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Showing posts from June, 2014

With Steiner at Dornach

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With apologies for the picture quality, I am no photographer as I was periodically reminded this weekend, but this is the grave of Rudolf Steiner at Dornach in Switzerland, where a new Goetheanum has risen to replace the old, destroyed by fire. It is in a beautiful location, saturated in a quieting silence, and it is surrounded by a number of original buildings also designed by Steiner that mirror and are mirrored in the surrounding architecture.

Steiner never ceases to intrigue me - that extraordinary admixture of improbable visionary, acute spiritual psychologist and progenitor of a number of radical movements in agriculture, the care of the learning disabled, education, finance and therapy. If by the fruits you will know them, Steiner is on the side of the angels.

It was a delight to see, and taste, however briefly, one of these fruits; and, to see his bodily resting place, in a contained, quiet garden, obviously lovingly tended and cared for.

Walter Kaufmann

Walter Kaufmann I first encountered reading his translation of Martin Buber's 'I and Thou' and as the author of an illuminating study of Nietzsche (of whom he was a distinguished translator). Subsequently I read many of his original works of philosophy that were pugnacious, challenging and highly enjoyable. Kaufmann wants us to make thinking decisions, most especially about religion, and wants to confront us with the complexity inherent in any mature decision,

His deepest critique is preserved for any form of dualistic thinking that constructs a world of black and white. Here is a world of the blessed - the right, the in group - and  here are the damned - the other, the out group. We can only envisage the world aright if we think in colour.

He also critiques any religious form or belief that leads to the suffering  of others, or the neglect of that suffering, either in this life or in a purported next. This might be the Hindu caste system or the Christian afterlife of ete…

Breathing the Water

Variation on a Theme by Rilke

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me--a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic--or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Denise Levertov

Levertov had an intriguing family inheritance - a father who was the descendent of a famous Hasidic rabbi and yet who had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and had become an Anglican priest (after a roundabout journey from Russia) with a mission to the Jews and an orphaned Welsh mother. They were parents who contrived to be, paradoxically, both demanding and distant, controlling and freeing. Levertov was effectively home schooled (as was her older sister) and whilst reading copiously and learning several languages, she never learnt to mul…

Faces in the Smoke

As a child, Douchan Gersi, found himself transported from his native Czechoslovakia to the Congo (his parents had left for political reasons) and subject to experiences of the uncanny. These ranged across a servant visiting from the dead to thank Douchan's mother for arranging his funeral to witnessing reverse magic where the perpetrator of an evil spell has it returned to him with deadly effect. With this as background, Gersi became an explorer, writer and film-maker both of the outer world of 'peoples of tradition' (as he chooses to call primordial or indigenous people) and their inner belief structures - and where the two meet in exercising changes in the world that our current 'scientific paradigms' exclude as possible.

What I love about his book: 'Faces in the Smoke' is the matter of fact nature of his descriptions. This is what I have witnessed, here is my speculation about what it might mean yet make up your own mind. There is never a sense of someb…

Back in Moldova

I remember my first visit to Moldova not least because it was the day after the July 2005 bombings in London.  I had walked half way across the city to Paddington and taken the first train to leave for Oxford and found myself sitting opposite two people who had been directly affected by one or other of the blasts. One had taken refuge in vodka, the other in repeating his story over and over. I simply sat listening and wondering whether anything would be working the next day. It was and I found myself in Chisinau.

One of my most vivid memories of that visit was going to the National Art Museum on a Sunday afternoon and finding myself the only person there except for the staff, one of whom followed me round assiduously turning lights on and off as I passed. I can remember nothing of the art except the necessary Roerich was there. So prolific was he that I expect every significant, and possibly less significant, public gallery in the former Soviet Union had one!

Chisinau had and had not…

The intelligence that pervades

Buhner's 'Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal‎ Realm' asks that we see the world in a radically new (old) way. With our sensory gates widened, we will find ourselves immersed in the scenario that is the world, unfolding as a bit player in self-organising, intelligent systems, no more and no less important than any other organism, with work to do that is ours but never at the 'apex' of evolutionary development. 
Unlike the world of reductionist mater‎ialism, this is an intelligent, purposeful world intent on fulfilling expression and full of continuous innovation. Unlike the world of the religious fundamentalist, it is not a world made for man to which everything else is merely supporting background (to be stewarded or exploited according to taste).
It is a beautiful vision of the world that can be explored through renewed organs of feeling, as well as mind, and by learning to genuinely perceive it's unfolding and listen to its purposes, mostly expressed in the no…

Meditation and day dreaming.

My mother had me listen to a tape of Fr Laurence Freeman introducing meditation where he quotes Simone Weil saying that, "Daydreaming is the root of all evil". He is discussing the importance in meditation of remaining present to the unfolding saying of the mantra, of staying in the present.

However, the use of the phrase 'day dreaming' sparked a conversation in her meditation group, after all, some people get good and inspiring thoughts out of their day dreaming. If you watch a child 'day dreaming' are they not doing it with extraordinary engagement, attention and awareness (even as they are ignoring the lesson going on around them). Carried over into adulthood is this not what Einstein was doing when he was imagining travelling on a beam of light, a 'day dream' out of which the theory of relativity was born?

What Weil was buying into was the traditional devaluation of the imagination of her beloved Plato that was then carried over into the Christia…