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~~~~~~~~ In Memoriam: Bob Housden (1939 - 2013) ~~~~
~~~~~~~~ Long-time Friend Since Hahnville High School ~~~~~
WELCOME TO DIGESTWORLD ISSUE#142 February, 2014== == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == ==Quote for the Frigid Month of February:
Either you think — or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (American Writer)
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Editor: Bobby Matherne, Asst. Editor: Del Matherne
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GOOD MOUNTAIN PRESS Presents ISSUE#142 for February 2014Archived DIGESTWORLD Issues
Table of Contents
1. February's Violet-n-Joey Cartoon
2. Honored Readers for February
3. On a Personal Note
Flowers of Shanidar Poems
4. Cajun Story
5. Recipe or Household Hint for February, 2014 from Bobby Jeaux’: Keep Bread Fresh
6. POETRY NOTES by Various Poets and Critics
7. Reviews and Articles Added for February:
8. Commentary on the World
- ARJ2: Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood
- ARJ2: The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
- ARJ2: Humboldt's Gift — A Novel by Saul Bellow
- ARJ2: The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man, GA#102 by Rudolf Steiner
1. Padre Filius Cartoon
2. Comments from Readers
3. Freedom on the Half Shell Poem
4. ROOTS OF DIGESTWORLDtm
5. BACKWARDS CAUSATION
9. Closing Notes — our mailing list, locating books, subscribing/unsubscribing to DIGESTWORLD
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1. February Violet-n-Joey CARTOON:
== == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == == ==This month Violet and Joey learn about Love.
For newcomers to DIGESTWORLD, we have created a webpage of all the Violet-n-Joey cartoons!
"Love" at http://www.doyletics.com/images/140121vj.gif
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2. HONORED READERS FOR February:
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Each month we choose to honor two Good Readers of our DIGESTWORLD from those all over the World. Here are the two worthy Honored Readers for February, 2014:
William Pilder in New York
Vivian Sanderson in Belgium
Congratulations, William and Vivian!
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3. ON A PERSONAL NOTE:
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Out Our Way:
A SOGGY NEW YEAR'S EVE
Each New Year's Eve we have had a beautiful fireworks display for twenty minutes in every direction we can look as we stand on the hill just a few feet west of our property line. It's a raised tee for the golf course, but no one else is using it near midnight and it provides a wonderful view of the fireworks on a normal NY's Eve. But this was not a normal Eve for us. I was just barely recovering for a strong head cold and Del was just in the middle of one. Plus the night was cold and raining! Most people didn't buy any or kept their fireworks for later in the year, no doubt. We stayed inside and watched the celebrations on the five large screens in our Timberlane Screening Room. My appetite had just begun to return and Del had barely eaten anything but chicken noodle soup for five days. On a hunch, I made some spaghetti and heated up some of Newman's Own Sockarooni sauce. Del could eat the noodles in the soup, so why not some spaghetti and butter? She enjoyed her buttered spaghetti and I enjoyed mine with Newman's great marinara sauce with chunky vegetables on it. While the Eve celebrations from around the world filled the four side screens, we watched this amazing movie with Kevin Klein speaking French and teaching his house maid to play Chess, "Queen to Play", and play she did and won the Chess Championship in Paris.
On New Year's Day, we watched the Rose Parade, then ate our traditional New Orleans meal for New Year's Day: black-eyed peas over rice, boiled cabbage, and cornbread (Frank's Cornbread Mix, again a special treat). Saved half of the large cabbage to make a minestrone soup later, especially good on a cold winter's day. At noon, watched LSU beat Iowa on the center screen and on the side-screen watched 2 TD underdog Oklahoma beat over-rated Alabama by two TD's. Bama's now on a two-game losing streak, just like Ohio State; both are perennial powerhouses which have run all over lesser opponents this year, but each got their comeuppance in their championship game and lost their bowl game to boot.
By January 3rd, it was 31 degF on my Maxima's thermometer outside PJ's Coffeeshop. Brrrr, Frigid City! I had on my new insulated jacket beneath my pea coat and I was toasty. Cold air felt great on my face and my head since I had forgotten my hat. Del was hardly coughing which meant her sinuses were finally drying up. Hooray! Plus: the Sun was shining, O Happy Day!! When I got back home, Del opened up the cans and assisted me in making the Minestrone Soup. It came out great. One huge pot full. It's hard to make it in small quantities and since the macaroni in it doesn't freeze well, we strive to eat it all or give some away. When it was done, Del and I enjoyed a couple of bowls and then I took a nap. Called neighbor Gerry and she came over to get a pot of soup; Diane Guthrie was coming by for hers on way back from her French Quarter apartment, but got delayed and by the time she called, Del and I had finished off the soup. With neither of us feeling much like cooking, the minestrone soup was a Godsend.
SPORTS IN JANUARY
With College football done, NFL playoffs, College and NBA basketball filled the airways. Our Saints football team made it into the playoffs and beat Eagles 26-24 to play against Top Seed Seattle in their frigid, soggy open-air field. In contrast to the mid-season game which we lost in a blowout, the Saints were in the hunt for a win down to the last second of the game before losing. My LSU basketball team is playing strong and looks to be part of the March Madness playoffs with a bit of luck and some improvement. Our New Orleans Pelicans are struggling to get off the bottom of their division, but key injuries have put three key players on the bench indefinitely. Due to the bleeding of the injured, the younger players are getting nourished by increased playing time. Reminds me of how mother pelicans have a membrane which bursts a blood vessel under their tongue so that they can drip nutrient-enriched blood into their young's mouths so that they can grow strong and feed themselves.
Rarely does a review get mention in our personal notes, but this book has haunted me for almost four month since I bought it in September. The book by Saul Bellow was written in 1973 and I found a red, leather-bound Franklin Library edition on amazon.com. I had scorned amazon.com for my abebooks website up until amazon bought them, then I tried amazon.com and now I have been so impressed by their selection and ease of ordering that I use them for almost all of my etail purchases. I have also begun adding my reviews to their website for books I have bought from them as a way of publishing my large set of reviews (over a 1,000) that I have published on-line.
The book came in and I took it with me to our son's home in San Anselmo to read while we baby-sat for his two teens while he went on an important business trip for his company, Splunk. I was about four-fifths through the book when we flew home and somehow the book remained behind. I was ready to buy another copy of a $40 book, so I waited as Robie and Meghan searched around for the book. I thought sure I left in one of his BMW's, but it never showed up. I wanted that book because I keep all my notes for reviews by writing in the margins of the book's pages. With the original copy, I wouldn't even know where I had stopped reading. After three weeks, I gave up and re-ordered the same book and got an awful substitute. I returned it to amazon.com, using their return policy for the first time (rather easy actually), and received my red Franklin Library copy, and then the fun began. How do I locate where I had stopped reading? Should I re-read the whole book?I guesstimated the place I had stopped by locating an incident I recalled reading about, then began reading again. In addition, since I acquired this book because several friends had mentioned that Saul Bellow discusses Rudolf Steiner's works in it, I used the Search in the Book feature amazon.com provides to locate the page numbers with the name "Steiner" on them. With a list of those, I could pinpoint the places where he discussed Steiner, and refer to the most important of them.
Humboldt's Gift was more like a Millstone around my neck for three months until I finally completed my review on King's Day, January 6, which commemorates the Epiphany or baptism of Jesus. Because it is called King's Day, it marks the beginning of New Orleans's Mardi Season, and King Cakes show up in offices and homes all across the region.Fifty years ago, teenagers would have King Cake parties and the one who got the tiny baby in their piece of King Cake got to have a King Cake party at their house the following week. With the advent of our over-litigious law profession, the tiny porcelain babies were first replaced by plastic ones, and then they disappeared all together, remaining only as fond memories of a gentler, kinder time. I believe if you try hard enough you can find a King Cake with a baby placed in the package and you can sneak it into the cake to be found, but unfortunately you will already know where it is and that spoils the fun of finding it yourself. I placed two "babies" in my Humboldt's Gift for you, my Good Readers, in the form of two poems, as special treats for you.
AUNT CLARICE, BUBBA II'S, BLUE TOOTH MAGIC
Normally I wouldn't be driving an hour and a half from home when the Saints are in a playoff game, but this was my mother's last sibling, her sister Clarice, who was celebrating her 90ath birthday at her daughter Myra's house in Bourg. Given the chance to see her and a whole bunch of my Babin cousins, I set the DVR to record the Saints-Eagles game and we took off for the birthday party.
Del got a backup battery storage device for recharging her new Z10 cellphone from Santa and it was time to test it out on the long drive down past Houma. It was easy to do. First try, nothing happened, her Z10 gave a "!" yellow mark on its display, which seemed to indicate a bad or uncharged BattPak. Suddenly I remembered the round silver button which turns on the BattPak and when I pressed it, six lights came on to signal a full charge remaining. Del plugged in her Z10 and it then showed charging going on.
The next project was the Blue Tooth connection from our Z10s to the Maxima's audio sound system. I had never tried that before, so it was a good time. There was good news and bad news.
The good news was that by manipulating my way through the recondite options, I finally stumbled upon the way to connect my Z10 viz Blue Tooth to the Black Maxima's sound system. I was able to play all of my Nora Jones collection of songs. Whatever I played on Z10 came through the Bose speakers in the Maxima. Great!
The bad news was that when I later used the identical procedure to hook up Del's identical Z10 to do the same thing, the following ensued: The Z10 connected up okay, but through the Bose speakers came random songs from Del's music folder. I could find no way to do anything but select the next song! Since most of the songs were undesirable songs, this was not good. I finally turned Del's Z10 off and got the music to stop. No idea why two identical phones would work differently. Problem for next long trip perhaps, or we'll just forget about it. We only need one of them to work.
After getting the techno problem fixed, I realized that we were going to pass my dad's favorite place to eat, Bubba II's in Raceland, and remembered how great their oyster poor boy sandwiches were. So we stopped there to split a large po-boy, knowing it might be the best food we'd have all day. The bread is light and crusty and the oysters lightly-fried and succulent, needing only our two lips on each piece for an amazing treat. Bubba II's is carrying on a South Louisiana tradition of providing great food in a restaurant attached to a gas station. Himel's Restaurant in Convent is still in business, but Spahr's Restaurant has been rebuilt, dropping their gas station, while the overstuffed-shrimp po-boys of the Gator Stop Chevron Gas Station have disappeared into the bogs of Boutte because the unforgettable Gator Stop has been replaced by an eminently forgettable Walgreen's Dug Store.
We didn't see any Babins at Aunt Clarice's party, but the children of most of mom's seven sisters were there, the Bascles, the Breauxs, the Clements, the Mussos, the Poches, the Poimboeufs, the Baudoins, etc. In spite of chancing missing the Saints playoff game, I couldn't pass this rare opportunity of attending a get-together which doesn't involve someone having died. The party started at 1 PM and the kickoff of Saints game was 3:30. Since it would take 90 minutes to get home in time for kickoff, we had to budget ourselves for 60 minutes at the party. I told Del, "Don't start any long conversations" as a way of reminding her there would be about 60 people there, so one minute for each person will likely fill up the hour allocated. And we did leave at about 2:10 and we arrived in time to get settled in the Screening Room to watch the Saints beat the Eagles with a last minute come-back from behind by Drew Brees, culminating by a field goal to go ahead when the time expired.
A delicious oyster Po-boy, a stop by to see my "Mom-n-dem's folks," and a Saints Playoff Win, all in one day! What could be better? Maybe a win against Seattle in their rainy open stadium next week? Alas it was not to be.
TRANSCRIBING AND DISPLAYING THE PAST
This month I began a project of transcribing my handwritten free-writing exercises. These writing exercises, which I undertook as a means of freeing my writing from the critic in my head which stifled my creative writing, soon morphed into book reviews and my daily journal. On May 14, 1995, Mother's Day weekend, I began typing my Journal entries into the computer, bypassing any need to later transcribe. Later transcribe, you want to know how much later? The ones I started transcribing were from 1988, that's how long. What's the difference between having the material in hand-written or typewritten into a computer form? Typewritten form is like having your photo prints in a shoebox.
What's the difference between having photos in a computer file or in a shoebox? Well, you may never look in that shoebox for a decade, but the computer file can be searched by date, by description, etc., and you find a photo you're looking for within seconds from a group of 50,000 photos. I know because I do this on a regular basis when I need a special photo for some Issue to go with a poem or a review or an old photo for Blast from the Past section. I got into the habit of labeling my photos with a YYMMDD code and then a description of who, what, and where. When I want to find a certain person, I simply go to EXPLORE, put their name in the Search box and seconds later I have all their photos, or just the ones for a certain year, depending on which folder I search within. Yes, I know there are applications which will find people by pattern recognition of their faces, but from what I've heard, those results end up in a shoebox of 400 faces which you still have do your own confirmation of each one if it's the person you told the application to look for. Why not just put the names in within a day or two of taking the photo and when you are sure of who they are. The YYMMDD code allows you to chronologically sort by Year, Month, Day by simply clicking on the NAME field of EXPLORE (if you're in the Details display mode). I found early on that I could not trust the Date Taken and Date Modified fields because if I cropped, resized, compressed, and named the photo, that would change those dates from the original date to the current date I processed the photo. That's why I began adding the date field myself. Without the code, I'd still be in shoebox mode, and not sure what was in each shoebox. With the code in place, it's very easy for me to identify the date the photo was taken by copying the name field into the identifying field in the .html code for displaying a photo on-line.
With word-processed text instead of handwritten pages, one cane easily search for names of people, places, and things and get the time when the text was written. Try searching through a year of handwritten pages to find something you remember happening during that year, and you'll realize quickly the difference in the two forms of records.
My transcription work has already yielded some benefits. Take a look down at my two Commentaries for this month's Issue. 4. ROOTS OF DIGESTWORLDtm and 5. BACKWARDS CAUSATION. These are two early free-writing exercises which I could share with you with minimal modification.
LAST MINUTE EVENTS
January is the birthday month of three of our kids, my two oldest and youngest offspring, Maureen and Robert, and Del's youngest, Stoney. Del took Maureen, who lives locally, to Commander's Palace for lunch on her birthday. I insisted on a photo of the event and got the above selfie. This was Maureen's first visit to the famous restaurant and, seeing all the balloons and musicians, she asked Del if there was a party going on. Sort of, Del said, this is their typical Saturday Brunch festivities.
January is also the month of annual meetings for Timberlane Improvement Association and my club. At the TIA it was a pleasure to have good reports about the association and the state of Timberlane Estates. The new Mayor of Gretna, Belinda Constant, and our two councilmen shared what Gretna is doing to refurbish our streets. When the Parish decided some twenty or so years ago to lower the levels in the parish drainage canals the land under the streets began to dry up down to the new level of the canals. Drier soil compressed more than moist soil and thus the streets began to become speed bumps. The minor repairs over the years have only fixed patches of the broken and buckled concrete streets and it's time for some major overhaul. It's a shame that the persons who made the idiotic decision to lower the canal water level can't be made to paid for the damages their actions caused.
The head of the Timberlane Golf and Country Club spoke of the fund-raising activities which have sprouted up in the last year to allow improvements to the clubhouse (new roof and amenities) and the golf course (new bunkers, drainage, etc). Looks like the golf course will be a vibrant force in the community for a long time to come.
EVERY GOOD THING MUST COME TO A NEW BEGINNINGIMPORTANT MESSAGE:
The past 31 days of this New Year has been a month of frigid, rainy days during which we gradually recovered from our horrendous head colds, staying inside except for short local trips. This next month of February will have a month between the Super Bowl and our Mardi Gras celebration, something much preferred after several years of them colliding and interfering with each other. We have Mardi Gras balls and parades to look forward to in February when other parts of the country have blizzards in sight, perhaps even one as a lesson for the NFL's scheduling their Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium above the Mason-Dixon line. Having endured through a month of no flowering blooming except our hardy camellias, we eagerly await our Japanese Magnolias, azaleas, and flowering fruit trees by the end of February. Till we meet again in the gusty, but Spring-like days of March, God Willing and the River Don't Rise, whatever you do, wherever in the world you and yours reside, be it blizzardy or balmy,
Remember our earnest wish for this new year of 2014:
MAY THE WORLD BECOME PEACEFUL AND SERENE IN TWENTY-FOURTEEN
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Quotes Selected from quotes.htm this month:
- Always give without remembering,
always receive without forgetting.
Nino Qubein (Author)From Flowers of Shanidar, A 1990 Book of Poetry by Bobby Matherne
Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious.
Cyril Connolly (Author)
Success is a poison that should be only taken late in life, then only in small doses.
Anthony Trollope (Author)
Of the Gettysburg Address: it was not the Union forces that were fighting for government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but the people of the southern states.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Reality is a cliche from which we escape by metaphor.
Wallace Stevens (Author)
INTRODUCTIONIn a small dark cave in the hills of Northern Iraq near the Turkish border the excavator Ralph Solecki found in 1960 the bones of a young man placed in the recess between two large boulders. Analysis of the remains from the cave of Shanidar determined that the burial occurred over 60,000 years ago.
