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American soil-Re:American Anthroposophy

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  • elaine upton
    Hello, dear John,Joel, Starmann, Danny,Bruce, and all of this thread (Anthroposophic Society in America, and related), (By the way, are there any women talking
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 8, 2000
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      Hello, dear John,Joel, Starmann, Danny,Bruce, and all of this thread
      (Anthroposophic Society in America, and related),
      (By the way, are there any women talking here besides me?)

      See below my various responses to many of your different posts on this
      thread.

      Mainly, i begin by saying that Joel has expressed views that are to me quite
      lucid, compassionate (even in his righteous indignation), and provocative of
      our thinking about the future of spiritual endeavour, anthroposophical or
      otherwise, in America.

      John, responding to my letter to Starmann, you write:

      >Agreed. More importantly, it is not the role of America to imitate Europe.
      >Nor is that what is best for Americans.

      Indeed!

      You continue:
      >((...))

      >There is a place for the subjective and the multi-cultural here, because
      >America is indeed a place of diversity. A few days ago, Elaine, your
      >enthusiasm for Africans and African-Americans led you quite close to saying
      >that African culture and Africans are superior to other cultures and
      >peoples. I'm sure you don't believe that when it is presented in that way
      >and would not, in fact, say that.

      Well, you are right in saying that I do not believe that "African culture
      and Africans are superior."--Yet, I must say that I don't agree that my
      "enthusiasms led me **quite close** to saying that Africans...superior.'

      This is not an issue of superiority, and never has been for me. So, no, I am
      not even close to saying that. I wonder why it is that when someone speaks
      enthusiastically about the gifts of some group, then that is judged to be
      any thing other than what is expressed --namely, just that: enthusiasm for
      the gifts of that group.

      Frankly, when i observe the Eurocentric world we live in (and I quite agree
      with Joel on this ), the ones who behave as though they are superior are
      many (**not all**, but many) from Europe, either as first generation
      immigrants, or as native Europeans, or as many (**not all**, but many) white
      Americans who are still strongly European identified.

      Talk about consciousness, much less consciousness soul!!--The Eurocentric
      view calls things "down south" and "up north" (the north not only
      geographically on top, but implicitly superior). The inferior is "below" the
      equator, etc.--Australia is "down under". Down under what, may i ask?--Last
      i heard, the Earth was round (smile).

      Or, take Starmann's posts where he (you, Starmann) proclaim(s) that European
      Waldorf teachers are "light years ahead" of Americans! This is none other
      than a Eurocentric bias. "Light years ahead" in what respects, may i ask?
      This is all a very subjective valuing, a matter of taste, and has nothing to
      do with what is objectively important.

      Even the reference to and the term "classical music" has a Eurocentric bias.
      Handel and Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and Mahler are "classical"?-??--
      Yes, in Europe and with Eurocentric Americans they are "classical." But to
      me "classical" American is just as important (not superior, but certainly
      important, and since I live here, on this soil, of great importance). Thus,
      classical American is blues, "negro spirituals", native american drumming,
      native american flute, country western music, and the like. These are
      important, and not forms inferior to Mozart or Vivaldi.

      (Of course, nothing is purely "American" or purely "European". Country music
      has great Irish influences, or Scots-Irish, and jazz and blues have great
      African influences, and even Irish influences...Yet, still these forms
      emerge as distinctly American. Even the "native american" is related to
      certain Asian streams...)

      My point is: there is little danger of a culture of African superiority, or
      of American superiority. But a certain conviction of European superiority is
      rampant! It has been since Europeans took to colonizing Africa and the
      Americas, since Queen Elizabeth and Sir Frances Drake defeated the Spanish
      Armada, since Columbus decimated the people on these shores, since Jan van
      Reebek landed on the coast of southern Africa, and so on.

      Now, I'll go further and say that for me, Rudolf Steiner does not adequately
      address these issues of colonization and Eurocentrism. His mission was
      mainly for the central European soul. Good. Even so, he taught what has
      wider import, and so, I, an American, an African-American, have learned more
      than I can say from Steiner. He has been and is important to me, and has
      given great gifts to the world (in agriculture, medicine, education,
      cognition, and so on...) Yet, he, too, was on a journey and not completely
      realized. He did not address the deep issues of colonization and
      Europeanization of the world, except to say over and over that Europe has a
      certain role (and England a certain role in bringing forth the consciousness
      soul).

