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my continuing struggle with 7fold dialectic

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  • Robert Mason
    To all: I ve been e-away for some time now, but I have not been entirely idle, Anthro-wise.  I have produced a piece of writing, which I will post immediately
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2011
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      To all:

      I've been e-away for some time now, but I have
      not been entirely idle, Anthro-wise.  I have
      produced a piece of writing, which I will post
      immediately following.  It could stand alone, I
      suppose, but I will offer a few words to explain
      my absence from these lists, if nothing else --
      perhaps also to serve as an introduction to my
      following post, hopefully to make it a little
      more comprehensible.

      My offline life during recent months has given
      me even less time online -- less, that is, even
      than I have been wont to complain about.  I have
      sometimes not gotten any time online for weeks
      at a time, even once for a month at a stretch. 
      And even when I have gotten online, it hasn't
      been for long . . . . my usual complaint, only
      more and more so. -- So, I haven't read much of
      what has transpired on these lists; sometimes I
      have just skimmed and not much more.  And I must
      apologize to those who have sent me stuff to
      read; I have read hardly any of it. 

      My offline life has been, and still is,
      something that I might, optimistically and
      hopefully, consider to be a "trial".  But less
      optimistically and more realistically, I must
      confess that I am not doing very well with my
      "trial".  I sometimes feel as though my life is
      going down the toilet, and I am losing control
      of myself in ways that I had thought that I had
      long outgrown.  I am in a jumble of runaway
      thoughts and emotions, and I am being harried,
      hurried, harassed, and my buttons are constantly
      being pushed.  I am being forced to realize how
      little progress I have made along the Path of
      Knowledge as given by Steiner.  I am repeatedly
      breaking almost every rule in *KoHW*, and I keep
      losing my temper, even though I try not to.   
      It's sometimes almost as though I am watching
      someone else acting badly.  And it's about the
      most I can do to get through a few days without
      cussing; if I do, it's only because I hadn't
      been especially provoked for a few days.  When I
      am provoked, my mouth might launch efbombs all
      over the place before I can catch myself. 
      Sometimes I have launched serial salvos of
      efbombs involuntarily while I am thinking:  "I
      shouldn't be doing this; I shouldn't be doing
      this."  And the Gay Liberation Front might be
      glad, and surprised, to be informed that there
      are as many CSers as I have named on the
      highway.  But at least I don't run off at the
      mouth this way within the hearing of others, as
      far as I know.

      So it goes.  I haven't even been able to pull my
      mind together enough to read much more of
      Bondarev's *PoF* book.  I am one of the few
      people in this world to be privileged to have a
      good deal of Graham Rickett's English
      translation, and still I haven't done much with
      it.  And I can't use lack of time as my only
      excuse; it isn't due only to lack of time, but
      also to lack of self-application, and probably
      also to lack of smarts.  I fear that I will
      sprout wings and fly over the Moon before I will
      understand this book.  (And truth be told, I
      haven't managed well even the little time that I
      have had.)

      But I haven't failed altogether in this regard;
      I am still trying to work further into the core
      idea in Bondarev's book:  the 7fold dialectic. 
      Around the time of my last post I was starting
      to gather material and thoughts for another
      attempt at 7fold parsing.  But then I ran out of
      energy for the project and dropped it, even
      though I had a little money invested in it.  I
      couldn't work myself up to doing more of the
      same kind of stuff that I had already done.  I
      had done some 7fold parsing, some fairly
      difficult, and I felt that the time had come for
      me to take the next step forward.  But I didn't
      know what that next step might be, other than to
      try to think 7foldedly myself.  I hadn't done
      well with that previously, but I was about ready
      to try again.  As I said before, there was that
      promise I made to myself that I would at least
      learn how to *think* in this incarnation.  And
      if real thinking be 7folded, then I must learn
      how to do it 7foldedly. 