Soil samples collected near the bones were only analyzed several years later and produced a quite unexpected result. Ordinarily a small random assortment of pollen grains would be found in funereal soil samples, but the Shanidar soil analysis revealed thousands of pollen grains from wild flowers of the region. Flowers of rose mallow, hollyhocks, hyacinths, and other indigenous varieties of flowers had been systematically collected and transported to the cave of Shanidar as a funerary tribute.
Astonished, the scientists were confronted with the earliest known evidence of a burial ritual. From the very dawn of mankind a message had come down to us, written in pollen grains from the flowers of Shanidar, of the birth of a new consciousness — the consciousness of death.
How far have we progressed in the knowledge of ultimate destinations in the 600 centuries since that funeral celebration? As we stand before the door to the new millennium, do we dare to knock? Are we ready for the new flowers of Shanidar and the birth of consciousness that will surely accompany our passage into that new era?
These poems are from Bobby Matherne’s 1990 book of poetry, Flowers of Shanidar and have never been published on the Internet before. Here in the beginning of the new millennium, we are publishing each month five poems, one from each Chapter of the book. (Flowers drawn by Artist Maureen Grace Matherne)
1. Chapter: Hollyhocks
My Own Mountain
I build my mountain every day
Rock by rock and clay by clay
Each perched and shoveled into its place:
The result's an imposing edifice.
The mountains of others are easy to see,
In myths we explore them repetitively,
What a revelation so glorious
When someday we find the mountain in us.
We hike up the mountain of Oedipus
We may complain of the tortuous pace.
So why, we think, would any mother's son
Build up such an unwieldy contraption?
We examine the slope of Sisyphus
He rolls up his rocks with many a cuss.
He'd never believe us if ever we said
The rocks that he rolls are all in his head.
Well-meaning friends may explain the cause:
How the rocky path is strewn with our flaws;
When they point out the reason that I complain,
"Don't bother me,
I'm building my mountain," I quickly exclaim.
You want to know about the frog?
I know a lot about him.
I saw him swimming in a pond,
Saw his long, powerful tail and short, tiny legs.
You ask if I ever saw him jump?
I never saw him out of the water,
And I doubt that he could jump at all.
You ask if his legs might be a tasty treat?
Maybe, but they are too small to cook and eat.
You ask me if I really knew the frog?
Yes, though all I saw him do was swim,
I personally knew a lot about him.
3. Chapter: Rainbows & Shadows4. Chapter: Rainbows & Shadows
This month, as we near the completion of Bobby's first book of Poetry, Flowers of Shanidar, we continue with a poem from his second book of Poetry, Rainbows & Shadows (1995). This month we read
All Powerful Teacher
Perhaps when we learn
in our own way
God learns in
God's own way.
That would make us —
teachers of God.
5. Chapter: Violets
This month, as we near the completion of Bobby's first book of Poetry, Flowers of Shanidar, we continue with a poem from his second book of Poetry, Rainbows & Shadows (1995). This month we read
A Content Model
Scientists have been content
of time and space
And objects that each
have their place
In this Cartesian duality.
But this model has been rent
by Quantum Physics after-shocks
For it has shown us the paradox
of zero size
have infinite energy,
a process that belies
any content at all.
There is no ghost in the machine —
we might look in vain
for its case,
and its gears.
For as we examine ever more closely,
What we call machine
becomes more ghostly,
And what we thought was cat
we find out in the end
Was nothing more than an
eerie, ghostly grin.
I split a millisecond the other day —
There ought to be another way —
It sang and danced on the head of a pin
And would not let a minute in.
I split a millisecond the other day,
An hour more than I dared to stay.
It frolicked carefree in a fairy ring,
Kicking its heels to a highlander fling.
I split a millisecond the other day
And twenty-seven children came over to play:
They sang and they danced till well into morn
When to their delight a new day was born.
I split infinity with the whole of my life
As carefully as a cake with a knife,
I took a big bite of life with my kin,
A puzzle with an enigma on each end.
I split a millisecond the other day
And for a fortnight it would not go away.
New Stuff on the Internet:
- View Michael Paul Smith's Fictional Village of Elgin Park and its Vintage Vehicles. All models. Click Here! and sit back and relax. [Thanks to Ed Murphy for sending this along!]
Movies we watched this past month:Notes about our movies: Many of the movies we watch are foreign movies with subtitles. After years of watching movies in foreign languages, Arabic, French, Swedish, German, British English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and many other languages, sometimes two or three languages in the same movie, the subtitles have disappeared for us. If the movie is dubbed in English we go for the subtitles instead because we enjoy the live action and sounds of the real voices so much more than the dubbed. If you wonder where we get all these foreign movies from, the answer is simple: NetFlix. For a fixed price a month they mail us DVD movies from our on-line Queue, we watch them, pop them into a pre-paid mailer, and the postman effectively replaces all our gas-consuming and time-consuming trips to Blockbuster. To sign up for NetFlix, simply go to http://www.netflix.com/ and start adding all your requests for movies into your personal queue. If you've seen some in these movie blurbs, simply copy the name, click open your queue, and paste the name in the Search box on NetFlix and Select Add. Buy some popcorn and you're ready to Go to the Movies, 21st Century Style. You get to see your movies as the Director created them — NOT-edited for TV, in full-screen width, your own choice of subtitles, no commercial interruptions, and all of the original dialogue. Microwave some popcorn and you're ready to Go to the Movies, 21st Century Style. With a plasma TV and Blu-Ray DVD's and a great sound system, you have theater experience without someone next to you talking on a cell phone during a movie plus a Pause button for rest room trips.Hits (Watch as soon as you can. A Don't Miss Hit is one you might otherwise have missed along the way.):
P. S. Ask for Blu-Ray movies from NetFlix, and if it says DVD in your Queue, click and select Blu-Ray version."Queen to Play"(2009) Kevin Kline stars as writer who teaches his maid to play chess and to become a star in her own life. A DON’T MISS HIT ! ! !
"The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch"(2008) Kristen Scott Thomas takes over after billionaire head of her firm is found dead and his son is found stuffed in jail in South America on drug charges. Can Largo loom large again in the world and replace his father and dispatch those who killed him in this Latino Jason Bourne gets revenge flick?
"Lovelace" (2013) a star-filled cast including Amanda Seyfried, Chris Noth, Sharon Stone, James Franco, and Eric Roberts — see how many you can spot. Guess who plays Hugh Hefner. A docu-drama of Linda Lovelace's 17 days as a porn queen and the deep drama surrounding those life-changing two weeks.
"The Third Man" (1949) a film noir tour of post-WWII Vienna with Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles (Harry Lime) as our guides. A DON'T MISS HIT! ! ! (See also DW#104)
"2 Guns" (2013) Washington & Wahlberg in drug bust turned into bank robbery turned into CIA vs DEA vs US Navy operation without cooperation.
"Downton Abbey" (2014) Season 4, Episode 1 Mary recovers from her inordinate grief and takes interest in Downton, Charlie Carson's old buddy gets a hand up and relays message to Carson.
"Ring of Fire" (2010) is what June Carter fell into after she wrote the song for Johnny Cash and helped keep his career clear of pills and drugs. This is her story not his story.
"Wild Target" (2010) Bill Nighy as hit man who hits on his wild target. A laugh riot from beginning to end. A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! !
"Home Run" (2013) about a major leaguer relegated to coaching his son's little league while he battles the bottle.
"Smart People" (2008)in grief can need a doctor, especially a pretty one.
Dirty Pretty Things" (2002) " Audrey Tatou as illegal from Turkey in London trying to get to NYC and getting help from illegal from Nigeria who pulls a fast one on Senor Juan before they leave.
"Love & Other Drugs" (2010) Jake (the ADHD Viagara salesman) and (Anne Hathaway the Parkinson stage 1) deal with drugs & other loves while enjoying multiple rolls in the hay. A DON'T MISS HIT ! !
"Dirty Pretty Things" (2002) Audrey Tatou as illegal from Turkey in London trying to get to NYC and getting help from illegal from Nigeria who pulls a fast one on Senor Juan before they leave. See also DW#109
"Love & Other Drugs" (2010) Jake (the ADHD Viagara salesman) and (Anne Hathaway the Parkinson stage 1) deal with drugs & other loves while enjoying multiple rolls in the hay. A DON'T MISS HIT ! !
"Made in Dagenham" (2010) about a strike by women in a Ford plant for equal wages back in the 1960s. A DON'T MISS THESE MISSES HIT ! !
"Crusade: A March Through Time" (2006) a Holland soccer teen flubs a last second kick and decides to sneak a ride in time back before the kick to win the game, which he does, but not before he ends up in the Children's Crusade to Jerusalem in the 13th Century. Teen becomes the Duke of Rotterdam before that city was founded. A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! !
"Take Me Home" (2011) a distraught woman executive hires a cab and tells him to just drive. When she awoke the next morning in rural Pennsylvania heading west, she hired him to take her to her dad in a hospital near San Diego. An series of challenges greet them along the way which they manage to overcome with cooperation and ingenuity. Will she take her husband back or the hack? A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! !
"Manhattan" (1979) Woody Allen's love song to the city and two women, Muriel Hemingway and Diane Keaton. A great look back at the 1970s and Woody's comedic stylings.
"The Last Picture Show" (1971) in the dust-bowl-like world of west Texas where how you tackled in football game last night was more important than who you slept with. Big stars in dirty blue jeans and bobby socks which come off on-screen while the Korean War looms for draft age teens. A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! !
"Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) "Peggy Sue Got Married. Case closed" said Peggy as she gets a chance to revisit her high school days during 25ath reunion. A back to the past with lots of great moments, "panty hose", "You bought an Edsel", "I'll never use algebra!" and even more. A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! !
"Lovely, Still" (2008 ) Landau and Burstyn in a tender and beautiful love story with a surprise ending. Great first movie by 23-year-old movie director. A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! !
"Edison, The Man" (1940) Spencer Tracy portrays the industrious inventor of the light bulb and many other devices.
"Family" (2013) This De Niro flick is a bloody and at times hilarious DON'T MISS ANYBODY HIT!
"The Big Wedding" (2013) was a De Niro melange of variously-related parts of a large family and it was hilarious to the FUNth degree! A DON'T MISS HIT! ! ! !
"Knight and Day" (2010) one of two federal agents has gone haywire: is it the IM Guy or the 24 Guy? The MacGuffin is a new-type battery which leads countries and companies on a merry chase after Cruise and Diaz, the Blitz and the Ditz, across continents and oceans, an grossly impossible set of stunts filled with enough melodramatic sighs by Cameron to fill 25 year of Guiding Light soap operas. A DON'T MISS HIT !
"The Lone Ranger" (2013) story makes it to the big screen, warts and all, in a 21st Century caricature of the beloved hero of the 1950s on TV, explaining why he wears the mask, uses silver bullets, rides a white horse, how he got this name, and why he has a taciturn Indian companion named Tonto. All in a fun, humorous story, filled with completely impossible stunts which drives the story along like a runaway express train. Prepare to have your credibility stretched and your leg pulled. A DON'T MISS HIT !!!!
"Looper" (2012)(See also DW#134) Joseph Gordon-Levitt is made up to look like a younger Bruce Willis and is charged to kill his older self who doesn't like the idea one bit. What's Joe to do to keep the future safe from an immense blunder? A DON'T MISS HIT UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL! !
"Children of Men" (2006) (See also See DW#078) A dystopic world with no births is falling apart and grieving over the youngest man's death at age 18. Into this collapsing world a young pregnant girl appears in her 8th month —, but can she survive the bloody fighting on her way to Tomorrow?
"Blue Jasmine" (2013) Woody hits another one out of the park! Cate Blanchett stars in Oscar worthy title role as a complex woman without a life after she led her to husband to hang himself and then she hung herself out to dry. A DON'T MISS HIT ! ! ! !
"Last Vegas" (2013) The Flatbush Four (DeNiro, Klein, Freeman, and Douglas) meet 58 years later in Vegas, for the gamble of loving, unfold a secret love story, and create a renewed friendship. A DON'T MISS HIT !!!
Misses (Avoid At All Costs): We attempted to watch these this month, but didn't make it all the way through on most of them. Awhile back when three AAAC horrors hit us in one night, I decided to add a sub-category to "Avoid at All Costs", namely, A DVD STOMPER. These are movies so bad, you don't want anyone else to get stuck watching them, so you want to stomp on the disks. That way, if everyone else who gets burnt by the movie does the same, soon no copies of the awful movie will be extant and the world will be better off."Perfect Sense" (2011) is perfect nonsense. The world ends without a whimper, in the dark.
"Burnt by the Sun" (1994) of the revolution in Russia is theme and chaos is the continuity of the story. Multiple plotlines cut in and out and tanks rolls in a wheat field and nothing makes much sense.
"The Portrait of a Lady" (1996) Isabel Archer misses the mark in this boring movie.
"Drive" (2011) starts out fast but soon goes into Neutral and ends up in Park, maybe Reverse. Bloody awful as an American might say it. (This turkey we blurbed first in DW#25, and I won't bother to try to write a better one this time.)
Your call on these — your taste in movies may differ, but I liked them:"Elysium" (2013) a dream of crashing into Heaven to pick the pockets of the wealthy to bring medical care to the poor, does that sound vaguely familiar, powers this high-budget Hollywood-message turkey.
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Le Boudreaux Cajun Cottage, drawn by and Copyright 2011 by Paulette Purser, Used by Permission
The phone rang in the rectory of St. Martin's parish church, and Monsignor Thibodaux answered it.
The voice on the line said, "Hello, is this Father Thibodaux?"
"Mais oui, dat's me!"
"Father, I'm James Smith with the Internal Revenue Service. Can you help me?"
"Yes, what do you need my son?"
"Do you know a Mister Boudreaux in your church?"
"Bien sur! Boudreaux has been long time a long time parishoner of St. Martin's."
"That's good. Can you tell me if Mr. Boudreaux has donated $10,000 to your church?"
"He will, Ah guarantee!"
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5. Recipe or Household Hint for February, 2014 from Bobby Jeaux:
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =Keep Bread Fresh
Background on Keeping Bread Fresh: We've been buying Pepperidge Farm Whole Wheat bread for many years. It has a heavy texture and great taste and is especially good when toasted. With only Del and I here most of the time, the last few slices of the bread would get mold on them after being on the counter for about one week or so. When that happened we'd just throw the pieces away. But about six months ago, I read where bakery companies were processing their loaves by heating for a short time in the microwave and that prevented mold from forming. So I decided to experiment with our bread. Since doing this process decribed below, we have lost no end slices of a loaf to mold. The minor amount of steam formed kills any mold spores. Give it a try. [Be sure that the bread wrapper and its twist tie contain no metal such as a wire in the twist tie or any aluminum foil which might spark and catch fire. Remove any twist ties, and Test the loaf or 5 seconds. If you see sparks, stop the oven because this bread can't be processed while in that wrapper.]
One loaf of bread still in its plastic wrapper.
When I get a new loaf, I place it in the microwave oven for 25 seconds without opening it. Our Whole Wheat loafs have a double wrapper and that inside wrapper holds the slight amount of steam which kills any mold spores.
NEW LOAF: place unopened in oven and run on HIGH for 25 seconds. The bread should feel slight warm afterward. HALF LOAF: place the half loaf with its cover folded under the bread to hold the steam in and run on HIGH for 15 seconds. QUARTER LOAF: place the quarter loaf (four or so pieces) with its cover folded under the bread to hold the steam in and run on HIGH for 8 seconds.
None of this processing should change the texture or taste of the bread, but it keep the bread fresh on the bread board for over two weeks without forming any mold.
I have only tested it for whole wheat bread with heavy texture, for light texture and white bread loaves, test it and if bread gets too soft, use about half the amount of time and test on a new loaf later. CAUTION: always test the wrapper of any new loaf for five seconds by watching for any sparks due to presence of metallic material in the wrapper or twist ties. I have seen no wrappers like this, but you should be careful of new wrappers and twist ties and test (or remove)them before processing the bread.
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6. POETRY NOTES by Various Poets and Critics:
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =Many years ago I received this list of what makes a poem memorable or forgettable by well-known poets and/or critics. I have striven to make my poems fall into the memorable category. These quotations have been newly added to my Quotations page. Bobby Matherne
What makes a poem memorable?
What makes a poem forgettable?
Name of Journal
Name of Author
A fresh take on abiding themes, technical command and finesse, an ear, an eye, poise of thought, depth of feeling.
The absence of the above — usually evident very first line.
The Yale Review
Those that have a stunning combination of musicality with unique or unexpected imagery on any topic.
One that states the obvious in an obvious way.
The Northern Centinel
Ellen Rachlin and Lucie Aidinoff
A poem is most memorable when it surprises, when it creates poetry anew, when it truly "makes" rather than arrives as the "made over" work I generally see. This does not mean, however, that the poem is successful.
Sameness and safety — many of these are publishable, but merely so.
Striking imagery and unusual slants on ideas, expressed in lines exquisitely crafted to carry an individual voice.
Mundane imagery more than anything else.
Southern Poetry Review
Sharp images, apt writing, strong rhythm.