      At times, he calls Africans "backwards" peoples (and I do read German, and
      the translation of 'backwards' seems just about right.)I can't remember
      where, and so I stand to be corrected if i am in error, but I believe
      Steiner said something about it being necessary that the native americans
      die out. These kind of statements, if he did make them, are unfortunate.
      While on a certain level it may be true that the **certain aspects** of
      ancient native cultures of the Americas had to die out, there is a need to
      look much more deeply than Steiner did about what this means, and about the
      roles of the "General" George Armstrong Custers and massacres such as that
      at Wounded Knee, South Dakota and forced marches such as that of the Trail
      of Tears in decimating the native population. In other words, Steiner has
      not fully discussed these matters, and it is up to us, here in America, to
      go further, beyond what Archiati has rightly termed the "grave paralysis" of
      the bureaucracy known as the Anthroposophic Society, beyond quoting "Steiner
      says..." to an exploration of issues that face us in the Americas today.

      Eurocentrism does not help us deal with issues of spiritual development in
      America, and the gifts of the Americas (with all our problems and challenges
      and opportunities). Eurocentrism (not an attitude of African or of American
      superiority, and not "Europhobia", but Eurocentrism) is what is rampant in
      the Society in America. And this is unfortunate. I, for one, will not
      support this conviction of European superiority. Neither will I be part of
      an Anthoposophic Society in America that is governed by primarily
      European/Eurocentric consciousness.

      What I will do is continue to be enthusiastic about and increasingly
      disciplinedly devoted to the development of other consciousnesses and
      expressions/activities--be they African, be they American (with all the
      cultural variety and struggle for form, here).

      Now, having said that, let me tell you all that if you came to my and my
      partner's home, you would find Schubert's Impromptus among our CD's, lots of
      Vivaldi and other Europeans. When I play the piano, that European
      isntrument, you would find me playing Debussy and Bach fugues. But you
      would also find me doing African percussion and Native american drumming,
      and my partner playing native american flute. You would find CD's of blues
      great Bessie Smith and Iroquoian Joanne Shenandoah and the Lakota Blackfoot
      Singers and African-American Sweet Honey in the Rock. You would find my
      partner and me arguing about the role of Bob Dylan, and the influence of
      drugs on Bob Marley, because these things are of this soil and matter to us.
      You would find me dancing as much as i am able at Pow-wows (not fancy
      dancing, but dancing a little and loving it), and would find me reading and
      seeking to learn from shamanic healers in the native american traditions
      (Cherokee--or Tslagi, Lakota, etc.). You would find books about and by
      Rudolf Steiner, about Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Rolling Thunder,and Thich Nhat
      Hanh. You would find sayings of Inayat Khan and of the Course in Miracles.
      You would find poems of Rumi, of Anna Akhmatova, of Paul Celan and of Walt
      Whitman and Langston Hughes and Mary Tall Mountain and June Jordan. Novels
      (bought or from the library) of Dostoevsky and of Toni Morrison and native
      american Leslie Silko and Linda Hogan and Mary Summer Rain and Faulkner.
      Plays of Shakespeare and of Ntozake Shange and Wole Soyinka.--I love them
      all, and more. I say this, not to impress you, but to tell you what I love.

      (None of this, shamanism, etc., dear Starmann, is to be dismissed as merely
      new age. New Age people, whoever they/we are, are humans on the PATH .--All
      are on the PATH, and no one is excluded, and all have gifts. Some suffer and
      prolong the way, yet all are journeying to rediscover the Light!)

      I encourage my students at college to love as much variety as they can. It
      is not about bringing it all down to a low level (Starmann), but about
      beginning where we are: here. I work with students--people--who hold down
      jobs and go to school, who are single mothers and absent fathers, who have
      been emotionally abused, who have lived in housing projects with the smell
      of urine in hallways, who, they tell me, look out peep holes before going
      out the door because a gunman or woman may be outside waiting to steal their
      NIKES or their Tiger Woods cap.--

      So, I love variety, and hope they will, too, yet we must start where we are,
      in that hunger,that pain, that joy that is our opportunity. My motto is
      something like that on the bumper sticker: Think globally--Act locally.
      (Yes, "It thinks in me"--global, cosmic. And "He wills in me." Thy Will be
      Done. Act. Think and Act. and Feel ("She feels in me." The Holy Spirit,
      Sophianic heart wisdom...) all from the I AM--

      Act with feeling, with thinking. That is American (the bringing to outward
      expression, of which Joel speaks in his website articles). That action may
      at times be without elevated feeling and thinking, may be loud, vulgar,
      awkward, crude, ravenous, rapacious, even. Yet, if I am to work as a healer
      of that which is destructive (bringing into attunement or harmony the
      thinking, feeling, willing), I don't start with Hamlet saying "Something is
      rotten in the state of Denmark." I start with something like Langston
      Hughes's poem, "Harlem" and its opening question so relevant to inner city
      struggles in America: "What happens to a dream deferred?" or with Walt
      Whitman speaking to farmer, opera singer, weaver, laborer, fisherman/woman,
      mother, prisoner, preacher: "I hear America singing!"