      So, I set about to try to solve a problem
      through 7fold thinking, as best I understood
      Bondarev's exposition of that procedure.  But I
      didn't want to approach just any problem, and
      especially not one that Steiner had already
      solved for us, at least not one that he had
      solved to my knowledge.  So, I chose a problem
      that I had within myself about one of Steiner's
      own deeds, a problem that really bothered me. 
      Something bothered me about Steiner's approach
      to and recommendations for agriculture. -- And
      my attempt to solve that problem through 7fold
      thinking is the substance of my following post.

      This attempt has stretched over almost half a
      year, off and on, a lot more off than on.  And I
      am still not entirely satisfied with the result,
      but after so much time I feel that it is high
      time to bring it to some kind of conclusion,
      however imperfect it might be.  I have stared at
      it for so long that I can hardly even see it
      now, much less judge it objectively enough to
      improve it much.  There were long stretches when
      I hardly worked a lick on it, and there were
      times that I hardly even cared whether thinking
      was 7folded, or 14folded, or 98folded, or
      whatever; I just wanted relief from my inner
      misery.  And I remembered that sometimes
      objective thinking had done that for me, and
      that was mainly what I wanted then from
      thinking.  Still, after a while, I always pulled
      myself together and got back around to my
      attempt. -- I hope that even a flawed result is
      better than no result at all.

      There are some reasons why I am bringing this
      attempt before this little e-public.  Ideally, I
      would like to have a discussion with some co-
      workers.  But my situation is such that I could
      hardly take part in this discussion, even if I
      could find some co-workers.  Even so, I invite
      comments and suggestions for improvement; but be
      forewarned:  I might not get around to
      responding to such.

      Still, I allow myself to hope that my launching
      this 7fold attempt into e-space might inspire
      other people to make their own attempts.  And I
      think that more people making more such attempts
      are needed; as far as I can see, there aren't
      many now.  (Granted, I don't see very far, even
      in English cyberspace; hopefully, some are
      already "out there".)  As Bondarev says, the
      general culture has reached the point, a crisis,
      where this kind of thinking must become a
      general possession of Mankind, if culture is not
      to decline into a new barbarism.  This kind of
      thinking must become exoteric as the foundation
      for "the New Cultural Epoch".  And for this vast
      undertaking we need an army of 7fold thinkers,
      and I am trying to recruit volunteers for this
      army.  Maybe my example, however weak and clumsy
      it may be, will inspire others to enlist.

      I have written my attempt so that, I would like
      to expect, the reader, if he read closely
      enough, can almost see me at work.  I have shown
      much of my own process, including almost raw
      notes (*almost*, with a little clean-up and
      redaction).  And I have asked myself how much of
      my personal struggle I should make public.  It
      is a basic requirement, as taught by Steiner,
      that the esoteric student shouldn't "chatter"
      about his inner experiences; if he does, he
      loses whatever incipient abilities that he talks
      about.  But I have considered:  what I am
      talking about here isn't really esoteric; as
      Bondarev says, it can and should become very
      exoteric.  It has some tenets in common with
      esoteric work, but it is still not so deep as
      the esoteric.  Anyway, in my following post I am
      talking about nothing more exotic than mental
      imagery and deep feelings.  (And anyway again, I
      am leaving out the really personal stuff.)

      Probably the esoteric, or quasi-esoteric,
      principle that has been most powerfully
      impressed upon me during this 7folded attempt is
      the need for the soul-quality of *reverence*. 
      Reverence doesn't come easily for me, but it
      seemed that the only way I could make any
      progress at all with my attempt was to work-up
      some, somehow.  I found that I could not "think"
      7foldedly in anything like the usual frame of
      mind:  I had to "repent", as the Baptist (or his
      English translators) said; I had to change my
      state of consciousness.  Certainly I had to
      follow the thoughts where they wanted to go,
      rather than trying to think as I might please --
      but this principle is required for any kind of
      objective thinking; this practice alone will not
      get one beyond a certain point, beyond to the
      next level.  To get further, it seemed, I had to
      change my whole soul-mood; I had to enter a
      deepness, a solemnity, an earnestness that isn't
      at all usual for me.  I suppose that this is a
      fundamental principle, perhaps the most
      important, in common between 7fold thinking and
      esoteric training as taught by Steiner.  In the
      beginning of *KoHW* RS says that the esoteric
      student must *begin* with a habit of reverence
      and that without this the student won't get very
      far at all.  And so it seems to be also with
      7fold thinking; I couldn't get very far without
      getting myself into a mood of, for lack of a
      better word, "reverence".  And for someone such
      as myself, *reverence* is usually hardly more
      than a foreign word; I hardly knew what it
      meant.  I had been working at it somewhat for
      years, as for years I had been trying, not very
      well, to be an esoteric student -- but now I had
      to work at it all the more, sometimes
      desperately, and probably contemplating
      Steiner's own actions was a good training for
      me.  Steiner himself lived and worked in a state
      of deep reverence that is hard for most of us,
      probably, to imagine, and the only way to
      understand Steiner's actions is to get oneself
      into an at least similar mood.  Not easy to do;
      it's work, sometimes painful.