The Gettysburg Review
Urgency. Clarity. Formal rigor (be it "free" or metered verse), language that expresses both a lively, curious mind and an empathetic heart.
Pre-packaged ideas, language that takes the safest,"you have already been approved!"
approach to its subjects. Cynicism.
A poem with content that touches us at a deep level; that uses language beautifully, movingly; that has images that are relevant, moving, striking, used in an original manner; clarity of thought; fresh perspective; original ideas.
Poetry with no depth or beauty of language/image and without significant content;
unoriginal imagery or subject matter; inappropriate subject matter (i.e., glorification of war).
Originality of subject and expression, and rhythm.
Triteness, antiquated language, excessive ego.
Sophistication and accessibility. I believe the best poems appeal to the widest audience. I especially value visceral poems with uncanny, accurate images. I appreciate well-crafted poems, too. I want urgent poems I can't forget. Poems so lyrical they leap off the page.
Self-indulgence. Poetry is art, not therapy. If you can incorporate the two, that's a plus.
Ultimately, though, sheer (or un-bridled) emotion isn't enough to carry a poem.
A distinctive voice, imagery that is tactile and accurate, music, craft, care. Language.
The absence of those qualities.
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7. REVIEWS and ARTICLES for February:
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For our Good Readers, here are the reviews and articles featured this month. The first review of each month will be one which was published before the first DIGESTWORLD ISSUE in 2000 and will be of interest to our new Good Readers. The rest of the items will be new additions to the top of A Reader?s Journal, Volume 2, Chronological List, new additions to A Reader?s Treasury, or Essays previously unpublished, unless otherwise noted.
NOTE: some Blurbs may be condensations of the Full Reviews, lacking footnotes and many quoted passages. For your convenience, if you wish to read the full review or to print it out, simply CLICK on the Book Cover and choose Printer Ready option at the top left corner.
The first review is from 2002, which appeared only as a short one paragraph blurb in DW#25, so we include it in full for the first time in this issue. The second review this month is from 1999, and although it is a highly popular review, it has not appeared in a DIGESTWORLD Issue, up until now. Hope you enjoy it.
1.) ARJ2: Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood
The blurb on the book jacket sums it up: "What is the role of the writer? Prophet? High Priest of Art? Court Jester? Or witness to the real world?" In the title to Chapter 1, Atwood asks, "Who Do You Think You Are?" This question spoken colloquially means "stop being so pretentious" — an epithet that could easily be thrown at any writer I can think of. One is not a writer unless one pretends to have something important to say and puts ones words before the world for it to decide whether that is the case or not. Basically a writer works for oneself, is both the employer and the employee, and as such, must write their own job description.
[page xvi] The broad subject proposed was, more or less, Writing, or Being a Writer, and since I've done that and been one, you'd think I'd have something to say. I thought so too; what I had in mind was a grand scheme in which I would examine the various self-images — the job descriptions, if you like — that writers have constructed for themselves over the years.
On pages xx through xxii of her Introduction she gives a long list of motives from "To record the world as it is" to "To give back something of what has been given to me." I read through all of those and didn't find one that suited me, so I added my entry to the end of her list, "Because I like to write."
[page xxiv] Possibly, then, writing has to do with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out to the light. This book is about that kind of darkness, and that kind of desire.
So, "into the darkness we write" in the words of Nancy Mairs in Voice Lessons. At the head of Chapter 1, Atwood asks if "the writing life" is not an oxymoron. In other words, "I have no life — I'm a writer." Samuel Johnson, who gave his own job description as follows: "a harmless drudge," knew the paradox of the writing life. In a story she tells us later on page 101, the Devil comes to a writer and says, "I will make you the best, most famous writer of your time. You will be influential and your fame and glory will last for all time. All you have to do is sell me your grandmother, your mother, your wife, your kids, your dog, and your soul." The writer quickly reaches for the pen begins to sign the contract, and suddenly he pauses and looks up and asks, "Wait a minute, what's the catch?"
Maybe it takes a writer to understand what makes this funny. I say this because several people I told the story to laughed, but upon questioning did not really understand what was going on. If the writers among you will bear with me, I'll give a quick explanation for the non-writers who may be puzzled. To work as a writer, one usually has already given up one's family, one's dog, and one's soul, basically all the things the Devil was asking him to sell away. Put another way, the challenge of any writer is to ply one's trade without having to give up all the other things besides writing that goes into what is called living.
Who does a writer write for? What is a book's function? Where is the writer when the reader is reading? These questions comprise the theme of Chapter 5 "Communion - Nobody to Nobody." The third question she answers this way:
[page 126] If you really are in the habit of reading other people's letters and diaries, you'll know the answer to that one straightaway: when you are reading, the writer is not in the same room. If he were, either you'd be talking together, or he'd catch you in the act.
And, if a writer is writing in a diary, for whom is the writing intended? Does one communicate with the future? She notes what Winston Smith in Orwell's 1984 said on the subject.
[page 128] How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.
Ah, I thought as I read his words, but the present, pithily captured on paper, will offer a view of the past that will be unique in itself and entrancing, such as the presents captured by Samuel Pepys or Anne Frank.
There is a paradox of being a successful writer — the very things that you did that brought you success are undermined by the things that success brings you. One cannot write during a grueling 37 city book signing tour, for example. Cyril Connolly said, as she points out on page 136, "Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious." Why that's foolishness, some of you may be thinking, good writers grind out one book right after another. Indeed they do, but are we talking about books or literature? Connolly goes on to quote Trollope as saying (page 136) "Success is a poison that should be only taken late in life, then only in small doses." One can avoid the "poison of success" if one is successful at avoiding success as a writer while one is yet writing.
[page 55] What is the nature of the crucial moment - the moment in which the writing takes place? If we could ever catch them in the act, we might have a clearer answer. But we never can. Even if we are writers ourselves, it is very hard for us to watch ourselves in mid-write, as it were: our attention must be focused then on what we are doing, not on ourselves.
In a new work titled "Yes, and Even More," I tackled this question by keeping track of what was happening while I was writing the poemlets that comprise the book. The notes began as a record of where I was, what I was doing, watching, etc., as I was inspired to write a certain poemlet. At times the notes began to dominate the piece they were supposed to be meta-comments about, even including poems in the notes. Fun with form is what I thought at the time.
On May 13, 2002 at 8:13 AM, as I was reading the above Atwood quote from page 55, I was writing down a note for the above paragraph about "Yes, and Even More" in the margins of the book as I was driving west on Interstate 20, going uphill and down, crossing 241, Exit Loop 170 nearing Abilene, Texas, smelling a dead skunk in the middle of a bumpy road. The day was cool and clear. With all this documentation, you can check for yourself with maps and weather reports whether these notes are fictional or an actual representation of a real event. You'll have to take my word about the dead skunk.
"Where is the writer when the reader is reading?" Remember that question? If we can hear the writer's voice inside of our self as we read the writer's words, we might say that the writer's inside of us talking.
[page 148] As the Russian writer Abram Tertz says in his story "The Icicle," "Look, I'm smiling at you. I'm smiling in you, I'm smiling through you. How can I be dead if I breathe in every quiver of your hand?"
This idea of a voice of the writer in our head as we read it registered in me in a new way when I got to meet in person a man that I had emailed for some seven years. The voice I heard in my head when I read his words turned out to be very different from the voice of the man himself. His face and body were also different. Only his words were true to him, everything else was an illusion that I had built up inside of myself in the process of understanding his words. So here I am, one writer, and every one of you readers out there are hearing a different voice in your head and seeing a different me. How can a writer ever have control over the voices and faces that anonymous readers will conjure up some distant time and place in the future?
[page 157] Despite all the remarks about enduring fame and leaving a name behind them that are strewn about in the letters and poems of writers, I had not thought much about writing per se as being a reaction to the fear of death — but once you've got hold of an idea, the proofs of it tend to proliferate(1).
The writer's concern with death brings with it an "intimation of transience, of evanescence, and thus of mortality, coupled with the urge to indite." As I read these words, I ponder on the process of reincarnation where one spends the time between death and a new birth in the spiritual world preparing for one's next lifetime. No where are we more sure of the transience of life than in our time between death and a new birth. Thus we form the impulse to write ("the urge to indite") and carry this with us into our life on Earth. Where does the urge or impulse come from? In the time between our previous death and our birth into this life, we planned out our present life: chose our parents, our life's circumstances, etc. Once we arrived on Earth all our plans for the karmic working out of our lifetime are only perceptible to us while in the sleeping state. Here's how Rudolf Steiner says it The Mystery of the Trinity and the Mission of the Spirit:
[page 132] All human beings perceive their karma, but only in the sleeping state. The afterimage or afterglow of this perception slips into our waking state through our feelings.
Thus the urge, the impulse comes from karmic plans we made long before this lifetime on Earth, during a time when we were certainly aware of the "transience of life" and the short time we will have on Earth to accomplish our lifetime's karmic goals. We can no more explain why we feel the impulse to write than we can recover the karmic plans that we are aware of during deep, dreamless sleep. Yet, the impulse, the urge bleeds through as an afterglow of our sleeping-time awareness and prods us on. Atwood asks:
[page 158] Why should it be that writing, over and beyond any other art or medium, that should be linked so closely with anxiety about one's own personal final extinction?
I thought as I read those words that she was asking the wrong question, but then I thought, "What is the right question to be asking?" Perhaps for Atwood writing seems set apart from the other arts because she is a writer? I think I will hold that as an unanswered question for now. Here's her attempt at answering her own question:
[page 158] Surely that's partly because of the nature of writing — its apparent permanence, and the fact that it survives its own performance - unlike, for instance, a dance recital. If the act of writing charts the process of thought, it's a process that leaves a trail, like a series of fossilized footprints. Other art forms can last and last — painting, sculpture, music — but they do not survive as voice. And as I've said, writing is writing down, and what is written down is a score for voice, and what the voice most often does . . . is tell a story. Something unfurls, something reveals itself. The crooked is made straight, or, the age being what it is, possibly more crooked; at any rate there's a path. There's a beginning, there's an end, not necessarily in that order; but however you tell it, there's a plot. The voice moves through time, from one event to another, or from one perception to another, and things change, whether in the mind alone or in the outside world. Events take place, in relation to other events. That's what time is. It's one damn thing after another, and the important word in that sentence is after.
Some stories have sad endings and some have happy endings, but the ending of the story itself is a sad event as anyone who has ever read a wonderful story knows: one does not want the story to end. Like when I reached the end of Atwood's book: I wanted more and there was only blank end pages left. Here is her thoughts on this subject:
[page 173] And so it is with all happy endings of all books, when you come to think about it. you can't go home again, said Thomas Wolfe; but you can, sort of, when you write about it. But then you reach the last page. A book is another country. You enter it, but then you must leave: like the Underworld, you can't live there.
You, as a living writer, may not be able to live there, but certainly your words can live there and find new voices with every generation.
Footnote 1. See Lynn Segal's Book Dream of Reality for an epistemological basis for Atwood's statement that "once you've got hold of an idea, the proofs of it tend to proliferate." Here's the pertinent quote from Segal:"Once a concept is constructed, it is immediately externalized so that it appears to the subject as a perceptually given property of the object and independent of the subject's own mental activity. The tendency for mental activities to become automatized and for their results to be perceived as external to the subject is what leads to the conviction that there is a reality independent of thought."
Return to text directly before Footnote 1.
2.) ARJ2: The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
This book contains a comprehensive exposition of Allan Bloom's views on education and expands on the view he expresses in his long introduction to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile or On Education. One need only read "Emile" to discover the truth of Bloom's statement that a reading of original texts allows one to form a vital understanding of issues that a reading of shallow rehashes of such texts does not. Bloom discusses in this book two types of Openness, how he proposes to re-invigorate college curriculum, and how his suggestion to use original texts [Great Books] is vilified by the Three great parts of the University today, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities.
A paradoxical aspect of Bloom's book is that he deals with two forms of openness and goes on to show how what is called openness in the first form actually amounts to a "closing of the mind". Here are two kinds of openness and the effects that Bloom says each has on students:
I. Openness of indifference — humbling of intellectual pride; be whatever you want to be.
A. Stunts students' desire for self-discovery by making all endeavors of equal value.
B. Leads to the abandonment of their requirements to take languages and study philosophy of science
C. Activates their amour-propre — self-love or esteem based on others' opinions (polls)
D. Teaches them a loose interpretation of documents such as the Constitution, a waffling philosophy based on "it all depends".
E. Closes them to doubt about so many things impeding progress. (page 42)
II. Openness to the quest for knowledge and certitude — history and cultures as examples
A. Encourages students to want to know what things from history and culture are good for them, what will make them happy.
B. Activates their amour-soi - natural and healthy self-love or esteem arising from within oneself independent of the opinions of others.
C. Teaches them a close interpretation of the Constitution — "government of laws" D. Teaches them that a true openness means a closed-ness to all the charms that make us comfortable with the present.(page 42)
How does one question this Openness I, amour-propre, which is based on a philosophical premise that is recursive, that develops its own proof out of itself?
[page 39] This premise is unproven and dogmatically asserted for what are largely political reasons. History and culture are interpreted in the light of it, and then are said to prove the premise.
This is the Great Closing that Bloom promises in the title of his book:
[page 34] Actually openness [ Openness I ] results in American conformism - out there in the rest of the world is a drab diversity that teaches only that values are relative, whereas here we can create all the life-styles we want. Our openness means we do not need others. Thus what is advertised as a great opening is a great closing. No longer is there a hope that there are great wise men in other places and times who can reveal the truth about life — except for the few remaining young people who look for a quick fix from a guru. . . . None of this concerns those who promote the new curriculum.
Note: this is the debate that has been raging in Congress for the past 12 months: the opponents of presidential removal taking the Openness I or amour-propre position, and the supporters of president removal taking the Openness II or amour-soi position. Opponents say it makes no difference whether he committed these "trivial" acts of perjury and obstruction of justice and the supporters say the certitude of justice requires that commission of the acts of perjury and obstruction of justice require an accounting no matter who does it. The enormous public debate has as its basis these two issues of openness that Allan Bloom wrote about in the middle 1980's and published in this book.
The meanings of the two forms of self-esteem are taken from Bloom's Introduction to his translation of Emile, the famous book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, where, on page 11 he explains what he means by amour-propre and contrasts it with amour-soi. Again one is struck by the poll-based self-esteem arising from others that the opponents of the president's removal tout so highly, which contrasts dramatically with the self-esteem based on the interpretation of the Constitution of the supporters of removal.
That first form of openness, the openness of indifference or amour-propre, is at the root of the wave of relativism that swept into university campuses in the 1960's, actually broke down the doors, occupied administrative offices, and held professors at gunpoint . This openness is a relativism that says "all endeavors are of equal value" — that the study of Shakespeare equal, eg, to the study of how hummingbirds fly.
Using these concepts of amour propre and amour soi of Rousseau, Bloom shows that this relativism is based on a self-esteem that comes from others' opinions, a poll-based self-esteem. So that what determines the curriculum is what's popular and easy to understand currently in society.
The other kind of openness he talks about is an openness to study historical and cultural texts and material in their original form, and to be open to develop one's own thoughts from them rather than accepting at first glance, without questioning, the opinions of so-called experts in the field in their textbooks, which may be scholarly but necessarily shallow rehashes of the original texts. Only by such independent and internal self-assessment can one arrive at amour soi — a self-love and esteem that comes from within oneself rather than from others opinions.
How does Allan Bloom say that we might re-invigorate the college and university curriculum? He suggests that a return to the use of original texts and materials is key. To assign students Dante's "Inferno" rather than a synopsis of classical poems to read. To read Shakespeare plays, not a critical review of his plays. To read Machiavelli, Hobbes, Kant, Freud in the original and to form one's own judgments as what are the important questions and what the answers to these questions are for oneself. That method can have the salubrious effect of actually leading the students to discover a great value, a vital understanding that can only come from directly confronting the authors in their original words in context, and from that discovery to create a royal road to future learning in their students hearts.
Bloom gives the reader one caveat: that we should avoid the mistake of the Great Books Groups who tend to treat the Books like dollars in a bank account where the goal is to get as many dollars in it as possible. The goal should be rather to emphasize as the goal the reading and questioning that arises during the reading — the process is what's important, not how many Books one reads.
During the decades of the 60's and 70's the onslaught of relativism was led by the Humanities professors because their fields lacked the objective criteria of the natural and social sciences. The other two fields were less affected by the revolution of relativism, but became alienated from the reading of the Great Books or original works of famous authors in their fields.
The Natural Sciences saw reading of the original works of natural scientists as a matter of mere historical interest, better suited for electives in the humanities, if a student were to choose one. With the increased specialization, however, fewer students took such electives. Besides that, their professors told them or implied by the disdain in their tone of voice that such electives were a waste of time and were an unnecessary detour on the way to a career in science.