      I seek to continually incarnate here, where I am, in these mountains, these
      rivers,this soil, this concrete above the soil, yet still closer to the soil
      than the forms of Europe. From here is where i choose to look out at the
      sky, and believe me, the sky looks different from here, and that perception,
      though incomplete, is a gift. My concern is with how we are paving the
      American streets and how we are farming the American soil, growing herbs
      that do well here, that are gifts of here (and if transplanted, ones that
      are suited to here). My primary concern is with the forms of music and other
      artistic expression (painting, poetry, dance, etc.) that arise out of this
      soil, this geography, this climate. Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Melville,
      Thoreau --they teach me about American race/ism, about capitalism, about
      peculiarly American forms of guilt, and about peculiarly American forms of
      hope and joy. These are gifts to the world --the gifts of those of us born
      here, incarnated here, committed to here.

      And Danny, the meeting of that here (from this soil) with the spirit world
      (of mineral, plant, stone, gnome, animal, star, and beyond) is the only form
      of initiation that means anything to me when i seek to be here and fulfill
      the calling of here and the role of here for the Earth and Cosmos.

      I am still learning, and so value this discussion, the agreements and
      disagreements.

      With much affection and gratitude for you all,

      elaine







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    • Danny Fortier
      ... I know this soil for I ve been travelling through many parts of it. I know that the state of wonder arising from it s power is surely a door for the
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 8, 2000
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        >
        > And Danny, the meeting of that here (from this soil) with the spirit
        > world
        > (of mineral, plant, stone, gnome, animal, star, and beyond) is the
        > only form
        > of initiation that means anything to me when i seek to be here and
        > fulfill
        > the calling of here and the role of here for the Earth and Cosmos.


        I know 'this soil' for I've been travelling through many parts of it.
        I know that the state of wonder arising from it's power is surely a
        door for the spirit to enter. In fact there I felt naturally sheltered
        by the land I'd say, the american dream is not something arising from
        the government(s), but rather from the magic, the possibilities that
        we feel by being there, simply: the land.

        That's probably why things are different here in Canada, I don't feel
        the land is really sheltering, there could be found the fact of having
        a lot of social programs I'd say.

        I noticed also that the people living on a particular patch of land
        will most likely adopt another way to be, let me explain: I've been
        living in Toronto for a while and I would qualify it as an etheric
        place; this place being etheric but no 'socialness' really to be found
        there, in fact people seems to 'rebound' in their astral body, and be
        kind of utterly conscious of themselves, and making them unable to
        meet
        something else then themselves and their wallet.

        In Qu�bec city now I am, this an astral place I'd say, but this makes
        people less of an independent persona, less sense of separation
        between
        people(even though it is on the fall also I'd say), I clearly feel
        people being kind of a likeness of one another, like a village feeling
        I'd say, this is hard to address the individual, to reach it, I feel
        this people, if I want to be more precise: etherically flabby, flaccid
        connected. Not a great dynamism is to be found, so is the economy I'd
        say.

        I felt in fact I switched from an Ahrimanic kind of place to one that
        is more Luciferian but Ahrimanic on the rise. The Qu�bec political
        parties even represent this state of fact, we don't have any
        conservative party here, not yet..

        Danny
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      • John Massengale
        ... Because you specifically contrasted the superiority of some African gifts with some European qualities you liked less, and you would probably be mad if I
        Message 3 of 6 , Feb 8, 2000
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          > This is not an issue of superiority, and never has been for me. So, no, I am
          > not even close to saying that. I wonder why it is that when someone speaks
          > enthusiastically about the gifts of some group, then that is judged to be
          > any thing other than what is expressed --namely, just that: enthusiasm for
          > the gifts of that group.

          Because you specifically contrasted the superiority of some African gifts
          with some European qualities you liked less, and you would probably be mad
          if I were as critical of African culture as you can be of European culture.
          If I had that post on the computer, I would quote it. But I'm not interested
          in a "yes, you did, no I didn't" discussion because I fundamentally agree
          with what you said. And as I also said, America is and should be a place of
          different cultures and different perspectives. My point is that you and
          Starman both have a tendency to present a particular viewpoint as the best
          viewpoint.

