Two Roads Diverged in the Woods
Posted March 9, 2016
In 2013, while enrolled in the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach, Switzerland, I was asked by our “Speech” teacher, Sophia Walsh, to recite Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.
Now here we are once again on the pilgrimage path of self-discovery that the Christian tradition calls the Season of Lent. This 40 day inner journey of soul leads us toward the “Mystery of Golgotha” observed in the Easter celebration. Before this journey begins we must determine when Easter Sunday will be observed. Why does the date of Easter change every year? Christmas seems to be satisfied to stay put on December 25th—why must the date of Easter shift from year to year.
Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Therefore Easter cannot be determined without the “roads” or paths of both the sun and the moon. Christmas is simply set on the Sun calendar as December 25th. Easter is a celebration that observes two cycles—one in the sun calendar and one in the phases of the moon. These two aspects of Easter are necessary to reflect to the human being that one’s full reality exists between our Nature-Self and our Spirit-Self.
In our time, our culture and even our religious traditions sometimes only focus on the renewal of our Nature-Self, our physical self, as portrayed in Spring time’s abundant new, sprouting life. After the cold darkness of winter ends our bodies and even our psyches are uplifted by the new hope that Nature inspires in us. Easter clothes, brightly colored flowers, great feasts bring joy. Yes! Life is reborn! We shall survive!
What Nature creates in the human being does live on through seasons, years, and ages. We can celebrate the victorious Sun! Yet within, out of sight, “What does the human being make of himself or herself?” What does the softer gleam of the Moon reveal in the human being? Perhaps an image can form of the human being as being more than a creation of outer Nature. Our Spirit-Self, or higher Self, is the manifestation from within of the divine “I AM.” St. Paul wrote to the community of Colossae, “Christ in you, your hope of glory.” Charles Fillmore, cofounder of Unity, declared that these were the most important words in the New Testament Scriptures.
“We must look upon it, in a sense, as a mark of distinction bestowed by the world-spirit, as a sign of grace on the part of the creative, guiding spirit of the world, when today our heart urges us towards this new annunciation, this third revelation, added to those proclaimed from Sinai [The Ten Command-ments] and then from the Jordan [The Gospels]. To learn to know man in his entire being is the task given in this new annunciation—to perceive ever more deeply that the body we are principally conscious of is enclosed in other members of man’s being [soul and spirit], which are important for our whole life.” (Nuremburg, December 2, 1911, Dr. Rudolf Steiner; underlining and bracketed notes added)
This Easter, March 27, 2016, I encourage you to venture forth on “the road not taken.” In other words, to allow yourself time for inner reflection—and not only the contemplation of your individual self, but the consideration of the ideal human being, the representative of humanity, Christ—the I AM. Charles Fillmore proclaimed this Christ as “The-Perfect-Idea-of-Man-in-the-Mind-of-God.”
Yes, we leap for joy that Spring is coming! The Easter Festival reminds us of the renewing forces of Creation. Hallelujah! Yet the triumph of Golgotha, the resurrection, can focus our soul on the Spirit-Self which lives invisibly within and gloriously transforms the more easily seen Nature-Self.
Seeing Through the Mists of Technology
Posted May 26, 2015
While on my Christmas 2012 break from classes at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland I took a trip to Venice with my friends Patsy Scala and Sandy Khan. The train ride through the Swiss Alps afforded views of great beauty as we passed near the famous Matterhorn. In was also interesting to watch the activity of human beings. The advent of modern technology has grasped the attention of individuals around the world. I couldn’t help but notice the interest people took in their mobile devices, phone and computers. Even with the awe inspiring landscape of the Alps people were engaged with their “cyber landscapes”. They surfed the internet and made calls and put their devices away only to take them out again in a few minutes and start over. Without a phone myself, their activity almost seemed obsessive as I watched it.
Almost a century ago Dr. Rudolf Steiner observed the rapid advance of technology and cautioned that if we were not to become overwhelmed by technology, become dehumanized, we must balance our use of machines by taking steps in our inner soul development. Although he recognized the development of technology as a necessary product of our times, he suggested that we add the “human element” of artistry to our machines. Strictly functional machines may be efficient but if they were designed with elements of beauty then we would “humanize” them. It reminded me of the teaching of Jesus concerning the Sabbath or holy day of the week. He said the Sabbath was created for humanity not the reverse. It was to be a time of rest and reflection for the human being not an inflexible obligation with rules and restrictions to enslave human beings to behaviors the purpose of which was not understood.
Later my journey continued as I travelled from Venice back to Dornach. The train passed through the town of Vicenza in the Veneto, or agricultural countryside surrounding the Venetian Lagoon. The train glided through the thick mist and I strained to see something in the distance. I knew I was in the area of the famous “Villa Rotunda” designed by Andrea Palladio in 1567 for a priest, Paolo Almerico, retiring from the Vatican. This extraordinarily beautiful home is set on the hilltop of a large agricultural estate. It has been one of the most copied designs in architectural history even influencing the American landmarks of Monticello and the President’s White House.
Palladio designed this “farmhouse” with principles of beauty and proportion that incorporated the human aesthetic ideals into the merely functional “bricks and mortar”. It was built to be a true temple in which the sacred human being might dwell. Yet besides being a 500 year old example of architectural excellence that has inspired dozens of imitations—do these “ideals of beauty” really make any difference? The old cliché tells us it’s just “a matter of taste”. Ah, but that is a way of saying we must find our own answer and individual experience of this question.
We put technology more and more on the center stage of our lives for what purpose? Machinery and electronics have become major components in our homes with what effect? I believe Dr. Steiner had a valid point. When we design elements of “beauty” into our machines and use our technology “mindfully”—we become conscious of our interaction with technology. There is an old Unity affirmation: “I know what to do—and I do it”. This statement can raise our actions from mindless to mindful. I encourage you to form your own affirmation that can help you be fully conscious in your use of technology making it a “beautiful” part of your life, rather than simply a habitual one! Perhaps the above affirmation could be changed to: “I choose what to do—and I do it”. The next time your cell phone, or “handy” as they call it Switzerland, rings…choose consciously to answer it or not. When we mindlessly use the phone or any other device we are allowing the machine to determine our behavior. In our homes, a simple cover or cabinet in which to conceal technology can keep us mindful when we choose to “unveil” the machine for our own purpose.
Another way to mindfully use technology is simply to give thanks for it! Gratitude always raises our consciousness. So, as you make use of technology or machinery or even tools—say “I am grateful for this device which assists me to ______________”. Technology does assist us in communication, gathering information, or increasing our physical strength or precision. As we give thanks for these “helpers” we can know that like the “Sabbath” technology is created by humanity—for humanity and not the other way around. We remain mindful and do not get lost in the mists of forgetfulness.
2016 Easter Message As we continue the journey of the soul, the intention of our Lenten Season, I encourage us all to look intensely for the signs of Life’s renewal. Whether we witness Nature’s “Spring”or examine the subtle changes within our own thinking--renewal is a perennial possibility!
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