The Social Sciences felt a bit threatened by the original texts because these Great Books were teaching many of the same subjects as they were, but in a way that allowed the students to think independently of what their professors would like them to. So the Social Scientists' attitude was that original texts were mostly irrelevant to any practical application, and if one wanted to study them, one should do so on one's own time. The Social Scientists' offered instead composite courses, trendiness, mere popularization and a lack of substantive rigor, all of which led Bloom to claim:
[page 340] The so-called knowledge explosion and increasing specialization have not filled up the college years but emptied them.
Meantime the natural sciences and the social sciences were still able to demonstrate a usefulness for their fields and stayed on track, a track that became more rigid and narrowed in focus, leading to careerism, producing a technological automaton rather than a whole human being. But the social sciences were not out of the woods because in their zest to get the facts that would characterize a true science they were seduced by the siren song of their agenda and led into making the facts fit their agenda rather than fostering an agenda which fit their facts.
[page 354] Hobbes said if the fact that two and two makes four were to become a matter of political relevance, there would be a faction to deny it.
This may sound farcical, if it weren't so true today. One need only look at the events surrounding the presidential impeachment and Senate trial to find ample examples of such denial. Bloom says that "all parties in a democracy are jeopardized when passion can sweep the facts before it." [page 355] Who would have thought the crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice would not add up to a crime that would remove an elected official from office?
Humanities professors had an unexpectedly tepid reaction to the Great Books that provide the very basis of the humanities. And indeed some professors are strong supporters of these classics, but some humanities disciplines are "crusty specialities" that would prefer to avoid the classics in their natural state. Other disciplines want to join the natural sciences and feel a need to overcome their "mythic past" as represented by the classic works that are their very foundation. As a result, humanities professors often attack the learning provided by the Great Books, but such attacks stem from the shallow teaching of scholarly re-hashes of the Great Books, rather than the "vital, authentic understanding" that can come from a direct reading and studying of the original books. Thus the Humanities whose curriculum stems from the Great Books tended to downplay the GB's — a criticism that was based more on the shallowness of scholarly rehashes of GB's than the GB's themselves. A common question of professors and students alike was, "Of what relevance is Shakespeare and Milton to current problems of the world?"
What happened during the Sixties is that the belief that no real standards existed outside of the natural sciences led to the "debauching and grade inflation" of the humanities and social sciences while the natural sciences remained largely intact. The humanities professors led a revolt that unfortunately redounded to their own near demise. The result for the Humanities professors has been less than a propitious one:
[page 352] The lack of student interest, the near disappearance of language study, the vanishing of jobs for Ph.D.'s, the lack of public sympathy, came from the overturning of the old order, where their place was assured. They have gotten what they deserved, but we have unfortunately all lost.
[page 353] Humanists ran like lemmings into the sea, thinking they would refresh and revitalize themselves in it. They drowned.
[page 19] The teacher . . . must constantly try to look toward the goal of human completeness and back at the natures of his students here and now.
Thus Bloom says teachers must, like Janus, look in two directions: into the present to assess the natures of their students and into the future to the goals of human completeness. One key seems to me from where do the teachers get the goals? From the students who are just becoming aware of their life's goals or from historical and cultural achievements as embodied in traditional curriculum? The other key is how shall the teacher to assess the natures of their students. By asking the students what they think they are capable of or interested in? Or by applying standards proven over the years to stretch students beyond their own perceptions of what they are capable of?
Bloom says on page 20 that the teacher should be like a midwife — someone who assists Nature in the birth of a robust child. The educated adult is not created by the teacher any more than the midwife is responsible for the creation of the baby whose birth they assist in.
For teachers to challenge students today with Openness II (amour-soi) concepts is to expose themselves to having the question thrown in their face, "Are you an absolutist?" And the question will be hurled with the same indignation as "Are you a racist?" or "Are you a bigot?" The attitude is one of: anyone with strong opinions, whether justified or not, is a "true believer" and is therefore a real and present danger to the student and the entire culture.
Bloom says on page 27, "But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?" How did we evolve or devolve to such a state? Bloom says that this state of affairs was foreshadowed when we attempted to get religious sects to adhere to the tenets of the Constitution by relegating religion to the "realm of opinion as opposed to knowledge." (page 28) Once this drastic change in epistemology was accomplished, it was a simple process to extend that same way of thinking to all beliefs, including the beliefs that supported traditional curriculums.
One foreshadowing of this switch from the traditional strictures of Openness II or amour-soi to the unfettered license of Openness I or amour-propre in our socio-political milieu came when Oliver Wendell Holmes cited the standard of "clear and present danger" to replace any principled approach to determining whether a given behavior is acceptable in our society. Again, the impeachment/removal debate of 1998 and 1999 reflects a deep debate over whether we will become a country that makes decisions based on this "imprecise and practically meaningless standard" or not. Bloom calls that a folly.
[page 30] This folly means that men are not permitted to seek for the natural human good and admire it when found, for such discovery is coeval [existing over the same time period] with the discovery of the bad and contempt for it. Instinct and intellect must be suppressed by education. The natural soul is to be replaced with an artificial one.
Gertrude Stein says in her Everybody's Autobiography, "To me when a thing is really interesting it is when there is no question and no answer, if there is then already the subject is not interesting and it is so, that is the reason that anything for which there is a solution is not interesting that is the trouble with governments and utopias and teaching, the things not that can be learnt but that can be taught are not interesting."
The basic prescription from Allan Bloom is that we put back some of what the 60's radicals removed in their haste for revolution and change. That, instead of revolution, we need evolution to a broad-based curriculum and that does not necessitate that we throw out the essentials of an education in the classics of culture and literature. That we must study wholes, not just bits and pieces of classics regurgitated in textbooks, but complete works of classical authors in context. That we must read original texts in order to achieve a vital, living understanding of the issues that form the background of our current world. That our understanding of these issues is every bit as crucial for future success as any career-specific training. The alternative is not to be savored:
[page 337] The practical effects of unwillingness to think positively about the contents of a liberal education are on the one hand, to ensure that all the vulgarities of the world outside the university will flourish within it, and, on the other, to impose a much harsher and more illiberal necessity on the student - the one given by the imperial imperious demands of the specialized disciplines unfiltered by unifying thought.
Instead of a unified scheme of liberal education, we find no organization, no "tree of knowledge", "no vision, no set of competing visions of what an educated human being is." Students in the face of a bewildering array of choices are left "dispirited", unable to make a reasonable choice. There is no hint of "great mysteries", "new and higher motives", and that human life might be improved by what he is about to learn. To counter this decisional malaise Bloom suggests that we develop models for a unified use of university resources so that, with the proliferation of current curriculum, the student has a glide path to an education rather than a tortuous random walk through a 400 page catalog.
All of these things together can only be implemented if there is a vision from the top. Only with such vision stemming from the university hegemonies can there be a re-focusing on the vital aspects of a university education. Only then can a liberal education in the classical sense arise once more.
Bloom sees that one form of openness, relativism or amour-propre, really amounts to a "closing of the American mind". He suggests that one way of re-invigorating the college curriculum is by adding back a study of the Great Books and classical authors whose books fell into disuse during the 1960's. With this kind of refocusing of educational resources and re-direction of college students he expect that students will come to understand that before one can really experience the thrill of liberation, one has to have something to really believe in. That experience of really believing can come whenever a student fully studies classical authors in their original works, and after fully believing in what they've read, learn to question and evaluate the beliefs those original authors held as self-evident to them.
Bloom sees that one form of openness, relativism or amour-propre, really amounts to a "closing of the American mind", and that the radicals who promote great plans to equalize economic and social opportunities are doomed to failure. It was a similar closing of the French people's mind that allowed popularly-supported paid vacations to become more important than national defense.
[page 239] As an image of our current intellectual condition, I keep being reminded of the newsreel pictures of Frenchmen splashing happily in the water at the seashore, enjoying the paid vacations legislated by Léon Blum's Popular Front government. It was 1936, the same year Hitler was permitted to occupy the Rhineland. All our big causes amount to that kind of vacation.
Bloom suggests that one way of re-invigorating the college curriculum is by adding back a study of the Great Books and classical authors whose books fell into disuse during the 1960's. With this kind of refocusing of educational resources and re-direction of college students he expect that students will come to understand that before one can really experience the thrill of liberation, one has to have something to really believe in. That experience of really believing can come whenever students fully study classical authors in their original works, and, after fully believing in what they've read, learn to question and evaluate the beliefs those original authors held as self-evident to them. Until we and our students do that for ourselves, we are like the shepherds in Bloom's metaphor:
[page 239] We are like ignorant shepherds living on a site where great civilizations once flourished. The shepherds play with the fragments that pop to the surface, having no notion of the beautiful structures of which they were once a part. All that is necessary is a careful excavation to provide them with life-enhancing models. We need history, not to tell us what happened, or to explain the past, but to make the past alive so that it can explain and make a future possible. This is our educational crisis and opportunity.
This metaphor reminds me of one crafted by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his Wisdom of the Sands (Original title in French: Citadelle).
[page 19] Thus men destroy their best possession, the meaning of things: on feast days they pride themselves on standing out against old custom, and betraying their traditions, and toasting their enemy. True, they may feel some qualm as they go about their deeds of sacrilege. So long as there is sacrilege. So long as there still is something against which they revolt. Thus for a while they continue trading on the fact that their foe still breathes, and the ghostly presence of the laws still hampers them enough for them to feel like outlaws. But presently the very ghost dissolves into thin air, and then the rapture of revolt is gone, even the zest of victory forgotten. And now they yawn. On the ruins of the palace they have laid out a public square; but once the pleasure of trampling its stones with upstart arrogance has lost its zest, they begin to wonder what they are doing here, on this noisy fairground. And now, lo and behold, they fall to picturing, dimly as yet, a great house with a thousand doors, with curtains that billow on your shoulders and slumbrous anterooms. Perchance they dream even of a secret room, whose secrecy pervades the whole vast dwelling. Thus, though they know it not, they are pining for my father's palace where every footstep had a meaning.
In the radical fervor of the 60's, great buildings of curriculum were torn to the ground, and now students and professors alike have begun once more picturing that great house, their father's university, "where every step had a meaning."
Bloom says that as a young teacher at Cornell he debated a professor of psychology who bragged about how he removed prejudices from his students. Bloom told the professor in rebuttal that he created prejudices in his students, beliefs that they could someday with work and diligence transcend.
In short, Bloom says, "One has to have the experience of really believing before one can have the thrill of liberation." That may indeed be the kind of "liberation" that is at the very root of what we mean by "liberal education."
3.) ARJ2: Humboldt's Gift — A Novel by Saul Bellow
The eponymous Humboldt's gift was the MacGuffin of the novel, as Hitchcock defined it, that is, a mysterious object sought by the characters in the story. Humboldt's Gift was also a book which eluded my own search for it when I returned from a trip to San Francisco without the book in my possession. I had bought the expensive red leather-bound Franklin Books edition and read about three-fourths of the book, filling it with my notes and marginalia as a guide to my review. Thus, I was doubly chagrined to find that the book did not return with me to New Orleans. Yes, I could buy another copy, but it would not have my notes in it. So I delayed for a couple of months, hoping my son might locate the book at his home in San Anselmo where we stayed for a week. Finally giving up on the book, I ordered an identical copy, and what plopped into my mailbox was a cheap hardback on acid paper which was already yellowing. I had to negotiate a return to amazon.com for the first time, which went well, by the way, and soon a replacement book was in my hands. Now what? Do I read the entire book again or simply finish reading the part from where I left off? If I had the original book in my hands it would easy to tell where I left off as I dog-ear the last page read and have date glyphes on places where I pick up reading. Absent these clues, I scanned through the book until I found a passage containing something familiar that I had read a month or so earlier.
The book plot is a "hero goes on a journey" starring the quintessential Chicagoan Charlie Citrine and his best friend Humboldt, already deceased, who had left him something as a parting gift, the MacGuffin. As I picked up the story line again, Charlie had been talked into going into a businessman's office with this guy, and when they arrived, the guy pulled out a gun to kill the businessman. Police arrived and were ready to handcuff Charlie also, but only had one pair of handcuffs. The secretary tried to talk the police out of the arrest by saying that Charlie was a poet, not a murderer. This droll episode led me to write a poem. Imagine a beat cop calling the police station to ask for help:
What's a Cop to Do?
Got me a poet here —
What am I supposed to do with a poet?
If I did, he could still spout poetry!
Put a gag on him?
Then he could still think poetry!
What's a cop to do with a poet?
This is life, not literature, Sarge.
We're too busy with life —
You know, arresting crooks and thugs —
We're too busy to lock up poets.
Can't I just let this guy go?
Please, Sarge —
Look at this —
He just wrote a poem about me.
Can I just let him go?
Please . . .
Bellow filled this book with dozens of such vignettes in Charlie's life as he wanders around thinking about Von Humboldt Fleisher, wondering about the gift, and searching for people who could him help him all the while trying to avoid his wife who is suing the literal pants off him as part of a nasty divorce.
Into Charlie's travails, Bellow mixed his own interest in the work of Rudolf Steiner. It was Bellow's interest in Rudolf Steiner which led me eventually to read this book. I had read none of Bellow's other novels, but I became curious in how this literate author might write about the Austrian philosopher and spiritual scientist whose works I have been a student of for several decades.
To set the stage for the next passage, Charlie was working on his master essay, "Boredom" and the deep suffering he claimed accompanies it.
[page 104] I hadn't read those great modern boredom experts, Stendhal, Kierkegaard, and Baudelaire, for nothing. Over the years I had worked a lot on this essay. The difficulty was that I kept being overcome by the material, like a miner by gas fumes. I wouldn't stop, though. I'd say to myself that even Rip van Winkle had slept for only twenty years, I had gone him at least two decades better and I was determined to make the lost time yield illumination.
When I find myself overcome by some material, I fall asleep, and when I awake from my short nap, I usually stop reading the material. I figure it's job of the author to keep me awake. When I first began reading Steiner in 1979, I didn't understand much of what he said, but he kept me awake and searching until finally I began to make sense of his words. Our hero, Charlie Citrine, found Steiner and had a similar experience.
[page 104, 105] So I kept doing advanced mental work in Chicago, and also joined a gymnasium, playing ball with commodity brokers and gentleman-hoodlums in an effort to strengthen the powers of consciousness. Then my respected friend Durnwald mentioned, kiddingly, that the famous but misunderstood Dr. Rudolf Steiner had much to say on the deeper aspects of sleep. Steiner's books, which I began to read lying down, made me want to get up. He argued that between the conception of an act and its execution by the will there fell a gap of sleep. It might be brief but it was deep. For one of man's souls was a sleep-soul. In this, human beings resembled the plants, whose whole existence is sleep. This made a very deep impression on me. The truth about sleep could only be seen from the perspective of an immortal spirit. I had never doubted that I had such a thing. But I had set this fact aside quite early. I kept it under my hat. These beliefs under your hat also press on your brain and sink you down into the vegetable realm. Even now, to a man of culture like Durnwald, I hesitated to mention the spirit. He took no stock in Steiner, of course.
By this point in the book, I was hooked. Most people I know take "no stock in Steiner"; either because they have never heard of him, or what they heard made him sound like a spiritual fruitcake, not worthy of their attention, only worthy of their ridicule. In Saul Bellow I found someone who portrayed Steiner as a font of wisdom and he portrayed Charlie's attempts to understand and to explain Steiner, even though "his soul was banged up".
[page 106] Dear friends, though I was about to leave town and had much business to attend to, I decided to suspend all practical activities for one morning. I did this to keep from cracking under strain. I had been practicing some of the meditative exercises recommended by Rudolf Steiner in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. As yet I hadn't attained much, but then my soul was well along in years and very much stained and banged up, and I had to be patient. Characteristically, I had been trying too hard, and I remembered again that wonderful piece of advice given by a French thinker: Trouve avant de chercher — Valéry, it was. Or maybe Picasso.
How does one "find before searching" as Valéry suggests? Most often we find things we weren't consciously searching for, but as we look back on the years or decades before the discovery, we can trace a path which we had been on which led us to the thing we eventually found. We can understand this process if we accept the presence in our life of a Guardian Angel which accompanies us through every lifetime, dropping hints which shape our decisions, directing our path to a goal of which we are otherwise not conscious. What can we do when this happens? — we can consciously thank the unconscious actions of our Guardian Angel.
In this next passage Bellow attacks the Kant dictum that we cannot know the ding an sich, that is, the thing in itself, that we can only know what we perceive through our senses.
[page 194] For in spirit, says Steiner, a man can step out of himself and let things speak to him about themselves, to speak about what has meaning not for him alone but also for them. Thus the sun the moon the stars will speak to nonastronomers in spite of their ignorance of science.
Charlie Citrine made a lot of money from his one successful play, and now his lawyer Tomchek, Srole (Tomchek's associate), and Pinsker, his wife's lawyer were carving up his estate as part of divorce proceedings and taking a large share for themselves. They didn't like Charlie's complaining about their work. Suddenly Charlie found inspiration for transcending the captious pettifoggers by using his new-found knowledge of higher worlds. Bellow here demonstrates one practical application of Charlie's study of spiritual science.