          It's obvious why you talk about the Eurocentric world we live in. But 1)
          it's natural for many Americans to be Eurocentric, and properly done, it is
          no worse than IF (emphasize "if") you were to be Afrocentric; 2) America is
          the most liberal society in the history of the world -- to give but one
          small example, Martin Luther King's non-violent policies depended on a
          receptive establishment, and if you look at the authors and supporters of
          the Civil Rights Act, you will find that most of them were white males; 3)
          Political Correctness, another creation of white European males, in practice
          usually says that the minority is superior to the majority, which must shut
          up and take its medicine. This is the modern, neurotic side of Liberal
          society, a la Walter Benjamin, trickle-down Marxism and Deconstruction. It
          looks on mankind as inherently weak and bad, and the individual as even
          worse. It likes to punish itself and make itself feel bad. It has very
          little to do with the anthroposophical view of life and divinity.

          > Even the reference to and the term "classical music" has a Eurocentric bias.
          > Handel and Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and Mahler are "classical"?-??--
          > Yes, in Europe and with Eurocentric Americans they are "classical." But to
          > me "classical" American is just as important (not superior, but certainly
          > important, and since I live here, on this soil, of great importance). Thus,
          > classical American is blues, "negro spirituals", native american drumming,
          > native american flute, country western music, and the like. These are
          > important, and not forms inferior to Mozart or Vivaldi.
          >
          > (Of course, nothing is purely "American" or purely "European". Country music
          > has great Irish influences, or Scots-Irish, and jazz and blues have great
          > African influences, and even Irish influences...Yet, still these forms
          > emerge as distinctly American. Even the "native american" is related to
          > certain Asian streams...)

          This is Modernism's misinterpretation of "Classical" -- it does not mean
          "the best and the highest" but is actually the earthly expression of a
          divine archetype. And, one should add, an archetype which is somehow
          connected to Europe and America rather than Africa and Asia.

          Neo-classicism is a style, but Classicism is what Thomas Jefferson or
          Palladio or Vitruvius would call an expression of Nature. When you criticize
          the Euclidean nature of Classical architecture and urbanism, you are
          expressing your personal or cultural preference for other types of design,
          although you explicity said in a different form that Euclidean design is bad
          (when you said something about how we need to get away from grids and
          straight lines).

          Similarly, Feng Shui expresses divine archetypes connected to China, and it
          tells us something about China versus Europe that quite a few Feng Shui
          principles directly contradict Classical principles, even though both are an
          expression of Nature. We are all connected, but where we choose to
          reincarnate affects how we experience life and the universe.

          Musically, Mozart is the highest earthly expression of Classicism that
          mankind has produced. That does not mean that there has not been an Asian or
          African composer who has been his equal.

          John Massengale
        • Spindi111@aol.com
          Dear Elaine, I guess this is my opening as you asked if there are any women on this line. I m cindi and brand new to Waldorff as well as Anthroposophy. All I
          Message 4 of 6 , Feb 8, 2000
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            Dear Elaine,

            I guess this is my opening as you asked if there are any women on this line.
            I'm cindi and brand new to Waldorff as well as Anthroposophy. All I know is
            tat I brought my daugher to a May day event and was mesmerized. For now I am
            taking it all in and appreciate the dialogue.

            Regards, cindi gray
          • John Massengale
            ... John Massengale http://www.massengale.com John Montague Massengale AIA Architects & Town Planners Commoditas o Firmitas o Venustas
            Message 5 of 6 , Feb 8, 2000
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              > Neo-classicism is a style, but Classicism is what Thomas Jefferson or
              > Palladio or Vitruvius would call an expression of Nature. When you criticize
              > the Euclidean nature of Classical architecture and urbanism, you are
              > expressing your personal or cultural preference for other types of design,
              > although you explicity said in a different form that Euclidean design is bad
              > (when you said something about how we need to get away from grids and
              > straight lines).

              BTW, this is what I was referring to:

              > Our very architecture in Europe and North America, the design of our lives
              > --buildings, streets, etc. are so straight or rectangular and rational, and
              > very dull and deadening. Where i teach, we are told to make the teaching of
              > writing a rational, systematized thing. That has its place, of course, but
              > it is also limited, and by itself, it will leave the soul dead!

