Meeting the Other, The Portal of Initiation & the Freedom Mystery Conference: by Timothy Nadelle
“I had to sink myself in all the people who in their words revealed themselves just now.” Johannes Thomasius, Scene 2, The Portal of Initiation, by Rudolf Steiner.
“Tearing the Self out of oneself and entering into another is part and parcel of self-knowledge.” Rudolf Steiner on the Portal of Initiation, September 17, 1910.
In August, Bodo von Plato visited Toronto and led a full day workshop on the subject of Concentration, Contemplation and Meditation at Hesperus. Bodo asked us to share our individual “tabernacles”, those sacred moments in our lives through which we experience the spirit. I was struck by the number of people who in various ways experienced these holy moments in the “meeting of the other”. It was clear from what they said that these encounters were moments of intense, actively listening.
In contemplating this, Steiner’s words at the end of chapter one of the Philosophy of Freedom resonated: “The way to the heart is through the head. Whenever it is not merely the expression of bare sexual instinct, it depends on the mental picture we form of the loved one. And the more idealistic these mental pictures are, just so much the more blessed is our love. Here too, thought is the father of feeling. It is said that love makes us blind to the failings of the loved one. But this can be expressed the other way round, namely, that it is just for the good qualities that love opens the eyes. Many pass by those good qualities without noticing them. One, however, perceives them and just because he does, love awakens in his soul. What else has he done but made a mental picture of what hundreds have failed to see? Love is not theirs because they lack the mental picture.”
I have a friend, Francois, who does work in a fascinating field called “cognitive ergonomics”. In contradistinction to expert systems, which emulate the decision-making ability of a human expert (in effect attempting to replace the human being), cognitive ergonomics strives to provide a person with the tools and information he or she needs to make better decisions. Cognitive ergonomics puts the human being in the centre of the work process, recognizing the importance of human intuition, creativity and decision-making. I have had the good fortune to work with Francois on occasion. Francois will typically video-tape a person at work in her own environment and ask her to think aloud, explaining what she is doing as she performs her tasks. I believe there are deep mysteries involved in this process of making will activity conscious through the spoken word. And it’s intriguing to witness the pleasure people feel through, as my friend says “sharing their experiences” with someone who listens very carefully.
In a lecture given September 17, 1910, Steiner said concerning the Portal of Initiation, “This Mystery Drama exists now as a picture of human evolution in the development of a single person… Everything in the drama is presented, therefore, in a completely individual way. Through this, the truth portrayed by the particular figures brings out as clearly as possible the development of the soul of a human being. At the beginning, Johannes Thomasius is shown in the physical world, but certain soul-happenings are hinted at that provide a basis for such development, particularly an experience at a somewhat earlier time when he deserted a girl who had been lovingly devoted to him. Such things do take place, but this individual happening has a different effect on a man who has resolved to undertake his own development.”
In witnessing the Portal of Initiation audience members enter, therefore, into the experience of a person on a path of spiritual development who is confronted – as we all must be – by his own failings. Perhaps this is why people love theatre and even movies so much. Recognizing that the experience cannot run as deep as the performance of a Mystery Drama, the best of them nevertheless afford us an opportunity to imaginatively exercise that faculty of entering into the soul experience of another person.
Further in that lecture, Steiner went on to say, “There is one deep truth necessary for him who wants to undergo development: self-knowledge cannot be achieved by brooding within oneself but only through diving in the being of others… When at first Johannes sinks more deeply into himself and then plunges in self-knowledge into another person, into the one to whom he has brought bitter pain, we see this as an example of the experience of oneself within another, a descent into self-knowledge.”
It’s also stirring to perceive how deeply Johannes is affected by entering into the biographical experiences recounted by the various people to whom he listens in scene one.
In the same lecture, Steiner said, “For Johannes Thomasius… what other people have lived through becomes a part of him. One of them, Capesius, describes some of his experiences; we can observe that they are rooted in real life. But Thomasius takes in more. He is listening. His listening is singular… It is really as if Thomasius’ ordinary Self were not present. Another deeper force appears, as though Thomasius were creeping into the soul of Capesius and were taking part in what is happening from there… Tearing the Self out of oneself and entering into another is part and parcel of self-knowledge.”
