Re: [steiner] thinking vs hormones
- sarahwh@... writes:
I was discussing the idea of 'detachment' to external events, ie feeling them but not impulsively reacting to them, with my husband. We then got onto the subject of 'road rage' mostly amongst males, and my husband is adamant that testosterone in males is stronger than the ability Think! And that it would be very difficult, especially for the younger male, to attain anything higher because his hormonal impulses are too strong. He used the example of the eunuch becoming passive and gentle after castration. Can you please comment on this?
********Well, to believe that the hormones secreted by our endocrine glands are more powerful than our conscious selves is just a variation on the usual philosophy of materialism, by which we are only our bodies. As Steiner once said in his early philosophical days, if this were true, he would rather be the floor on which he stood then a human being. Fortunately, it is not true. For example, some of the evidences Steiner pointed to are blushing and turning pale. When you are young and easily embarrassed about something you may think about, you easily blush, in which case something happening in your soul causes the blood to rush into your face, as if to meet something; or in the case of turning pale, thinking about something fearful makes all the blood rush away from the face, as if fleeing danger. In both cases it is the immaterial something which is our inner self which causes the physiological changes, not the other way around. So this demonstrates that it's a falsehood that we are only what our physical bodies and their chemicals make us.
Rather, those things influence us only to the degree we are passive and simply allow them to. Spiritual training requires breaking out of a passive frame of mind and beginning to take control of ourselves in a way that ordinary life may never teach us.
But self-control and allowing yourself to act on one impulse while forbidding another is the normal state of all civilized men. Human beings could never live together if this was not so. This was what Freud called the ego, standing over the contents of the subconscious (the id) and allowing some impulses to motivate us while restraining others. In Anthroposophy we know that this part of ourselves can become stronger with each incarnation, and that this is what makes the great spirits of the human race what they are, those souls who are no longer wrestling with just keeping themselves from lurching out of control every day but rather have gone beyond that to instead channeling all the lower energies into higher activities. The Mother Teresas, the Albert Schweitzers, the Rudolf Steiners of the world show that the despairing, hopeless, and negative philosophy that says that we cannot help being what our bodies make us is false. As one wit put it, "A Beethoven or a Shakespeare shows that Man isn't an animal -- -- -- he's just bloody lazy."
And by the way, one of the early Christian fathers named Origen castrated himself, and although a eunuch all his adult life, was hardly passive. He was a forceful and dynamic writer, one of the most prolific of the classical world (although for religious reasons, virtually everything he wrote has been destroyed... but that's another story.)
The thing to remember about developing 'detachment' is that it is a spiritual exercise, something we deliberately set out to cultivate. No one is saying it's our natural state, any more than being able to run a four-minute mile is--- and no more impossible. That's what's so wrong with the philosophy that our emotions are things that just happen to us, whereas in truth they are actions we choose because we believe they will achieve certain objectives. This leads to blaming other people for ourselves getting angry or feeling whatever emotion, whereas ultimately we have no one but ourselves to blame for our emotional states. We choose how to feel, whether we consciously or unconsciously do so. Other people and their actions only have the power to affect us if we give them that power first, as in the Aesop's fable of the Eagle.