[page 212] Okay, they weren't going to let me knock lawyers. Pinsker belonged to the club. Who, after all, was I? A filmy transient figure, eccentric and snooty. They disliked my style entirely. They hated it. But then why should they like it? Suddenly I saw the thing from their viewpoint. And I was extremely pleased. In fact I was illuminated. Maybe these sudden illuminations of mine were an effect of the metaphysical changes I was undergoing. Under the recent influence of Steiner I seldom thought of death in the horrendous old way. I wasn't experiencing the suffocating grave or dreading an eternity of boredom, nowadays. Instead I often felt unusually light and swift-paced, as if I were on a weightless bicycle and sprinting through the star world. Occasionally I saw myself with exhilarating objectivity, literally as an object among objects in the physical universe. One day that object would cease to move and when the body collapsed the soul would simply remove itself. So, to speak again of the lawyers, I stood between them, and there we were, three naked egos, three creatures belonging to the lower grade of modern rationality and calculation. In the past the self had had garments, the garments of station, of nobility or inferiority, and each self had its carriage, its looks, wore the sheath appropriate to it. Now there were no sheaths and it was naked self with naked self burning intolerably and causing terror. I saw this now, in a fit of objectivity. It felt ecstatic.
In a world of industrial Chicago, Charlie Citrine survived using his study of Rudolf Steiner to gain a perspective and a serenity in the midst of chaos. Even when a lawyer shouted at him, "You're nothing but a prick with a pen!" Charlie was nonplussed, even thinking what a wonderful expression that was! You can say anything you like to a writer, and if you put it elegantly or in a novel way, no matter how vile the insult, the writer will smile.
[page 213, 214] He was so sore that he surpassed himself and yelled even louder, "With or without a pen you're a prick!" But I wasn't offended. I thought this was a whopping epithet and I laughed. If you only put it right you could say what you liked to me. However, I knew exactly how I made Tomchek and Srole feel. From their side they inspired me with an unusual thought. This was that History had created something new in the USA, namely crookedness with self-respect or duplicity with honor. America had always been very upright and moral, a model to the entire world, so it had put to death the very idea of hypocrisy and was forcing itself to live with this new imperative of sincerity, and it was doing an impressive job. . . .
"I wish I knew what the hell made you look so pleased," said Srole.
"Only a thought."
"Lucky you, with your nice thoughts."
Charlie went outside the lawyer's room and meditated on a rose bush, and we learn that his nice thoughts were not some lucky accident as the lawyer Srole thought, but the result of hard work and study on Charlie's part.
[page 214] I concentrated all the faculties of my soul on this vision and immersed it in the flowers. Then I saw, next to these flowers, a human figure standing. The plant, said Rudolf Steiner, expressed the pure passionless laws of growth, but the human being, aiming at higher perfection, assumed a greater burden — instincts, desires, emotions. So a bush was a sleeping life. But mankind took a chance on the passions. The wager was that the higher powers of the soul could cleanse these passions. Cleansed, they could be reborn in a finer form. The red of the blood was a symbol of this cleansing process. But even if all this wasn't so, to consider the roses always put me into a kind of bliss.
Doris Scheldt learned spiritual science from her physicist father but she couldn't hold a candle to Renata in Charlie's view. "Why, Renata didn't need an ignition key to start a car. One of her kisses on the hood would turn it on. It would roar for her." (Page 250) Doris had the hots for Charlie, but the feeling was unrequited as her father bore more interest for Charlie. In this next passage we learn about the process Steiner describes as beneficial to living spirits who were left behind the material world in the time between death and a new birth, namely, the process of reading to the dead.
[page 251] Her father had been a physicist at the old Armour Institute, an executive of IBM, a NASA consultant who improved the metal used in spaceships. But he was also an anthroposophist. He didn't wish to call this mysticism. He insisted that Steiner had been a Scientist of the Invisible. But Doris, with reluctance, spoke of her father as a crank. She told me many facts about him. He was a Rosicrucian and a Gnostic, he read aloud to the dead. Also at a time when girls have to do erotic things whether or not they have the talent for them, the recent situation being what it is, Doris behaved quite bravely with me. But it was all wrong, I was simply not myself with her, and at the wrongest possible time I cried out, "Renata! Oh Renata!" Then I lay there shocked with myself and mortified. But Doris didn't take my outcry at all hard. She was thoroughly understanding. That was her main strength. And when my talks with the Professor began she was decent about that as well, understanding that I was not going to sleep with the daughter of my guru.
Charlie studied Rudolf Steiner's works and found Doris's father, Dr. Scheldt, much help in clarifying the ideas of spiritual science. Even though Charlie found the ideas complex and mystifying, they always seemed to make sense to him in some deep, unexplainable way, similar to my own experience of studying Rudolf Steiner's works, "they always rang true". It helps one to understand the metaphor of "ring true" if one realizes that the custom of ringing bells in a church tower goes back to a time when people could still see into the spiritual world and noticed that demons scattered from an area when a bell was rung. Words ring true for us when they arrive as an insight into the spiritual world, whether or not we consciously understand the meaning of the words.
[page 252, 253] Then Dr. Scheldt begins to speak on the text, I am the light of the world. To him that light is understood also as the sun itself. Then he speaks of the gospel of Saint John as drawing upon the wisdom-filled Cherubim, while the gospel of Saint Luke draws upon the fiery love, the Seraphim — Cherubim, Seraphim, and Thrones being the three highest spiritual hierarchy. I am not at all certain that I am following. "I have no experience of any of this advanced stuff, Dr. Scheldt, but I still find it peculiarly good and comforting to hear it all said. I don't at all know where I'm at. One of these days when life is quieter I'm going to buckle down to the training course and do it in earnest."
"When will life be quieter?"
"I don't know. But I suppose people have told you before this how much stronger the soul feels after such a conversation."
"You shouldn't wait for things to become quieter. You must decide to make them quieter."
He saw that I was fairly skeptical still. I couldn't make my peace with things like the Moon Evolution, the fire spirits, the Sons of Life, with Atlantis, with the lotus-flower organs of spiritual perception or the strange mingling of Abraham with Zarathustra, or the coming together of Jesus and the Buddha. It was all too much for me. Still, whenever the doctrine dealt with what I suspected or hoped or knew of the self, or of sleep, or of death, it always rang true.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but what if what we call a weakness in ourselves is really a misunderstood or undervalued strength? Would we continue to try to rid ourselves of such a weakness? Take Iolanthe who claims that he is in love and someone says to him that love is a weakness. Iolanthe replies, "Yes, but it is a weakness that is so strong!" Many people have weaknesses that are so strong, they can only think like Iolanthe, "This is a weakness." Love can be thus considered a gift to be welcomed or a problem to be overcome. Would Humboldt's gift to Charlie turn out to be an unwelcome problem?
[page 272, 273] — I tuned out and gave my mind to one of my theories. Some people embrace their gifts with gratitude. Others have no use for them and can think only of overcoming their weaknesses. Only their defects interest and challenge them. Thus those who hate people may seek them out. Misanthropes often practice psychiatry. The shy become performers. Natural thieves look for positions of trust. The frightened make bold moves. Take the case of Stronson [RJM: who tried to have Charlie arrested for murder], a man who entered into desperate schemes to swindle gangsters. Or take myself, a lover of beauty who insisted on living in Chicago. Or Von Humboldt Fleisher, a man of powerful social instincts burying himself in the dreary countryside.
When Charlie was in the squad car, being hauled to the police station, he recalled twenty years earlier when Humboldt had been arrested and forced into a straitjacket.
[page 277] He had had diarrhea in the police wagon as they rushed him to Bellevue. They were trying to cope, to do something with a poet. What did the New York police know about poets! They knew about drunks and muggers, they knew rapists, they knew women in labor and hopheads, but they were at sea with poets.
When Charlie went to see his accountant Murra, high up in his fancy glass skyscraper office, Murra spent an hour telling Charlie that "he had failed to convince the IRS that it had no case" and submitted a bill to Charlie for $1500 for essentially achieving or producing nothing. (Page 280) If you hire a poet instead of an accountant, at least you'll get a poem out of the deal. For example, Charlie mused about what Rip van Winkle might have done with his life, if he had not been put to sleep by the dwarves.
[page 281] He had an ordinary human American right, of course, to hunt and fish and roam the woods with his dog — much like Huckleberry Finn in the Territory Ahead. The following question was more intimate and difficult: what would I have done if I hadn't been asleep in spirit for so long?
My mind went completely off the rails when I read about Huck in the Territory Ahead — for over twenty years I have been buying my shirts from a catalog named Territory Ahead and I never knew, until now, that the catalog's name likely came from a passage in the famous Mark Twain novel, Huckleberry Finn. A quick Google search informed me that Huck said he wanted "to get to the Territory ahead of the rest." So, Good Reader, since you de facto hired me by virtue of reading this review, I must complete my part of the deal by writing a poem for you.
Seeds of the Future
Hey, Huck, where you heading?
"I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest."
Where'd you get that shirt?
"Do you know the Territory Ahead?"
Yeah, I heard you talk about it, so?
"Well, I'm heading North to Nanaimo."
Nice shirt, that one.
"Thanks to the Territory Ahead."
Huck, did you know Angels sow seeds of the future in us?
"Yep, visions of the Territory Ahead, huh?"
Never thought of it that way, up until now.
"Yep, it's their gift to us."
Like Humboldt's gift to Charlie?
"Nice way to put it, my friend."
So, where you reckon this Territory Ahead is, Huck?
"It's just waitin' 'round the bend."
As an example of "finding before searching" the process suggested by Valéry, I had found and bought a shirt from the Territory Ahead catalog named North to Nanaimo, at a time when I had no idea where Nanaimo was located. On a trip from Whistler, B.C. in 2001 to Vancouver Island, as we drove up to the Nanaimo Ferry, I was wearing my North to Nanaimo shirt and had arrived at my own Territory Ahead! I had found the shirt first, and then I found the far-north town of Nanaimo, all without having searched for either one. Valéry would be proud.
Here's the passage which inspired the "Angels sow seeds of future in us" line of the above poem. Charlie was thinking about our being asleep to the spirit and its effects on our life.
[page 282] Our unwillingness to come out of the state of sleep was the result of a desire to evade an impending revelation. Certain spiritual beings must achieve their development through men, and we betray and abandon them by this absenteeism, this will-to-snooze. Our duty, said one bewitching pamphlet, is to collaborate with the Angels. They appear within us (as the Spirit called the Maggid manifested himself to the great Rabbi Joseph Karo). Guided by the Spirits of Form, Angels sow seeds of the future in us. They inculcate certain pictures into us of which we are "normally" unaware. Among other things they wish to make us see the concealed divinity of other human beings. They show man how he can cross by means of thought the abyss that separates him from Spirit. To the soul they offer freedom and to the body they offer love. These facts must be grasped by waking consciousness. Because, when he sleeps, the sleeper sleeps. Great world events pass him by. Nothing is momentous enough to rouse him. Decades of calendars drop their leaves on him just as the trees dropped leaves and twigs on Rip. Moreover, the Angels themselves are vulnerable. Their aims must be realized in earthly humanity itself.
When Bellow writes "normally unaware" I take him to mean consciously unaware of the Angelic origin of the pictures which we each receive on a daily basis from our Guardian Angel, pictures, words, and hints which help direct us to the very destiny we planned for this lifetime (a plan we created during our time between a previous death and our birth into this lifetime). When something good happens, e. g. we arrive at a Mississippi River ferry and are denied entry, only to observe the ferry sink under the waves a few minutes later, we can thank our Guardian Angel who delayed our route to work that day just enough to keep us from sinking on the ferry. Perhaps it was the angel-inspired image of hot donuts which caused us to stop and buy some which saved us(1).
Charlie Citrine wrote a great play which earned him a lot of money and then he went about four decades without any equivalent work, all of which led him to compare himself to Rip van Winkle, who had slept for twenty years literally, while Charlie had slept for forty years literately (i.e., with no significant literary production). Charlie was attempting to awake from his spiritual sleep by studying Rudolf Steiner's works, by meditating, and by avoiding other people, which is a huge challenge in a busy city like Chicago. If I were advising Charlie, I'd have asked him to consider this question, "How can you collect yourself, if everyone is taking pieces of you?" Charlie didn't know the reason, but he could perceive his restlessness.
Charlie could also perceive his own slothfulness, even when his early girl-friend, Naomi, couldn't. When she said, "Ridiculous. You've worked hard. I know you have, Charlie" he went into a rant about slothfulness, giving us a rather surprising exposition on a mundane subject.
[page 293] "Some think that sloth, one of the capital sins, means ordinary laziness," I began. "Sticking in the mud. Sleeping at the switch. But sloth has to cover a great deal of despair. Sloth is really a busy condition, hyperactive. This activity drives off the wonderful rest or balance without which there can be no poetry or art or thought — none of the highest human functions. These slothful sinners are not able to acquiesce in their own being, as some philosophers say. They labor because rest terrifies them.
Slothful people do not retire because the very idea of being free of external pressure to stay busy is worse than remaining in a job they hate. To retire would eliminate the restlessness, eliminate their co-workers taking pieces of them, and provide them time for restful balance, the kind needed for creative, productive work, but they have no idea of how to do such work. Sloth is a sin because it equips people with a ready excuse for doing nothing creative; you know the excuse, you've heard it often: "I'm too busy." Note the paradox: the slothful sinner keeps himself busy as an excuse for his slothfulness.
Naomi asked Charlie if he ever read her son's articles in the paper that she had sent him for his opinion. He said no, he didn't have the time, so Naomi asked if she sent again would he read it. Charlie replied, "I wouldn't dream of refusing." Naomi chides him for that reply.
[page 295] "You ought to dream of it oftener. People lay too much on you. I know I shouldn't be doing this. You're leaving town and must have plenty to do."
Charlie's present girl-friend is Renata, and when she hears of Humboldt's will (the eponymous gift), she is skeptical in the extreme.
[page 298] Renata's face took on an I'm-going-to-let-you-have-it-straight look and she said, "Charlie, this will is just a gag from the grave. You said yourself, once, that it could be a posthumous prank. The guy died nuts."
"Renata, I've read the textbooks. I know what clinical psychologists say about manic-depressives. But they didn't know Humboldt. After all, Humboldt was a poet. Humboldt was noble. What does clinical psychology know about art and truth?"
Charlie attempted to explain Humboldt's famous insomnia. Humboldt had become famous, and being famous was like picking up a high-voltage line — you couldn't let it go! (Page 299) It was a high-powered form of slothfulness which clamped onto to you. Matt Damon said in an interview in Esquire (August, 2013) that the worst thing a movie star can do is to marry another movie star, because the paparazzi won't leave them alone, adding, "I'm just a married man with a wife and family. No one wants to photograph my home life."
This next passage highlights the difference between young boys and girls, the former get people to notice them by making noise (cards in bicycle spokes, rumbling Harleys) and the latter garner notice by just walking along in their tight jeans.
[page 315] Thus we were walking along the Coney Island boardwalk. And as I, when a boy, had rattled my stick on fence palings, so Renata, when she passed the popcorn men, the caramel-corn and hot-dog men, got a rise out of each one.
While reading this 450 page novel, one comes across the same episode reiterated several times. Each time some new nuance is added, some new perspective, some filling in of details. When Renata criticized Charlie, it finally came to me: Bellow is, like Charlie, a mandolin player, he "tickles every note ten times". (page 336)
This next passage made me smile because Bellow had no idea of the double-meaning this next sentence of his would accrue with the advent of the computer revolution which was still in his future back in 1970. Renata said, "Only, you've got to stop twittering like a ten-year-old-girl." (Page 337) Did he mean that such girls would talk in sentences no longer than 140 characters? Possibly. That's the size limitation of a twitter or tweet today which goes out to some audience like a ten-year-old-girl yelling in a public place where everyone around her will be aware of what she said. Nowadays, in Twitter language, being around means being in some localized cyberspace defined by your own choice. Tweets have even become fodder for otherwise prestigious news broadcasts. Want to have the world taking pieces of you? Subscribe to a Twitter feed and you'll soon find out what that means. Twitter feeds and Text messages seem to provide the prime sustenance for the inveterate slothful sinner in today's totally connected milieu.
We have a friend, a CEO, whose modus operandi in business, we call, "Ready, Fire, Aim!" Leave it to Bellow to give us a super-literate interpretation of that process, "While timorous knowledge stands considering, audacious ignorance hath done the deed."
In pre-WWI days in England, if you were not the eldest son who stood to inherit the family estate, you had only three choices of livelihood to consider: become a Vicar, a Lawyer, or a Politician. Charlie describes Humboldt as unfit for all three.
[page 338] As for Humboldt, he was not the first man to go down trying to combine worldly success with poetic integrity, blasted with poetic fire, as Swift says, and consequently unfit for Church or Law or State.
Renata didn't think much of Charlie's dabbling in Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy. She had enough of it and blamed the blond-haired Doris whose physicist father Charlie had spent so much time with talking about spiritual science stuff.
[page 349] "My theory is that you're punishing me with this anthroposophy. You know what I mean. That blonde runt introduced you to her dad, and since then it's all been really spooky."