      And really, understanding Steiner, as we all
      know, isn't easy.  It takes work, and not just
      any kind or work, but work upon oneself.  This
      is a "process" in the psycho-therapeutic sense
      of the word:  one must gain in awareness of
      oneself, bring the subconscious into
      consciousness, and change oneself so as to live
      in accordance with Reality.  Such a "process" of
      change usually entails some pain of some kind,
      and who wants to inflict the real pain of self-
      change upon oneself? -- Sometimes during my
      hiatus I have glanced over into the WC e-group,
      to reconnoiter enemy activity, as it were.  Of
      course, I didn't have much time for that, just
      enough to scan some of the blurbs and skim some
      the posts that looked interesting.  And this did
      help to inspire me, or shame me, to work upon my
      attempt at 7fold thinking:  the enemies of
      Anthroposophy were getting their "work" done,
      such as it is, but I wasn't getting my work
      done; so I'd better get to work. 

      Anyway, the point I'm getting at here is what I
      perceived to be the utter lack of real thinking
      over there in The Snake Nest; there's plenty of
      cleverness, to be sure, and plenty of busyness,
      but no real work in the sense I am talking
      about, and no real thinking.  I might say (with
      only a little exaggeration) that the basic
      "thinking" over there consists of what I might
      call "dancing the WC Three-step":

      1.  Steiner said such-and-such.
      2.  Such-and-such conflicts with my beliefs
      and/or feelings and/or wishes and/or fears
      and/or world-view and/or ideology etc. etc. etc.
      3.  Ergo, Steiner had his head inserted into his
      lower alimentary orifice.

      Now, even the slightest acquaintance with
      genuine thinking informs one that this "dance"
      is not a process of thinking but only one of
      reacting.  If one *thinks* at all, one must
      realize that one's own beliefs etc. have no more
      inherent, *a priori* claim to truth than any
      conflicting proposition.  Even to *begin* to
      think one must consider one's own beliefs and
      conflicting assertions evenhandedly,
      objectively; one must act in accordance with the
      principle that the Truth is true whether or not
      it is agreeable to one's subjective attitudes;
      one must act, through one's thinking, in
      conformity with the realization that one's own
      beliefs are no more *inherently* true than any
      contrary beliefs. -- This general principle is
      so obvious that few, if any, would deny it
      outright.  (Well, there are some so-called
      "philosophers" who deny the reality of objective
      truth, but I suppose that they are "few" as
      compared to the human race upon the Earth.) 
      However, it is easy to say as a principle yet
      hard to do in practice.  To really *do* it in
      practice one must, first of all, do one's own
      thinking objectively; one must follow the
      thinking itself where it wants to go, not where
      one might want it to go.  It is hard to realize,
      really, that thinking has a "will of its own",
      at it were.  And to follow in one's own thinking
      the "will" of the thinking one must exert one's
      own will to suppress one's own usual beliefs,
      habits, opinions, etc.  The first, most
      necessary task of such exertion is to stop one's
      own mind from running in its usual channels; one
      must stop one's own mind from determining one's
      "thoughts" (which are then really pseudo-
      thoughts) and instead force one's own mind into
      conformity with the (real) thoughts themselves. 
      That is, one must bring oneself from a state of
      inner passivity to a state of inner activity. 
      (Most of us, most of the time, are passive in
      relation to our inner habits, wishes, fears,
      opinions, etc.) -- This general principle, of
      course, is the first big lesson that Steiner
      taught in *PoF*.  And again, it is easy to say
      but hard to do; it is especially hard to do for
      one such as myself who has mental traits that
      might add up to what is now called *attention
      deficit disorder*.  (I would guess that, if the
      increasing prevalence of this diagnosis is a
      valid indication, then real thinking is becoming
      harder and harder for more and more people,
      despite that fact that we live in the
      "Consciousness Soul Epoch", when World-Evolution
      should be making such real thinking possible for
      more and more people.  We truly live in an era
      and environment of conflicting upward and
      downward forces.)

