Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Art of Being

- notes by Kathleen Edmison from a workshop with Dr. Michael Lipson
(22-23 September, 2012 in Barrie ON)

We live in a world fraught with incredible stressors and often lead harried lives, so much so that we've forgotten to stop long enough to learn how to just 'be'.  This question lives within each one of us.  We are human beings, after all, but what does that actually mean?

What does it mean to 'be'?  It is the process of reaching our highest potential. How can we do that?  And more importantly, what tools can we utilize to assist us on our journey?

This workshop presented a profound exploration of these questions. Dr. Lipson suggested that a desire for understanding and a willingness for interaction and dialogue was all that was required because the marvel of Being itself would be our guide, remarking that.... only the work matters and not the answers.  He quoted Georg Kuhlewind who declared that... being is not a theme....it just is.

As he guided us through a series of meditations, Dr. Lipson reminded us that we can learn to quiet our minds and combat the thoughts that so easily distract us.  An object or a sentence on which we focus our minds appears  to expand.  However, what actually expands is our attention.  A valuable schooling in attention unfolded for each participant through meditative exercises and lively conversation over the course of our two days of intense group work.

Cultivating a disposition of  I don't know as regards the great questions of existence was also recommended. This approach could bring a measure of freedom - to our thoughts and therefore to our lives.

Gratitude is a precursor for 'being' and has a unifying effect. Dr. Lipson suggested we make a practice of giving thanks that the world exists when we awaken in the morning.

More questions arose...Why are we here?  God wanted to show what He could do.  The etymology of the word God is rooted in the word pour.  Our minds are always 'pouring'....could the chatter in our heads begin to give way to an effortless streaming of consciousness that is of a higher intuitive order?  Ease rather than effort is the watchword here.  Everything in the world is pouring towards us eternally and it echoes in our stream of consciousness.  To be happy is to be in harmony with the happening of the universe, remarked Dr. Lipson. He also memorably said, Effortlessness takes work and You cannot be somebody until you know you are nobody.

 There was a great deal of discussion about biblical references to Being, Lord and I AM.  In the Hebrew scrolls the word for Jehovah is the ancient form of the word  to be. Other examples cited were: I will dwell in the house of the Lord (Being) and Where two or three are gathered together (to the point of Being), there I AM (Being) in the midst of them.

It became clear that we are in beginning in the understanding of these concepts. Lipson pointed out that we generally trade low level but manageable concepts for the living mighty concepts that imbue our sacred texts. We have to stop reducing the meaning of life to what we can most easily manage.

What is a person?  A Being?  We were asked to consider that a person is a being who can be in touch with the tenderness of their humanity and is no longer hampered by fear or self interest.

So this 'being' is an art form and takes practice.

Novalis said, God wants Gods.  In light of this how do we live our divinity?  Dr. Lipson explained that being human includes citizenship in the 'pour' of God.  Christ poured out his life for us.  This is our example.  To see and accept both the divinity and humanity in each person we encounter is a measure of our own humanity as I understand it. Working in the group as we did, sharing our struggles, brought this realisation home to me.  Participants brought many insights to bear.  I resonated very strongly with an observation  that our mission is to fully incarnate into this world and in this way to experience what it means to be 'born from above' or 'born again.'

Our final consideration was the last line of Rainer Maria Rilke’s 9th Elegy:'existence beyond reasoning springs forth in my heart' also translated as 'being in excess wells up in my heart.'  These words expressed a goal of self realisation to which I will continue to aspire.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Overview - Rudolf Steiner Centre Open House, 21 October 2012

- by Michael Roboz

Marjorie began with a welcome and tribute to visionaries of a spiritual home, mainly initiated by Steven and Helga Roboz, and Cora Verbrugh in 1969. Now, in its third manifestation, Marjorie gave thanks to all those how worked hard to maintain the Centres as well as the present Board of the RSCA (Esther Chase, Ruth Tschannen, Michael Roboz, Constance Lucky, Ron Macfarlane, and Marjorie Thatcher, our Board chairman)..  The whole process of separation of the strata unit into two separate strata units, and the renovation of our unit took five years. Many adverse forces came from various directions at almost every step of the journey.  This event is our public coming into being with all the renovation finally complete. 

Following the opening remarks by Marjorie, the Halleluiah was led by three eurythmists (Esther, Monika and Sonja), then lyre music performed by Ruth Tschannen.  After Bert had spoken, the formal Open House event concluded with the Foundation Stone rendered wonderfully by Patricia Smith, followed by the social aspect of the gathering.

Space and Anthroposophical Initiatives

- Report written by Michael Roboz about a presentation by Bert Chase at the Open House of the Rudolf Steiner Centre In Vancouver on 21 October, 2012

Rudolf Steiner gave freely of his time and energy to support the requests of many developing initiatives. Much of what we have of anthroposophical wisdom comes from his work with these diverse groups. When Rudolf Steiner had time to take up his own creative work he devoted himself to developing new ways of shaping and structuring our surroundings.  When he spoke of these efforts he stressed how the forms and proportions built into our surroundings work back upon us, as individuals and organisations. He stressed that unless we are able to transform the forming principles at work in our environments then the archaic principles embodied in them will create increasing hindrances not only for the development of anthroposophical life but for human development as a whole. The spaces that we inherit from the past will stand in the way of the anthroposophical work we do to transform culture.
The principles built into the spaces that surround us in western civilization have primarily come to us from the Romans. The proportions and forces built into these spaces, and how we interact with our surroundings, at one time supported human development. Now they act as retarding forces that inhibit evolution and threaten our anthroposophical work.  The roman impulse was the culmination of a stream of evolution that had as its intention the development of human beings who could attain to a certain level of independence. Rudolf Steiner characterized this stream of development as the Mars stage in earth evolution, often depicting it as a descent out of atavistic consciousness. 