This next passage ends with a droll metaphor which highlights Bellow's mellow descriptive style.
[page 390] I was first at the passport window, first at the baggage conveyor. And then — my bag was the last bag of all. The Wichita Falls party was gone and I was beginning to think my bag with its elegant wardrobe, its Hermès neckties, its old chaser's monkey-jackets, and so forth was lost when I saw it wobbling, solitary, on the long, long trail of rollers. It came toward me like an uncorseted woman sauntering over cobblestones.
To read Steiner's works is to set yourself challenge after challenge, some passages will make no sense, others will make exquisite poetry. When I began reading Steiner, I read ten books of his and still didn't know what he was writing about or why I kept reading him even when the books made so little sense to me. Then the Internet bloomed and my first question was "What should I be reading of Steiner?" The answer came in the form of four classic works of his, and I soon discovered that the books I had read, all ten of them, were transcriptions of lectures he gave to advanced students who had read and absorbed all his basic works. Bellow gives no hints as to how he started with Steiner, but he did name several of his classic works.
[page 421] The mental respectability of good members of educated society was something I had come to despise with all my heart. I admit that I was sustained by contempt whenever the esoteric texts made me uneasy. For there were passages in Steiner that set my teeth on edge. I said to myself, this is lunacy. Then I said, this is poetry, a great vision. But I went on with it, laying out all that he told us of the life of the soul after death. Besides, did it matter what I did with myself? Elderly, heart-injured, meditating in kitchen odors, wearing Renata's cloak in the biffy — should it concern anyone what such a person did with himself? The strangeness of life, the more you resisted it, the harder it bore down on you. The more the mind opposed the sense of strangeness, the more distortions it produced.
In "What Dreams May Come" Robin Williams portrays a man whose wife committed suicide, and we follow this subsequent death as he with great effort finally locates her spirit, hidden in a bottomless pit of blackness and despair, a rather vivid portrayal of what Steiner says is the lot of suicides in their time between death and a rebirth. This kind of dark despair is something that can happen to the wrongly tutored — those atheistic types who believe life ends at death — but the completely untutored suffer nevertheless.
[page 421] It was my understanding that the untutored dead blundered and suffered in their ignorance. In the first stages especially, the soul, passionately attached to its body, stained with earth, suddenly severed, felt cravings much as amputees feel their missing legs. The newly dead saw from end to end all that had happened to them, the whole of lamentable life. They burned with pain.
Humboldt's Gift? What was it? Perhaps it was the mandolin-like vignettes of life in Chicago and overseas for Charlie Citrine? Yes, there was a script left for Charlie by Humboldt in his will and that becomes a resurrection of Charlie's career, but the plot line is not the point of this novel, rather it is the lives which Humboldt and Citrine touched and the stories they generated, stories which will enrich any reader brave enough to open this large book and engage life with Saul Bellow as one's guide.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------http://www.doyletics.com/arj/humboldt.htm
Footnote 1. Around 1977 I lived at an apartment complex with a young man who drove up on his motorcycle to get on the Luling ferry one morning. The gate had just been closed, but they had always re-opened it for him in the past because there was always room for his small motorcycle. This morning they didn't re-open the gate, and the ferry was rammed by a ship, many people dying in the collision and sinking.
Return to text directly before Footnote 1.
3.) ARJ2: The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man, GA#102 by Rudolf Steiner
This is not an easy set of lectures to read for beginners to anthroposophy as Steiner takes us through many levels of the spiritual world identified by names that are likely unfamiliar and some levels won't even have names associated with them, simply being one level or two lower than an identified level. A reference guide will be helpful when reading this book of lectures and this review of the book(1). By referring to the Sevens Table, one can begin to make sense of what it means that the egos of mineral exist today in the highest parts of Devachan while the ego is the newest acquisition for humans during the Earth condition of consciousness we are in currently. In the previous or Old Moon planetary embodiment, humans had a Group Soul, similar to what animals have during this stage of our evolution (Earth). What is a Group Soul? Steiner gives us a handy metaphor (pun intended) to grasp its meaning, namely, the image of a man placing his two hands through a curtain so that only his ten fingers show to the audience. The audience sees only ten individual "beings", but have no doubt that there is one man behind the curtain. We as humans today may see ten individual giraffes and imagine they each have a separate ego, but if we look behind the curtain, we find that, in truth, there is only one Group Soul behind the curtain, to which each giraffe returns upon his death. Each species of animal has a Group Soul, similar to our own status during our previous embodiment during the Old Moon when our evolution had only reached the animal stage of evolution.
[page 2, 3](2) You will have gathered from the lectures given here recently that when we ascend with clairvoyance into the higher worlds we there meet with beings who, it is true, do not belong to our physical world, but who are in themselves so independent that we can describe them as 'persons' for those worlds, just as we call men here on the physical plane 'persons.' You have seen that groups of animals of the same species together belong to a group-soul or group-ego and that on the astral plane we come upon the lion-soul, the tiger-soul, and so on, as independent personalities whom we can meet there as we meet the human being on the physical plane. In the same way we find in still higher regions, on the devachanic plane, the egos of quite large plant groups, and in the highest parts of Devachan we find the egos of the minerals, personalities as distinct as men are here on the physical plane. We saw in this way that in these higher worlds we meet with certain beings who, so to speak, extend part of their organism, their separate members, down into the physical plane. If a man were to extend his fingers through openings in a curtain or partition we should only see the ten fingers, the man himself would be behind the partition. So it is with the group-egos of the animals. Here with the physical eye we see what is extended down below as members by higher beings of the astral world, and the actual ego is behind the partition, behind that wall which separates the physical world from the astral world. And in a corresponding way this holds good for the other group-egos, the group-egos of the plant or the mineral world. When we raise ourselves from the physical world into higher worlds we meet not only these beings who have been described as extending their members down below here, but we meet a whole number of other beings who may equally well be considered personalities for those worlds, but whose physical members are not so directly visible and evident as those of the group egos of animals, plants, and minerals.
Why should we as human beings care about these spiritual beings which we cannot see with our present stage of consciousness, you might ask. For one thing, as the title of this book suggests, these beings have an influence on our lives. Yes, we can live pretending that the only important things in the world are those things we can experience with our material senses. Have we not done well since Bacon's time focusing only on our senses? Didn't we create all this technology using only our sense apparatus and our creative thinking? Yes, but if these spiritual beings affect us, shouldn't we strive to understand them as fully as materialist scientists strive to understand the way the material world affects us? If you answer yes to this last question, you are a nascent spiritual scientist, and reading these lectures will provide a bootstrap for you into understanding aspects of the world which ancient peoples perceived directly, but with our increased materialization since Bacon's time around the 14th Century, our direct perception of these spiritual realities has waned until few people can perceive them directly. With practice, the exercises Steiner provides in his books and lectures, however, one can begin to perceive these realities and with those new perceptions begin to realize the existence of the spiritual world. In other words, one will not begin to believe in the spiritual world, but know it as a fact of existence.
He explains that there are such beings on the Moon, on Mars, Venus, etc. which affect us. Here is an example.
[page 4] Now all these beings who have been mentioned are by no means unconnected with our existence. Their deeds, activities, manifestations, are definitely extended into our life and their action is particularly to be traced by clairvoyance when certain conditions appear on earth. Thus the beings who — naturally as astral beings — are at home on the moon are present on earth in the most varied circumstances, when for instance a man falls a prey to illusionary ideas, or where insane people are gathered. Such astral beings show special preference for the neighborhood of insane asylums. They are, moreover, almost always to be found near mediums and somnambulists; these persons have such beings swirling round them, and a large proportion of the influences that are exercised upon them is derived from the presence of these creatures. Where on the other hand love and kindliness prevail, where humanitarianism is unfolded, there you find the mild, gentle Mars beings present as astral creations, taking part in the forces which are there at work. That is nourishment for them, the atmosphere in which they can live and whence they exercise their influence on man.
Jean Houston in her workshops liked to talk about people having leaky margins, indicating that what we thought about in private leaked out into the world and had an effect on other people. This seemed strange to me and hard to accept until I recalled how the private thoughts of love I had about a woman who lived a few houses down the street from me mirrored the thoughts she had of me during that same period of time. We don't often get access to such intimate information, but one revelation was enough for me to confirm the existence of those leaky margins of Jean Houston. I became convinced that such synchronous thoughts are the rule rather than the exception, that they all happen at the same time(3). When Del shares a thought with me, often I had been thinking the same thought and it is not possible to attribute to either of us the origin of the thought; we can only say they both happened at the same time, but one of us said it aloud first. What would your life be like, Good Reader, if you became aware that your most intimate thoughts leak out into the world and affect the people you are thinking about? Plus, along with your thoughts spiritual beings are also summoned. There is none so blind as those who will not see is an old adage which expresses this form of unawareness.
[page 4, 5] He who does not realize these things passes through life in complete blindness. We are not concerned here with mere theory or a theoretical challenge; all these things are directly practical. For man will only little by little in the future earthly evolution learn to act and frame his conduct on right lines, when he begins to recognize what creatures are summoned in response to certain deeds and circumstances. Everything that man does is like a summons to unknown beings. It is not only the insane or mediums that these moon beings — among whom are thoroughly malevolent little rascals, can venture to approach; when, for instance, young children are overfed in such a senseless way that they become greedy, then these beings can sidle up to them and spoil their development. You see then how necessary it is for man to know what he stirs up around him through his behavior and whole attitude in the world!
Going back to the fingers through the curtain metaphor, you may have been glad to think that you don't have any fingers through the curtain controlling and shaping your existence, but you would be wrong. We humans during this stage of our evolution are gradually gaining control over our astral and etheric bodies with our ego, a process which when complete will change the astral body into spirit-self and the etheric body into life-spirit. Until this process is completed, various spiritual beings attach to the fluids in our physical body like spiritual parasites, like fingers through curtain they enter and flow through these fluids. Like a dirty room will attract flies, our partially-purified astral and ether bodies will attract parasites in the form of spiritual beings. Whether these are Moon beings or Mars beings makes a big difference in how we are inclined to act towards others and ourselves.
[page 7] Just as in the case of the animals we saw that the astral group-ego extends its separate members into the separate lion-individuals, so these astral beings also extend their physical being here. They could not, however, extend it from outside into the physical plane; for this they need beings on the physical plane whose parasites they are, into whom they fasten and bore. They are here the parasites of men. If there were no human race here on earth they would very soon take their departure; they could find no dwelling place, it would not suit them here. But there are beings, men and higher animals, who have lymph and there these beings have their physical manifestation. Thus not merely a material substance pulses through our body but in such circulation move whole hosts of these beings. They revolve through man, move along through him and have their bodies in the lymph — whereas the actual human being, the ego-man has his body, to begin with, merely in the blood. And the preponderance of moon beings or Mars beings of this nature circling through a man gives his lymph its special character. If more moon beings circulate through his body he is a man who inclines more easily to wrong-doing, irritation, and anger, if more Mars beings, then he is a man who is more inclined to gentleness, kindliness, mildness. You see how man is not traversed merely by fluids but also by spirits, and how one only understands man when one knows that spirits pass through him and not fluids merely.
In our lungs a slow combustion takes place, like when oxygen combines with other substance during a fire. The lungs provide a counterpoint to the liver; the liver chains us to Earth and the lungs receive fire which rescue us from the Earth and leads us upward. Only by understanding this relationship between the lungs and the liver provided by spiritual science can we begin to rightly understand the myth of Prometheus.
[page 10, 11] The myth says that Prometheus brought man fire from heaven and indicates in this way that Prometheus participates in the process which is expressed in the human breath and which leads man upwards. But a wonderful explanation is given: because Prometheus raises himself above the forces which chain man to the earth and opposes them, because he is the one to give man this force of the fire, therefore he must suffer for it. The suffering is wonderfully represented as the fact underlying the Myth, namely, a vulture devours the liver of the fettered Prometheus. How could it be shown more finely and wisely that the forces streaming into us with the breathing process gnaw at the liver and that he who accomplishes in advance what is accomplished by mankind in a far future, stands there like a crucified one — how that which sinks down out of the air, eats into the liver!
Over the Temple of Apollo were two famous dicta: Know Thyself and Everything in Moderation. How can one know oneself if one has knowledge only of the materialistic world and none of the spiritual world? That would be to miss the knowledge of one's soul and spirit and focus only upon one's body. Rudolf Steiner explains his anthropo-sophy, the -sophy or knowledge of the full anthropos or human being this way:
[page 11] Thus, starting from the study of higher worlds we have come to recognize the actual mission of Spiritual Science. It is to enable man to learn to know life, and when he is working and creating to show him what is secretly working with him when he moves his hand, when he creates with spirit, soul, and body. Through spiritual knowledge he will become more and more conscious of the beings who are his companions, and will live and create with them in harmony. Thus spiritual research will reveal to him the fullness of reality and enable him to bring knowledge and wisdom into life.
In Lecture II of January 27, 1908 Rudolf Steiner deals with the structure of our cosmos, how the sacrifice from great spiritual beings rain down up a localized space and create the seed of a new cosmos, a new Saturn, in which human beings begin as localized areas of warmth. As Saturn develops the Zodiac of stars surrounding it form into being and when we arrive at the stage of evolution we are today, what we observe and call the "universe" is but one bubble of localized evolution which we do best to call our cosmos. The Universe, if we would dare to talk about it, what Steiner calls "the cosmic All", would be like a "foam of soap bubbles" in which our observable cosmos is but one bubble(4). Our cosmos exists in time and the Zodiac exists in duration is one way Steiner describes the difference between our local soap bubble and the cosmic foam out of which it evolves. This is a continuous process of Saturn leading to Zodiac leading to another Saturn. So where did our Zodiac (all the stars we see in the sky as forming what we call our universe) come from?
[page 14] It arose from the planetary system which preceded our own. Saturn itself was preceded by planetary evolutions in an age which, speaking in the sense of occult astronomy, can by no means be described as "time" as we understand time, for its character was rather different. But for the human mind today the concept is so fabulous that we have no word with which to express it. Speaking in analogy, however, we can say that the forces which preceded our planetary system in an earlier cycle of planetary existence went forth in the light-streams, and out of a small portion of matter gradually gathering together at the center, this first, dawn-condition of the Earth arose; this was ancient Saturn and the forces contained in the Zodiac radiated down upon it from the cosmic All.
If we follow this process through a cycle, we find an alteration between "raining down" and "evaporation" and wonder whether we are still in the raining-down stage or if we have begun the stage of evaporation where we are beginning our ascent to the Zodiac.
[page 15] What has been achieved in a planetary existence and has become sun, ascends to "heavenly" existence, becomes zodiacal existence. And having reached zodiacal existence, what does it do? It offers itself in sacrifice! Please take account of this particular word. The first dawn-condition of the Earth, ancient Saturn, arose in a mysterious way as the result of sacrifice on the part of the Zodiac. The forces which caused the first, rarefied Saturn-masses to gather together were those which streamed down from the Zodiac, producing on Saturn the first germinal inception of physical man. This continued without cessation. You must not picture it as happening only once. Fundamentally speaking, what is happening continuously is that within what we call a planetary system the forces which evolved to a higher stage after having themselves passed through a planetary system, are sacrificed. We can say in effect: what is at first contained in a planetary system evolves to a "sun" existence, then to zodiacal existence and then has the power to be itself creative, to offer itself in sacrifice within a planetary existence. The forces from the Zodiac "rain" down continuously into the planetary existence and continuously ascend again; for that which at one time became our Zodiac must gradually ascend again. The distribution of forces in our earth existence may be conceived as follows: — on the one side forces are descending from the Zodiac and, on the other, forces are ascending to the Zodiac. Such is the mysterious interplay between the Zodiac and our earth. Forces descend and forces ascend.
Steiner makes it clear in this next passage that we have passed the middle-point and have begun the evaporation or ascending to the Zodiac stage.
[page 15] As far as our human understanding goes, these forces began to descend during the Saturn-existence of our Earth and when the Earth-existence proper had reached its middle point, the stage had arrived when they gradually began again to ascend. We have now passed beyond the middle point of our evolution, which fell in the middle of the Atlantean epoch; and what human beings have lived through since then is a phase of existence beyond the middle point. In a certain sense, therefore, we may say that at the present time, more forces are ascending to the Zodiac than are descending from it.
It was while I was reading and studying Prokofieff's The Twelve Holy Nights that I found this helpful diagram at on Page 37 and also found a reference to the lectures in this book, which led me to read and review it. This diagram which will help illustrate how when a human being matures to its full seven-fold bodies, it will have passed its Libra condition and have reached its raining-down condition, having moved from "the sphere of Time into the sphere of Duration".
We look up to Libra (the Scales) as the path we are set upon, but there is another who looks down to us from Aries (the Ram). This must be a spirit who prepares a great sacrifice for us. We can get a hint as to who this is by reviewing the so-called mythology associated with the sign of the Ram.
