denken.ch/doc/Anschauendes_Denken_Giersch.pdf
I can read German just well enough to see what pattern Giersch found. I thought that I might be able to do something similar with other Steiner texts.

The idea came to me of parsing the speeches of the Guardians in *KoHW*. For one thing, these speeches are short; for another; it seemed that they should be relatively simple, since they are more dramatic actions than complex philosophical arguments. I took a whack at them, and, sure enough, they seemed to fall into 7folded "cycles". Even the crucial fourth "element" of "beholding" seemed to be clearly marked, sometimes with that very word. If I had the first and fourth elements, I thought that I should be able to work out the rest -- and I did, or at least so it seems to me.

Next I took a shot at something more difficult: the final chapter of *Theosophy*. For one thing, it's not too very long; for another, it just might be the most important chapter in all of Steiner's writings. If I could find the 7folding in this chapter, that would be a big step forward, out of my "floundering" , or at least so I hoped. And again, that chapter did seem to fall into 7folded "cycles", with only one exception.

And so -- here I am, with my attempted 7folded parsings. I bring them here as springboards for discussion, I do wish. And let's do hope that two heads are better than one. Go ahead, rip my parsings to shreds; I'm willing to listen to criticism. But if you criticize, please tell me exactly how and why I'm wrong, and offer your alternative interpretations. Maybe that way, we can all make progress together. -- Tell me: do I "see it", or am I "seeing things"?

Yes, this is an invitation to discussion, but . . . . But, as I said, I get vanishingly little time online, and not much to work Anthro-wise even offline. So, I will likely be very slow to respond to comments; I might take days or even weeks. But I intend, I will try, to read and give serious consideration to all comments. -- Unless I am knocked out of e-action altogether. That might happen, but it hasn't quite yet.

Three related posts follow:
1. the speeches of the Guardians parsed
2. the last chapter of *Theosophy* parsed
3. a post from a few years ago that reveals some of my personal background with "thinking"

Submitted for your consideration,

Robert Mason

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