This Mars stream of evolution came to a point of crystallisation around 86 B.C. when the Roman General Sulla had himself declared Imperator. The worldview that then evolved was that every aspect of society only had validity within a highly centralized and controlled hierarchy based on wielding power through physical force.  This rigidification of culture inevitably had its effect on the experience of human beings themselves, how the first glimmers of ego awareness were experienced. Within this hierarchical roman worldview the individual only had a sense of self by identifying their place within the established hierarchy, and all cultural forms were developed to support this structure.  

This worldview was projected into space using the newly developed processes of surveying. This enabled the laying out of straight road systems that ignored geography and topography, throughout the Roman Empire. Cities and buildings were built up using rigid right angle grid systems.  

We can get a sense for how pervasive an impact this grid development has by following the gradual shift from different sets of open angles to the point were a right angle appears. The experience of a right angle is that something is suddenly “locked” into space. In contrast, an obtuse angle, no matter how shallow it is, still retains an inherent sense of mobility. Space still has a breathing quality that disappears with the imposition of a roman grid system.     

To overcome the power of these right angle systems, and the worldview it represents, takes considerable effort. To shift out of the impact of this rigidifying system of shaping environments takes consciousness and presence of mind, because it is so pervasive. Once its omnipresence begins to be recognized, then completely new principles for the creation of space must be developed. Only through this effort can we gradually introduce into our surroundings principles of mobility, of rhythm, of breathing that can then work back upon human beings affecting how we experience those spaces and how we can dwell within them.

The Mystery of Golgotha and the Transition from Mars to Mercury

The Mystery of Golgotha is the great “turning point” in earth evolution, the beginning of the transition from the Mars stage of evolution to what Rudolf Steiner characterized as the Mercury stage.  This “turning point” in earth evolution requires that every aspect of human endeavour be permeated with a spiritualized consciousness. Every aspect of culture that is figuratively “locked into” the roman right angle grid worldview needs to be opened up through the activity and intention of human beings. 

For this turning point to unfold, humanity also needs to develop completely new soul facilities. Around 1400 the very beginnings of this new soul capacity began to arise in human beings. Rudolf Steiner identifies this as the dawning of the spiritual soul (the consciousness soul in German). The first cultural manifestation of this new faculty finds its expression with the Renaissance. 

The Spiritual Soul, Raphael and the Renaissance

   As with each significant stage in human development there are important individuals who point the way forward. Adam, Elijah, and John the Baptist all acted as these harbingers of a new evolutionary stage. With the dawning of the spiritual soul it was the remarkable painter Raphael (born March 28th 1483, died Apr. 6, 1520) who is among the first to awaken this new soul capacity. We could say he is one of the first human beings who embody the Mercury Impulse. Rudolf Steiner often draws attention to one of his most important works, the Sistine Madonna, created in 1513-1514.

Raphael's Sistine Madonna,  Diagram of Roman building with right angle. with Bert Chase.

When we observe the representations of the Roman Caesars, what strikes us is how large they are, bigger than life, their stance confronting. They stand square to the observer, often with armour and bearing weapons.

If we compare these with Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, what is most apparent is how the Madonna rotates toward the observer, gently lifting the figure of the archetypal human being, the Jesus Child – as if unimpeded by the force of gravity. He beholds us. These two central figures invite us to engage with them, to allow our own soul experience to flow into the situation depicted. This sense of active engagement with the event taking place is accentuated and focused by the two figures below the Madonna and Child. The figure on the right, dressed in cool blue hues, invites us to inwardly move into the situation presented. The figure on the left, dressed in warm hues, picks up the dynamic movement within the painting and reaches out toward us.

The Sistine Madonna and the First Goetheanum

As we live within the dynamics that are created within the painting, we can gradually become aware that there are mirroring movements that are awakened within our own souls as observers. If we depict these movements as a diagram, what arises is a flowing circulating pattern, a circulating rhythmic pulsation that flows out from the central figures of the Madonna and Child, and then awakens within our own souls its reflected etheric activity. When we draw this movement what arises is the pattern language that underlies the structure of the First Goetheanum. We can follow the movement woven into the Sistine Madonna and read it in the flow and movement created in the First Goetheanum.

This is drawn to a focus for us with the placement of the Gruppe, the representative of humanity, placed in the same position as the Jesus Child in the Raphael painting. With further observation we can also see how the Gruppe itself is yet again a further development of the underlying rhythmic structure present in the painting.

Bert Chase, diagram of First Goetheanum

We can further observe how the dynamic relationship between the figures allows an invisible breathing in from across the threshold. This “threshold’s breeze” lifts the mantel of the Madonna. As we contemplate this invisible breathing in, we can get a sense for a space, an opening; being created that perhaps allows this new spiritual soul faculty to become present.

The Renewal of the Centre

With these considerations as background, we can turn to the tasks that have been taken up to renew these spaces for our anthroposophical work here in Vancouver. We can observe how a gentle attempt is made to create the movements inherent both in the Sistine Madonna and in the First Goetheanum – though the ways they articulate the space have been modified for this specific situation. The first step is creating the impression of several planes one behind the other. This layering of planes is then accentuated by deepening the colours of the different planes. By opening up again the curved wall where these planes meet, this sense of movement, of circulation is supported, while still respecting the underlying structural principles of the spaces as they have been given to us.

All of this is then enhanced by reflecting the colour movement as indicated by Raphael, the cooler tones on the right, the warmer tones on the left. These support the sense of circulating movement indicated by the forms of the spaces themselves.

These are just a few indications of the efforts that have been made to lift up the organizing principles of the spaces we have inherited and to transmute them in such a way that they can support and enliven our anthroposophical work as we go forward.