[page 20] Just as man receives life into himself, so does this Being radiate life through the whole of our universe. This is the Being Who has the power to make the great sacrifice and Who is inscribed in the Zodiac as the Being Who for the sake of our world offers Himself in sacrifice. Just as man strives upwards into the Zodiac, so does this Being send us His sacrificial gift from Aries — which is related to Him as Libra is related to man. And just as man turns his ego upwards to Libra, so does this Being radiate His very Self over our sphere in sacrifice. This Being is called the "Mystical Lamb," for Lamb and Aries are the same; therefore the description 'Sacrificial Lamb' or 'Ram' is given to Christ. Christ belongs to the cosmos as a whole. His I, his Ego, reaches to Aries and thus He becomes Himself the "Great Sacrifice," is related with the whole of mankind and in a certain sense the beings and forces present on the earth are His creations. The configuration of forces is such that He could become the Creator of these beings in the constellation of Aries, or the Lamb. The designation "Sacrificial Lamb" or "Mystical Lamb" is drawn from the heavens themselves.
The global-warming alarmists are materialistic scientists who fill the airwaves with their dire predictions of increasing global temperatures causing catastrophic flooding, melting polar ice caps, and disappearing polar bears, among many other things. All this, in spite of evidence that the global temperatures have not increased in the past fifteen years, and the overall size Arctic ice caps in the past two years has increased at a record rate. I couldn't help but think of these so-called scientists when Steiner characterized modern science as huffing-puffing dwarves chasing far behind the facts. Here is the direct quotation:
[page 21, 22] It could he said that the theories, opinions and knowledge that modern popular science forms from its own facts look like tiny, gasping, dwarf-like creatures which run puffing and blowing at a considerable distance behind the facts.
In several places in other lectures, I have encountered Steiner stating that "evil is a good out of its time". No one should slough this thought off easily with a shrug of "Whatever" — rather, this is a wonderful statement to ponder and will reward those who think deeply on it. Often when something evil arrives, we notice over time that something good comes out of it. As one example, Hurricane Katrina seemed to be evil, but those of us living in New Orleans have seen massive changes for the better just as soon as the "running dwarves" of FEMA and other Federal agencies left town after the storm, and the people took over. The failed levee system has been greatly improved. The city now has all of its schools operating as charter schools with greatly improving graduation rates at many of them. Each of these an example of a good coming after what appeared to be an evil.
[page 30] When something apparently destructive, retarding, and evil exists anywhere, then evolution in its whole course will be so wisely guided that even this evil, this destruction and hindrance will be reversed and changed into the good.
Modern digital cameras are getting such high resolution that it is now possible to view people reflected in the eyeballs of someone's photograph. Imagine now if the image of someone reflected in an eyeball were able to step out of the eye and become independent, and you would have an example of what is meant by a "human made in the image and likeness of God".
[page 32, 33] You can form an idea of what was present on Saturn as the physical germ of man, if you imagine a person standing before you and you look into his eye; you send your light into the eye of the other, and your picture comes back to you rayed out of his eye. So it was with the Spirits of Form in the environment of ancient Saturn. They sent their life-bestowing saps down into the warmth masses of Saturn and their own form, their likeness, was reflected; this mirror likeness was the first rudiments of the human physical body. Man was thus, even on ancient Saturn, in the most literal sense a likeness of his Godhead. . . . If you could endow with life the reflection which rays to you from the eye of your fellow man, make it independent, so that it had its own life and could step out of the eye, then you would have a deed which the Spirits of Form accomplished in the transition from ancient Saturn to the Sun. This was a significant advance for our cosmic evolution.
Here Steiner gives us another example of the "huffing-puffing dwarves of modern science" who read the ancient myth of Chronos eating all his children and laugh at such childish prattle. But they are only projecting their childish view of reality, rightly understood.
[page 33] Let us look at the advance that took place from Saturn to Sun. On ancient Saturn the life-giving forces streamed in, were reflected and taken up again by the mantle, the atmosphere of Saturn. In the old Greek myth the warm globe of Saturn was called Gaea and the atmosphere Chronos. Now consider the myth: the life-giving forces of Chronos rayed in continually upon Gaea and were reflected and absorbed. It is Chronos continually swallowing his own children! One must feel the truth of such a myth; if it is not felt, one has not the right attitude to it. For just consider what it means: in hoary primitive ages of ancient Greece we find a myth that presents this truth to us in a wonderful picture. There is only one possible explanation of such a fact, namely, the most advanced individuals of mankind, who guided man's further development from the Mystery centers, had exactly the same knowledge of world evolution as we give out today in anthroposophy. In the Ancient Mysteries they spoke of these things as we speak today; for the masses the truths were veiled in pictures and these pictures form what today we know as Mythology. In the face of such knowledge how extraordinary seem those people who believe that men have discovered truth only in the last forty years and that all knowledge possessed by men of earlier times is only childish fantasy. One must however describe it as a childish fantasy when it is emphasized again and again: "How marvelously advanced we are today!" That is the really childish picture!
The Spirits of Wisdom controls the individuality of the human being, that is, the individual which enters a new personality upon a new birth; they relinquish to the Spirits of Love control of the human personality during life between birth and death. This is consonant with Earth's goal of impressing Love into human beings(5). The Spirits of Wisdom are so powerful that they had to separate from the Earth when it split off the Moon and stay with the Moon as it revolved around the Earth; this moderated the influence of the Spirits of Wisdom and allowed humans to develop as a suitable pace.
[page 52] We have already pointed out that if the forces and beings which left the earth when the sun withdrew had remained united with the earth as they were originally, then man would have been obliged to develop at a tempo too rapid for him to endure. He would never have reached his evolution if the Spirits of Wisdom had been bound up with the earth as they were on the Moon. They had to remove to a distance and work from outside if man was to have the right speed in his development. Otherwise, no sooner was he born than he would have become old, he would go through his development at too rapid a tempo. I can make that clear to you in another way.
The Spirits of Love led humans through the stages of love from Eros (romantic love) to familial (brotherly love) to agape (highest form of spiritual love).
[page 52] Love had to be inaugurated in the lowest form as sex-love, in order to rise through the various stages and finally, when the perfected Earth has reached its last epochs, to be imprinted into man as pure, spiritual love. All lower love is schooling for the higher love. Earthly man is to develop love in himself, so that at the end of his evolution he may be able to give it back to the Earth, for all that is developed in the microcosm is in the end poured into the macrocosm. The wisdom which streamed into the Moon-men shines towards the earth-man as the wisdom which permeates his structure.
The effect of the Spirits of Wisdom remaining in the Moon allowed a human individuality to gradually progress through multiple incarnations, as one gradually progresses in school, one grade, one set of learnings with each year, till we reach the culmination over 12 or more years we call graduation.
[page 54] Thus we see how man's personality and his individuality are within two different tendencies and currents. That is important for the following reason. If the Spirits of Wisdom who are meant now, had, so to speak, arrogated authority to themselves, then that exuberant, vigorous development would have come about which one could also describe by saying that in a single incarnation man would have gone through, pressed together, all possible perfectings from all incarnations. That which the Spirits of Wisdom were to give, however, became distributed among all man's successive earthly incarnations
Here is statement which will seem familiar, "They veiled their faces before the Mystical Lamb." (Page 54) We are now in a position to understand what this means. Does it mean perhaps that Christ as the Mystical Lamb is also the Sun Spirit, and we as humans must shield our eyes from the rays from the Sun? Yes, and even more.
[page 54] For the "Mystical Lamb" is the Sun-Spirit Who holds the secret of lifting not only the spirits away from the earth but of redeeming the bodies, spiritualizing them, after many incarnations have been passed through. The possessor of the Love-Mystery is the Sun-Spirit Whom we call the Christ, and since He has an interest not only in the individuality, but directly in each single personality of the earth, we call Him the "Great Sacrifice of the Earth" or the "Mystical Lamb."
In the Apostle's Creed we are taught to say that we believe in the "Resurrection of the Body" and from this one passage, many misleading images have arisen, such as the tombs opening up and human bodies arising in their original form, a well-meaning but materialistically-based and grossly erroneous projection of the real meaning of the resurrection on the last day.
[page 55] It is called the "last crisis" and must be described as "Spiritualization" or, as it is popularly called, the "Resurrection of the Flesh." One must only understand these things in the true sense as given by occultism, then they cannot be attacked. Enlightened circles will not be able in any case to understand that matter could someday become quite different from matter. What could be called in the best sense of the word the "madness of materiality" will never be able to imagine that matter could one day be spiritualized that is, that someday something will come about which one calls spiritualization, the Resurrection of the Body, of the Flesh.
People who believe in a physical human body resurrection to their very death in this lifetime have missed the point, but will luckily have future lifetimes in which to save themselves from their attachment to materiality.
During Martin Luther's time, the circadian human ability to see spiritual realities was fading. Luther had remnants of spiritual sight, as one can verify by his discussions with the devil. But Luther was aware of the imminent loss of that ability in the full of humanity and thus exhorted everyone to develop a religion based on faith, things not seen, but believed. Steiner, a prophet of our times, tells us that religion based on faith must soon fade away, replaced by a religion based on knowledge. The impact of this has yet to be understood by the world at large, but individuals studying the message of Steiner do not have to wait for the rest of the world, but can lead the rest of the world into this new form of religion based on knowledge.
[page 58] So Christianity stands there, not as a religion which might be a national religion but, if it is rightly understood, as a religion of mankind. In that the Christian feels himself one with the "Father," soul confronts soul, no matter to what people or nation it belongs. All divisions must fall away under the influences of Christianity, and the Jupiter condition must be prepared under the influence of this principle. Christianity therefore has begun as a religion, for humanity was founded on religion. Yet religion must be replaced by wisdom, by knowledge. In so far as religion rests upon faith and is not inflamed with the fire of full knowledge it is something that must be replaced in the course of humanity's progress. And whereas formerly man had to believe before he could come to knowledge, in the future full knowledge will shine with light and man will know and thence ascend to the recognition of the highest spiritual worlds. From religion mankind evolves to wisdom, glowed through by love. First wisdom, then love, then wisdom glowed through by love.
It seems to me that the progression of religion goes through the same stages as those of love, beginning first with fiery passion (Eros), then brotherly and familial compassion, and finally the stage of spiritual love, agape, or "wisdom glowed through by love".
We have seen that our progress through becoming full human beings required that we work on our astral body to build up our spirit self (Manas), the work on our etheric body to build up our life spirit (Budhi), and finally to work on our physical body to build up our spirit man (Atman). But how are we to proceed with these tasks, have we no helpers? Yes, we have Angels, Archangels, and Archai to help us. To begin with, we each have a Guardian Angel which follows our individuality through successive personalities (lifetimes), in fact, that angel will stay with us until we reach the consciousness of an angel in the course of our individual evolution. (Page 72)
[page 71] We have said that man has a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body and an ego and that he is now occupied in transforming his astral body so that it gradually becomes spirit-self. He is working on his other members as well, but the essential task of earthly existence consists in the full development of the spirit-self. The Angels have developed it already, they had developed it when Earth-existence began, and thus the Angels in the hierarchies of evolution are the spirits which guide this task of man — the transforming of the astral body into the spirit-self.
How does the fruits of our development during one lifetime survive to our next lifetime? There is a popular expression that "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas." That applies to our physical body: "What happens in our physical body stays in our physical body." That means, whatever happened during one lifetime to our physical body dissolves away at death with the physical body. But, consider our etheric body: "What happens in our etheric body stays around to seed our physical body in our next incarnation." Steiner explains to us how the angelic beings assist in preparing our body for its next incarnation.
[page 72] Now we ask how they do this. — Let us remember here what happens after a man's death and how he has round him at first what we have called the memory panorama of the just completed life. This lasts for two or three days, it differs somewhat for individual persons. It lasts as a rule for about the length of time that the person could hold out without sleep. Different people vary very much in this: one is accustomed to sleep after every twelve hours and then his eyes close; another on the contrary could keep awake for four to five days. The memory-tableau lasts as long as the person can keep himself from sleeping. Then the etheric body dissolves and only an extract of it remains — the life-fruit of the past life. This is taken with him for the whole of the time that follows, is incorporated into his being and forms the basis for the upbuilding of the physical body in the next incarnation. He is enabled to build up his next body more perfectly, because he can make use of the fruits of his past life. Thus man has this life-essence and forms his next body out of it in the life that follows.
Many of you have or have had pets which you care for and love, have you not? You get their shots, feed them, groom them, hold them, pet, and generally take care of them and love them. Let me ask you a strange question: How can your pets how their gratitude for all this loving attention? They can't talk to you, can they? And yet, by their loving looks and coming when you call, they can show you signs of their gratefulness. Now, for an even stranger question: How can you show gratitude to your Guardian Angel who watches over you, follows you from one lifetime to another, steers you into the right decisions (as seen from its multi-lifetime perspective), and generally loves you? First, you need to be aware that you have a Guardian Angel, don't you? That it exists as a reality, that it's not some childhood fantasy you learned about in Sunday School or Catechism. Then when something good happens to you, simply say Thank You to your Guardian Angel.
[page 72] Such an Angel being works in fact with every human individual, guiding him in his task of developing the spirit-self in the astral body. In a part of Christian doctrine it speaks of man's Guardian Angel and that is a conception completely corresponding to reality. They are the beings who create the harmony between the human individual and the course of earthly evolution until man will have advanced so far at the end of Earth's evolution that he can release his Angel. He will then himself have the consciousness of an Angel.
When we visited San Michele, a chapel built by Dr. Axel Munthe atop Anacapri on the Isle of Capri off the coast of Naples in Italy, I was very impressed by the story of how the good doctor saw a sphinx in a dream and ventured to the mainland to fetch the granite sculpture and bring it back. He hired local farmers to haul the heavy object up the 777 steps to the San Michele Chapel (named after the Archangel Mi-cha-il) where it rests today looking down on the sapphire waters of Capri harbor a thousand feet below. At that time, I had no idea of the connection between archangels and sphinxes, but Steiner elaborates on that theme.
[page 73] In reality there is a spiritual representative, an Archangel, who leads and directs the people as a whole. This Being reaches down into the animal world, and this was felt by the peoples, they felt it out of their instinct. The one folk dwelt here, the other there, and according to the different regions they occupied they had to make use of such and such animals. They felt instinctively that this was allotted to them by their folk-spirit. This spirit worked as far as the animal world, so that the ancient Egyptians, who experienced this very clearly, said: When we consider plant development, then the Angel is working into it; when we consider the animals, these are apportioned to us by the guiding spirit of the whole people. They therefore saw the power which supplied the animals to them as a sacred power and the way in which they treated the animals was an expression of this consciousness. They did not speak of Archangels but they had the same feeling about it, and it was this feeling that the Egyptians united with the animal worship. Moreover, where there was a consciousness of this spiritual connection, these spirits were not represented by pictures of earthly animals, though with animal images, as for instance the Sphinx, winged beasts, and so forth, which you find in the various images of the peoples.
There are no elemental spirits. This may seem to be a strange statement to those who have encountered the idea of elementals or beings possessing only body and soul that are invisible to our physical senses. The problem with using the term "elemental spirits" is that they do not possess spirit, only body and soul. (Page 80) It is therefore better to use the correct term which is elemental beings. We cannot see the doer when these beings are active in our world but we can see the done. In other words, things happen in our world due to influence of these elemental beings, but modern science denies their existence, choosing often the cop-out of calling their activity random events, coincidences, or anomalies, among other things. Science recognizes the done, but denies the presence of a doer.
[page 80] Their existence is of course denied in our enlightened age, for man in his present phase of development cannot see them; one who wishes to see them must have progressed to a certain degree of clairvoyant consciousness. The fact that a thing is not perceptible does not mean, however, that it is not active in our world. The activity of these beings of body and soul plays very definitely into our world. What they do can very well be seen, but not the doers themselves.
Banshees are a form of elemental being which was familiar to the men who built the Titanic. The shipfitters could hear the screeches from the bowels of the ship and knew they signaled a bad omen. The ship sailed and did not survive its maiden voyage as is well known. Elemental beings are completely amoral.
[page 80] Apart from the fact that their body is invisible, they differ essentially from man in as much as one could never reasonably attribute to them any kind of moral responsibility. What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them; what they do, they do automatically, and at the same time it is not at all unlike what the human intellect, intelligence, does. They possess what one calls wit in the highest degree and anyone coming into touch with them can observe good proofs of this. Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man, as every miner can tell you who has still preserved something of a healthy nature-sense — not so much the miners in coal mines as those in metal mines.
We live in a world of many stages of existence, but only one of which is visible to our sensory perception. We can see our physical body, but we cannot see our own etheric body, astral body or ego. The same is true for stages of existence below the level of the physical body in which the various elemental beings reside. (To understand the following passage, assign the human being's members as ego=4, astral body=3, etheric body=2, and physical body=1.)
[page 82] But beneath physical matter there are also sub-stances which cannot be seen. Of all matter only a middle strip or band is perceptible, just that strip which constitutes physical matter, perceptible to the physical eye. Just as substance continues upwards as physical foundation for the etheric and astral, so does it continue downwards and again becomes invisible. And now that we have considered the different members of the human being we shall be able to set before us the membering of these other beings.