              John Massengale


              http://www.massengale.com

              John Montague Massengale AIA
              Architects & Town Planners

              Commoditas o Firmitas o Venustas
            • elaine upton
              Dear John, I will not go into the details of your post, because it would not be productive, as i think you have already said, to say you said this; i said
              Message 6 of 6 , Feb 9, 2000
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                Dear John,

                I will not go into the details of your post, because it would not be
                productive, as i think you have already said, to say "you said this; i said
                that kind of thing". Rather, I would ask you to discontinue telling me what
                i mean, discontinue putting YOUR slant onto what i say. If you wish to
                accuse me of putting forth African things as superior, or of "coming close"
                to doing so, that is your problem. Don't make it mine.
                elaine


                >From: "John Massengale" <john@...>
                >Reply-To: anthroposophy@onelist.com
                >To: anthroposophy@onelist.com
                >Subject: Re: [anthroposophy] American soil-Re:American Anthroposophy
                >Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2000 16:23:13 -0500
                >
                >From: "John Massengale" <john@...>
                >
                > > This is not an issue of superiority, and never has been for me. So, no,
                >I am
                > > not even close to saying that. I wonder why it is that when someone
                >speaks
                > > enthusiastically about the gifts of some group, then that is judged to
                >be
                > > any thing other than what is expressed --namely, just that: enthusiasm
                >for
                > > the gifts of that group.
                >
                >Because you specifically contrasted the superiority of some African gifts
                >with some European qualities you liked less, and you would probably be mad
                >if I were as critical of African culture as you can be of European culture.
                >If I had that post on the computer, I would quote it. But I'm not
                >interested
                >in a "yes, you did, no I didn't" discussion because I fundamentally agree
                >with what you said. And as I also said, America is and should be a place of
                >different cultures and different perspectives. My point is that you and
                >Starman both have a tendency to present a particular viewpoint as the best
                >viewpoint.
                >
                >It's obvious why you talk about the Eurocentric world we live in. But 1)
                >it's natural for many Americans to be Eurocentric, and properly done, it is
                >no worse than IF (emphasize "if") you were to be Afrocentric; 2) America is
                >the most liberal society in the history of the world -- to give but one
                >small example, Martin Luther King's non-violent policies depended on a
                >receptive establishment, and if you look at the authors and supporters of
                >the Civil Rights Act, you will find that most of them were white males; 3)
                >Political Correctness, another creation of white European males, in
                >practice
                >usually says that the minority is superior to the majority, which must shut
                >up and take its medicine. This is the modern, neurotic side of Liberal
                >society, a la Walter Benjamin, trickle-down Marxism and Deconstruction. It
                >looks on mankind as inherently weak and bad, and the individual as even
                >worse. It likes to punish itself and make itself feel bad. It has very
                >little to do with the anthroposophical view of life and divinity.
                >
                > > Even the reference to and the term "classical music" has a Eurocentric
                >bias.
                > > Handel and Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and Mahler are
                >"classical"?-??--
                > > Yes, in Europe and with Eurocentric Americans they are "classical." But
                >to
                > > me "classical" American is just as important (not superior, but
                >certainly
                > > important, and since I live here, on this soil, of great importance).
                >Thus,
                > > classical American is blues, "negro spirituals", native american
                >drumming,
                > > native american flute, country western music, and the like. These are
                > > important, and not forms inferior to Mozart or Vivaldi.
                > >
                > > (Of course, nothing is purely "American" or purely "European". Country
                >music
                > > has great Irish influences, or Scots-Irish, and jazz and blues have
                >great
                > > African influences, and even Irish influences...Yet, still these forms
                > > emerge as distinctly American. Even the "native american" is related to
                > > certain Asian streams...)
                >
                >This is Modernism's misinterpretation of "Classical" -- it does not mean
                >"the best and the highest" but is actually the earthly expression of a
                >divine archetype. And, one should add, an archetype which is somehow
                >connected to Europe and America rather than Africa and Asia.
                >
                >Neo-classicism is a style, but Classicism is what Thomas Jefferson or
                >Palladio or Vitruvius would call an expression of Nature. When you
                >criticize
                >the Euclidean nature of Classical architecture and urbanism, you are
                >expressing your personal or cultural preference for other types of design,
                >although you explicity said in a different form that Euclidean design is
                >bad
                >(when you said something about how we need to get away from grids and
                >straight lines).
                >
                >Similarly, Feng Shui expresses divine archetypes connected to China, and it
                >tells us something about China versus Europe that quite a few Feng Shui
                >principles directly contradict Classical principles, even though both are
                >an
                >expression of Nature. We are all connected, but where we choose to
                >reincarnate affects how we experience life and the universe.
                >
                >Musically, Mozart is the highest earthly expression of Classicism that
                >mankind has produced. That does not mean that there has not been an Asian
                >or
                >African composer who has been his equal.
                >
                >John Massengale
                >

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