      If one can achieve this kind of thinking, then
      one might enter the third stage of the Hegelian
      dialectic:  "synthesis".  Here one considers
      objectively what can be said for and against
      both of the first two stages ("thesis" and
      *antithesis), what truth and falsity each
      contains, and what "higher", more complete truth
      can be drawn from such consideration.  And to do
      this one must have, first of all, a little "good
      faith", that is, a willingness to follow the
      Truth even when and where "the truth hurts". 
      (It seems to me that such "good faith" is
      especially what is lacking over in the WC, but
      The Snake Nest is a special, extreme case where
      Steiner-thought is concerned.  All that might be
      the subject of other, long posts, and I have
      already made some of them.  But I feel that
      pursuing that thread here and now would take
      this discussion too far afield.)

      Still, if one has such "good faith", one also
      needs to have some inner energy and strength,
      for it takes *work* to get control of one's own
      mind and to force it into conformity with
      objective Truth, to think objectively.  And I do
      have a lot of trouble gathering up such energy
      and getting myself to *work* consistently at a
      line of thought.  This is so, even though I know
      from experience that real thinking, if sustained
      long enough, usually suffuses me with a healing
      balm for my soul.  Well, the literal definition
      of *addiction* is *continued behavior despite
      adverse consequences*; I suppose that I, like so
      many others, have my own addiction.  My
      addiction is to inner sloth, even though I know
      that it has adverse consequences for me.  That
      is my problem, but I strongly suspect that
      plenty of other people have the same problem.

      -- What all this means for the prospective 7fold
      thinker is that good faith, inner exertion, and
      objective thinking can get one as far as the
      classic Hegelian dialectic goes.  But to go
      further, to enter into the specifically 7folded
      dialectic as described by Bondarev (and as I
      understand him), one needs to employ still other
      mental faculties.  The fourth stage, according
      to Bondarev, is that of "beholding"
      (*Anschauung*), and as I understand it, this is
      a quasi-visual experience.  And Steiner, I
      think, talked about this (or something very
      similar) in *PoF*.  There he called it *moral
      fantasy*. And RS did say it in his
      autobiography:

      (from *The Story of My Life*; XX)

      "I spoke at that time of 'moral fantasy' as the
      source of the moral in the isolated human
      individuality. I was far from any intention of
      referring to this source as to something not
      wholly real. On the contrary, I wished to point
      out in fantasy the force which helps the
      spiritual world in all its aspects to break
      through into the individual man. Of course, if
      one is to attain to a real experience of the
      spiritual, then it is necessary that the
      spiritual forces of knowledge should enter into
      one – imagination, inspiration, intuition. But
      to a man conscious of himself as an individual
      the first ray of a spiritual revelation comes by
      means of fantasy; and we observe, indeed, in
      Goethe the way in which fantasy holds aloof from
      everything fantastic, and becomes a picture of
      the spiritually real."

      I note that the German word *Phantasie* does not
      have the negative connotations that the English
      *fantasy* does; the German merely refers to the
      faculty of creating vivid mental images, not
      necessarily to a wish-driven escape from
      Reality.  Such image-crating "fantasy" might not
      be quite "Imagination" with a capital *I*, but
      it can be the way to get "the first ray of a
      spiritual revelation".  (And neither does
      Bondarev, if I understand him, intend the 7fold
      dialectic to be the esoteric "Imagination", but
      to be an exoteric development which must come
      into the whole culture.)