What we call elemental beings lack an ego, but they have developed a principle below the physical body. We can say, therefore, that the principles 3, 2, 1 and minus 1 are developed in them. But there are not only beings which begin at the third principle. We have also those which begin at 2 and then have minus 1 and minus 2. And then we have still others whose highest principle is the same as man's lowest. They have developed 1, minus 1, minus 2 and minus 3. If they have a physical body it must be an invisible one.
To understand how these elemental beings come into existence, Steiner builds us an image of a man who takes "the sixteen paths of perdition" (Page 84) with the result that he can no longer find a suitable body in which to incarnate in his seventeenth incarnation and must become invisible to the other humans, being relegated to the order of a nature-spirit or elemental being.
[page 85] Now let us take an extreme case and imagine that a man unites too fully with what is to constitute the character of an incarnation. Let us suppose he reaches what is to be reached in sixteen incarnations; he takes the sixteen false paths. The earth does not wait for him, the earth goes forward and he finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body, for none are in existence. There will be no more bodies in which souls that have grown too much involved in their bodily nature can incarnate. Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity. Just think what they will have lost. It is possible, but only in exceptional cases, that even during Earth evolution souls will be unable to incarnate because there are no more bodies bad enough. These men have gone so far that they have no other opportunity of incarnating in the normal course of evolution. Let us suppose such beings should remain on the earth — it will only be single cases. And now, since the later is the fruit of the earlier, these would then find no bodies suitable for them. They are, as it were, too good for the bodies of a subordinate order and for the other bodies they are too bad. They must therefore live a bodiless existence. They must cut themselves off entirely from the progress of evolution. Why have they deserved this? By reason of the fact that they have not made use of life! The world is around them; they have possessed senses in order to perceive the world, to enrich the life-kernel and mold it to a higher stage. They do not advance with world evolution, they re-main behind at a certain stage. Beings that stay behind at such stages appear in a later epoch with approximately the character of the earlier age. They have grown together with it, but not in the forms of the later epoch. They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits.
During Atlantean times, humans experienced a heavy mist by day and lived in fairy tales by night. With the end of the Atlantean epoch, the mist fell to Earth and the sky cleared up allowing humans to see the outlines and exterior of objects for the first time. The rainbow in the sky which Noah saw was recorded in the Bible to signal the beginning of post-Atlantean human being with waning clairvoyance and increasing clear, light-of-day consciousness and a new form of sleeping unconsciousness which we have yet today. Compare our present day and night condition with that of Atlantean times.
[page 93] When the physical and etheric bodies lie in bed, the astral body with the ego lifts itself out and what one calls the modern consciousness sinks into an indefinite darkness. In the morning when the astral body and the ego draw again into the other members they make use of the physical organs and consciousness lights up. This condition of daily waking in consciousness, nightly sleeping in unconsciousness, did not exist formerly. When it was daytime and man dipped down into his physical body, as far as was the case then, he by no means saw physical beings and objects in definite boundaries as he does today. He saw everything with vague outlines just as you do when you go along the streets on a foggy evening and see the lamps surrounded with a misty aura. That was the way the human being of that time saw everything.
That was his day-time experience; what was his night-time experience? Do we have writings which describe those to us today? Yes, in our fairy tales and ancient myths inhabited by various gods.
[page 93] When the human being passed out of the physical and etheric bodies during the night, no absolute unconsciousness came over him, it was only a different kind of consciousness. At that time man was still aware of the spiritual processes and spiritual beings around him, not clearly and exactly as in true clairvoyance, but with a last relic of ancient clairvoyant sight. Man lived by day in a world of hazy, nebulous outlines, in the night he lived among spiritual beings who were around him as we have the various objects around us today. There was thus no sharp division between day and night, and what is contained in saga and myths is not some folk-fantasy but memories of the experiences which early man had in the supersensible world in his then state of consciousness. Wotan or Zeus or other supersensible spiritual divinities who were known to various peoples are not fabrications of fantasy as is asserted at the council-board of erudition. Such assertions can only be made by someone who knows nothing of the nature of folk-fantasy. It does not in the least occur to early peoples to personify in that way. Those were experiences in ancient times. Wotan and Thor were beings with whom man went about as today he goes about with his fellow-men, and myths and sagas are memories of the ages of ancient clairvoyance.
As we close this review, there are two concepts that Steiner allows us to grasp: 1) Every lie is a murder and 2) Naturalistic art creates spiritual blindness and deafness.
The devastating effects of a lie on oneself and on others is graphically portrayed in the movie, "Ghost". A stock broker manipulates money and tells lies to his friend which leads to his friend's death and his own death.
[page 103] We all know the deep significance of the statement: "Regarded from the spiritual-scientific aspect a lie is a kind of murder." I have explained that a sort of explosion really takes place in the astral world when man utters a lie — even, in a certain way, if he only thinks it. Something takes place in the spiritual world when man lies, which has a far more devastating effect for that world than any misfortune in the physical world. But things which one relates at a certain stage of spiritual-scientific observation, characterizing them as far as is possible then, gain more and more clearness and confirmation when one advances in the knowledge of spiritual science.
After the stock broker's murdering henchman dies when a speeding car hits him in the street, we see dark phantoms rise up out of the shadows to carry his detached spirit away. Later when stock broker dies, we see these same dark phantoms come for him.
[page 104] Here we have again detachment processes and they lead to the fact that when a man dies his physical body does not merely follow the paths which it would normally take. Certain beings are left behind, beings which have been created in the physical body through the effect of lying and slander, and have been detached from the spiritual world. Such beings, detached in this circuitous way, now flit and whir about in our world and belong to the class that we call "phantoms." They form a certain group of elemental beings related to our physical body and invisible to physical sight. They multiply through lies and calumnies, and these in actual fact populate our earthly globe with phantoms.
Clearly, Steiner says, we must encourage our spiritual life to grown strong enough to overcome the ghosts, phantoms, and demons, etc. which the world creates around us. He says that "Someday men will understand how to build a railway-station so that it streams out truth like a temple and is in fact simply an expression suited to what is within it." (Page 107) One can imagine entering such a train station and hearing an announcement, "Truth rolling out on Track No. 9!"
Steiner asks us to compare the naturalist artist and the true artist. The former knows nothing of the spiritual realities and the later embodies spiritual realities in their art.
[page 114] The man whose whole interest is merged in the external physical world, in what his external senses hold alone to be of value, works so strongly on his astral bodily nature through this exclusive interest in the physical world, that this becomes blind and deaf when it is in the spiritual worlds at night. The sublimest sphere sounds may resound, the loftiest spiritual tones may whisper something to the soul, it brings nothing back with it into the life of day. And then men scoff at idealistic, at spiritual art, and maintain that art's sole purpose is to photograph outer reality, for there alone it has solid ground under its feet. That is the way the materialist talks since he knows nothing of the realities of the spiritual world.
The true artist talks differently. He perhaps will say: When the tones of the orchestra sound to me, it is as if I heard the speech of archetypal music whose tones sounded before there were yet human ears to hear them. — He can say too: In the tones of a symphony there lies a knowledge of higher worlds which is loftier and more significant than anything which can be proved by logic, analyzed in conclusions.
When we arrive on Earth in a new incarnation, we find things realized already in the world around us which we had worked toward in our previous lifetime.
[page 116] What we have in the hours when we are together, let us imagine expanded outwardly, carried forth into the world. Then we have the impulses which we should have when we are conscious that spiritual science is no hobby for individuals sitting together, but something that should be carried out into the world. The souls who sit here in your bodies will find, when they appear in a new incarnation, many things already realized.
In these lectures, Steiner lays out for all to see the manifold variety of Spiritual Beings and the influence that they have upon us human beings. We can learn how these beings work, how they affect us for bad or good, how we can shape our own lives to foster their good graces and how we can show our appreciation for the help and guidance they provide to us as we strive forward in our evolution into full human beings in every sense of the word.
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Footnote 2.Return to text directly before Footnote 2.
Note that the page numbers in this review are handy for positional reference, but only refer to the pagination of the volume of the lectures from eLib which I printed out for the purposes of this review.
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Footnote 4.Return to text directly before Footnote 4.
This soap-bubble model of the Universe came to me from Itzhak Bentov in his books back in the 1970s, Stalking the Wild Pendulum and A Cosmic Book. It was only through my study of anthroposophy that I began to grasp the meaning of Bentov's model, that our observable universe, our cosmos, comprises one of the bubbles in a great foam of bubbles.
Footnote 5.Return to text directly before Footnote 5.
On page 51, Steiner writes that in occultism we call the Moon the "Cosmos of Wisdom" and the Earth the "Cosmos of Love."
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I hear often from my Good Readers that they have bought books after reading my book reviews. Keep reading, folks! As I like to remind you, to obtain more information on what's in these books, buy and read the books — for less information, read the reviews.
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= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =In this section I like to comment on events in the world, in my life, and in my readings which have come up during the month. These are things I might have shared with you in person, if we had had the opportunity to converse during the month. If we did, then you may recognize my words. If I say some things here which upset you, rest assured that you may skip over these for the very reason that I would likely have not brought up the subject to spoil our time together in person.1. Padre Filius Reads the New Orleans Advocate this Month:
Padre Filius, the cartoon character created by your intrepid editor and would-be cartoonist, will appear from time to time in this Section of the Digest to share with us some amusing or enlightening aspect of the world he observes during his peregrinations. This month's cartoon inspired by Novel's Title:"The Lonely Polygamist" by Brady Udall.
This month the good Padre reads about a Lonely Polygamist:
2. Comments from Readers:
NOTE: I love hearing from all my Good Readers and including your missives here (slightly edited).
If you prefer any comments or photos you send to be private, simply say so and they will not be published.
- THANKS FOR THE EMAILS!
On New Year's Day we received greetings and compliments on DIGESTWORLD from many of our Good Readers, among them, Carroll Devine, Patrick Clark, Carol Fleischman, Don Doerres, Jim Webb, David Dillard, Sharon Roberts, Jo Anne Plessala, Anthony Spatafora, Kaisu Viikari, Mark Parker, Ruth Ryan & Ted Graham, Ted McGlone, Kevin Dann, Betty Chowning, and Gust and Janet Valantasis, among others. Thank you very much! Hope 2014 is a great year for you all!
- EMAIL from David Dillard in Ireland:
I hope you are doing well and I miss the folks at Mouse Practice. I wrote this article for British Mensa. I thought you might be interested in it. Please reprint with my permission.
- EMAIL from Kevin Dann re: Humboldt's Gift review:
BOBBY! God man, you can write. Bellow should be reading you, not the other way round. That little screed about Twitter below the mandolin revelation is spectacular. God save us from Tweets.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ REPLY from Bobby ~~~~~~~~
And I love having a friend who can toss off the word screed with aplomb.
3. Poem from Freedom on the Half Shell:"Running Bumblebees"
Give me your poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free and I will give them taxes, regulations, restrictions, and every manner of unfairness ever created by persons saddled with the illusion that they can decide what is best for someone else's welfare. The individual, like the business professional, knows what's best in a given situation and, given the freedom, will take that action. The forces of coercion are prying open the shell that contains the living muscle and spirit of the American people — will we resist those forces and keep our muscles and spirit alive, free to open at will, or will we give up like the oyster and settle for "freedom on the half shell?" Here is another poem from Freedom on the Half Shell:
4. ROOTS OF DIGESTWORLDtm
Trotsky and Lenin taught
The Russian bumblebee to walk
From flower to flower
For seventy years —
A starvation diet of honey.
Gorbachev's perestroika's teaching
The Russian bumblebee to run,
To let the feet coordinate themselves
In hope that a running start
Will lift their country into flight.
The bumblebee cannot fly, unfortunately,
Unless the wings have autonomy.
No central nervous system
Can control the wing flap speed
Required for flight.
The wings must coordinate themselves
Free from central domination,
Or else — the Reds can cuss and cuss —
They'll become a fast-running
Bumblebee like US.
[NOTE: free-writing is a technique for learning to write that I got from Peter Elbow in his book, Writing Without Teachers. To do it, one writes without stopping for ten minutes or two pages.]
This is a transcription of my hand-written free-writing exercise of Wednesday, January 6, 1988. In this piece of writing, one can see the ideas which later led to my on-line publication of DIGESTWORLDtm which didn't begin until August, 2000. If some of this writing seems juvenile, remember I was a mere lad of 48 at the time:5. BACKWARDS CAUSATION
Just 3-hole punched the month of December 1987 free-writings to finish up the year. About 400+ pages of writings — probably enough to fill a small book — and that represents just one year of free-writing. During the year I innovated Book Reviews, Film Reviews, and just yesterday I wrote my first obituary (Pete Maravich). I will begin that process in earnest for all the important people in my life that die — (DW#141: most recently Gail Kelley Webb). I will capture a capsule of my thoughts on paper while my thoughts are fresh and devoted to the subject at hand.
Curious how I arrived at that backwards: Free-writing causes one to write upon demand — the existence of demand causes the writing to be about what's currently happening — that led to my writing about books and films during the course of the year and now I want to have the existence of the book/film/person's death to become the trigger for a free-writing endeavor devoted just to the item of interest. A sports reporter is just a person who devotes his time to writing about the latest sports event that has captured his attention! Wow! and it all goes back to free writing. Now my free-writing seems to be devoted to items that have not been formalized into spin-off endeavors! What will my writing be like 3 years from now? How many additional endeavors will be formalized? Sports events? Political Events? News Reports? Jungian Group? Agape Lab Reports? Agape Lab Network Reports? Party Reports? Relative Visit Reports. Walking Jeauxy Reports? Sexual Encounter Reports? Free Writing Progress Reports? Invention Reports? Children Reports? Grandchildren Reports? Telephone Call Reports? Holiday Reports? Mardi Gras Parade Reports? And so on . . .
Then when I have all these reports going I will need a newspaper to contain them all. I will train and hire reporters by teaching them the same way and start the first Metairie Daily News (name to be decided upon later). Buy Laserjet Printer and print the newspaper myself. How to get it to the reading public and how to charge for it? More to come . . . .This is a transcription of my hand-written free-writing exercise of Thursday, January 14, 1988. In it I discuss how I imagined myself writing a publication some 12 years before it came into existence, as if the presence of DIGESTWORLDtm in future caused the idea for it to come into being in the present. This possibility certainly causes a problem in the philosophy of science:
Was reading "Asymmetries of Time — Problems in the Philosophy of Science" by MIT Professor Paul Horwich driving to work today. (January 18, 2014: apparently never reviewed it, too densely contrary to how I have begun to understand the world. Skipped to the section on "Dancing Chief" having to do with backward causation. Chief danced to ensure a good hunt. He learned that if he stopped dancing before the hunters returned to him, the hunt went poorly (due to episodes of cowardice), but if he danced all the time till they returned, the hunt went better. As though the dancing after the hunt caused the hunt to go well. Then I came into work and found that the one error in the M&TE Equivalency data base was the deletion of missing MTE list for a procedure MI-3-121 January 18, 2014: (Note I=I&C procedure, M&TE= Measuring & Test Equipment), the pending revision of which eliminates the list of M&TE. Thus with no possible connection between the "pending" revision and the M&TE data base, the list that won't be needed later was left out "erroneously". This illustrate the mechanism of backward causation: the effect: the list not needed preceded the cause: revision of the procedure to eliminate the list. Naturally, Horwich's original aim was to prove that backward causation doesn't exist.
Note: the movies "Back to the Future" and "Peggy Sue Got Married" both deal with backward causation. The invention of the skateboard is the effect of the existence of the skateboard under Marty's feet in the future. Thus the cause (skateboard) exists in the future of the effect (invention of the skateboard). Same for the town having a black mayor, for Chuck Berry's guitar gyrations, Calvin Klien jeans, etc. Also for computer chips, panty hose, ghetto blasters, attitude towards algebra (Peggy Sue, "I guarantee you that I'll never use algebra as an adult."). Horwich misses the essential point which is "the simultaneity of time (It All Happens at the Same Time). The invention in the future creates the creation of the invention in the present. Science fiction writers comprise the feed forward control system of the world: their vision, tapping the future ("probable futures" of Jane Roberts) creates some of the probable presents and some of the probable pasts. The "some of" qualification is necessary because the probable presents and pasts can be created any moment by anyone — there is no requirement in Jane Robert's model of time that the past and present be created from the future as it passes us — there is no motion of passing, only simultaneous existence.
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9. CLOSING NOTES:
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Thanks to all of you Good Readers for providing the Sunshine which has made this site a Blooming Success. — Especially those of you who have graciously allowed us to reprint your emails and show photos of you and by you on this website — you're looking good! By Apri 1, 2019, in its 20th year of publication, the DIGESTWORLD and the doyletics website has received over 21.3 MILLION VISITORS ! ! !
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My reviews are not intended to replace the purchasing and reading of the reviewed books, but rather to supplant a previous reading or to spur a new reading of your own copy. What I endeavor to do in most of my reviews is to impart a sufficient amount of information to get the reader comfortable with the book so that they will want to read it for themselves. My Rudolf Steiner reviews are more detailed and my intention is to bring his work to a new century of readers by converting his amazing insights into modern language and concepts.
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