There is also a kind of mystery-of-the-other in the process of acting, an attempt to remove oneself and allow the character to come to life in one’s soul. Several of the actors in the upcoming performance of the first third of the Portal of Initiation have shared their experiences of working their ways into their roles:
Graham Jackson on Capesius:
Playing the part of Capesius, the aging history professor, has been relatively easy for me, as I pretty well just have to be myself, and in these scenes, he has not yet entered into the inner trials he suffers later. He is however interested in what everyone else is going through—just as I would be—and thus it has been interesting to contemplate again and again their inner struggles. Although I have seen all four dramas more than once, in German and English, one is never finished learning from them about our inner natures, and what we ourselves may still have to face.
Heidi Vukovich on Helena:
At first, Helena seemed a straightforward character, displaying qualities of a ‘new age spiritual consumerism’. She speaks with fervor and conviction to an inner longing of what we would like to hear: how spiritual striving will bring health, joy and happiness, it raises life to ecstasy and bliss, and it is our fault alone if we should feel any different and less than that.
So what after all, is her temptation, are her tricks, as she is inspired by Lucifer?
She is sympathetic to the suffering of Johannes, and she is impressively self motivated and self assured. But she has no empathy! She blames Johannes for his ills, she is ignorant of the laws of human development.
Helena confuses the feelings by rationally addressing what ‘seems’ so well deserved and just feels so good and self-righteous, that spiritual striving should bring bliss at all cost. To know this as a temptation is one thing, but to become conscious on a feeling level was the gift of taking on the role of Helena.
Les Black on Strader
Stepping into the world of The Mystery Dramas has been stimulating, always, but also full of surprises for someone who has little exposure to them. When I was asked to play the role of Capesius in Scene 1 of The Soul's Probation (several years ago), I at least found myself playing someone my age and with a somewhat similar professional background. Facing Strader is quite another matter.
We, in this production, have been graced with intensives of support from 'notables' in the world of these dramas, as they are now performed internationally, so the 'who' of Strader has been fleshed out for me, not only in the time of the performance you will see in October, but also, a glimpse or two of him has been mentioned from previous incarnations.
I have taken an interest in speaking with acquaintances who are scientists, to try to 'move' a little into such a frame of mind as is Strader's.
Tim Nadelle on Johannes
Johannes has been an enthusiastic idealist for years, striving to embody in his paintings what his dear friend and mentor, Maria, perceives in spirit. He believed that he was doing important work and that his art, grounded in spiritual knowledge, would engender a healing force for the future. However, by the time the Portal commences, he has lost his enthusiasm, his creative energy, his artistic sensibility. He is filled with doubt.
What moves and challenges me about Johannes is his courage and tenacity. Even when he feels he has lost everything, he struggles to face and to understand what is happening to him. He sees the consequences of his self-absorption in the death of a woman who once loved him. He recognizes the most unsavory qualities in his own character. But he never turns away or rejects what he sees in himself, no matter how painful or frightening his self-awareness. His devotion to perceiving the truth holds.
Please do join us for one (or both!) of the two performances of the first third of the Portal of Initiation which will be taking place in Thornhill, Ontario towards the end of October 2015.
The first performance will take place over the course of the Freedom Mystery Conference from Friday 23 October to Sunday 25 October, which is devoted to exploring the path of knowledge implicit in the Philosophy of Freedom. Christian Community Priest Daniel Hafner will accompany us on this quest. Visit www.philosophyfreedom.ca for more information or to register. (Please order meals no later than October 5.)
A week later, Saturday 31 October, Daniel will deliver an introductory lecture commencing 1:00pm. Then, from 2:00pm to 5:30pm, the second performance will take place. This event will also take place at the Christian Community Church, 901 Rutherford Road, Thornhill, Ontario. Tickets will be available at door.
Hope to see you!