      If such "fantasy" is to become "beholding",
      then, I think, it must indeed become a "ray" of
      "spiritual revelation".  But the "spiritual" is,
      in reality, an assortment of *beings*; if one is
      to get a revelation, it must come as a gift from
      a being or beings.  A real, true revelation can
      come only from the Good Beings.  And the Good
      Beings will give such gifts only to the pure in
      heart.  Ergo, if one is to achieve "beholding"
      in Bondarev's sense, then one must be pure in
      heart. -- Now, this fact might present an
      impasse for most of us; surely for one such as
      myself.  I have enough self-awareness to know
      that I am not pure in heart, and therefore I
      might give up the attempt right here.  But I
      could not allow myself, after all that I had
      gone through over many years, to just quit; I
      felt that I had to move forward.  At this point,
      it seemed, realistic honestly with myself might
      slide into dishonest excusing of my sloth.  I
      came to a thought, an attitude, such as:  "OK,
      Robert; stop making excuses and *get pure*." 
      And I was desperate enough to try to get pure,
      even if only for a few minutes at a time.  And -
      - miracle of miracles -- apparently even a few
      minutes of inner purity was enough to allow me
      to indeed move forward.  I did "get" some mental
      images that did seem to be relevant to a
      solution for the problem that I had set for
      myself.

      This fourth stage, this "beholding", is the
      crucial point where the 3-step Hegelian
      dialectic makes the leap into a higher realm. 
      It is true that the mental imagery might become
      a stream of meaningless (or seemingly
      meaningless?) junk.  How then to "get", and then
      to recognize, pictures that are meaningful and
      relevant to a solution for the problem at hand?
      -- I don't know any answer to this question
      other than to be purely unprejudiced:  earnest .
      . . and more, reverent . . . even desperate.

      Once in that higher realm, I tried to keep
      moving forward, into the fifth stage, which
      Bondarev calls *perceiving of the Idea*.  I
      don't believe that I came to "see" the core Idea
      in the same way that, for instance, Goethe "saw"
      the Archetypal Plant, but I did get what seemed
      to be a visual clue to the Idea -- which I then
      had to "think out" in much the usual way.

      The sixth and seventh stages turned out to be
      the most difficult and time-consuming for me; I
      did most of that work after I was already into
      the write-up.  And I will let that that write-
      up, my following post, stand as an display of my
      work-process.  (It seems that the latter four
      stages were, in a way, a recapitulation and
      expansion, on a higher, more "seeing" level, of
      the third stage, which was "thought out" in much
      the usual way.)
       
      -- That's about all I have to say in this
      introductory missive.  The reader will have to
      judge whether my attempt was a success or a
      failure, or something in between.  I think that
      it was at least a partial success; in the end,
      apparently, hopefully, the thought-problem that
      I had set for myself did actually get solved. 
      Maybe my 7fold thinking was somewhat ragged and
      artificial; I wasn't "just thinking" but trying
      to make my thinking conform to a template, such
      as I understood Bondarev's concept to form.  And
      maybe I was straining to bring my thinking to a
      7folded conclusion.  OK; maybe I'll do better
      next time, if there be a next time.

      But here's the thing:  at least I did step up to
      the plate and take a whack at it.  And I hope
      that my attempt, however skilled or inept, will
      inspire, or provoke, others to step up also.  As
      I said, I believe that we need an army.  You may
      say that you're not pure enough . . . well,
      neither am I; the pure in heart are in short
      supply.  But:  "Ya do the best ya can with what
      ya got."

      A final note:  When I could work myself up to
      it, objective thinking did in fact provide me
      with some relief from my inner misery, and it
      still does; it does when and if I can sustain it
      long enough.  If I could put this stuff in
      bottles and sell it, I'd be a very rich man. 
      But Steiner already, long ago, taught it in
      *PoF*, and it's not something one can "drink"
      passively; one has to *do* it.

      Robert Mason
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