Saturday November 11, 2006
Gordon Phinn suggested that I ask Mr. Jefferson about our recent elections. Not a bad idea, but I think I’ll put it out on the party line, instead, and see who if anyone wants to respond. What is the significance of our recent elections, gentlemen?
It is a turning point, as every election is a turning point taken or not.
Yes? I can’t identify you yet.
Periodically in one way or another, groups and societies decide to move toward one goal or direction or another. In societies allowing elections, the energy tends to polarize into electoral activity. That is, the same energy that in other societies is channeled into other forms, in this one is channeled into electoral politics, so that life becomes one unending series of horse races, with one beginning literally as soon as a previous one ends. Seen in this light (which is one way to see it) all other activity in that society is filtered in as background to the calculus of change that is electoral politics. This is why political man (or woman) becomes so one-dimensional: the habit of measuring everything by its potential effect on politics tends to flatten the perceptions and narrow the view.
Thus the need to turn over the crop of politicians every so often.
Well, yes – provided that a few oaks are left standing to a great age. They provide the continuity that is very important not only for the institutions but as a sort of flesh-and-blood containers of the spiritual essence of a long-continued tradition. The price they pay is that their life becomes narrowed and sharpened to the point that whatever else they were disappears. But their reward is more or less the same thing. They are not to be pitied or envied, any more than oaks among willows. It is merely a matter of function.
What of societies other than electorally driven ones?
Well, think of Germany in the 1800s, say – a mass of city-states with a common language and no political power whatever. Their culture expressed itself in what is called culture: thought, art, life as an art, so to speak. The great currents of reform and resistance to reform played themselves out more theoretically, more abstractly, than in places where issues could be fought out in the open. Because people did not expect change to occur by way of politics, they did not count on politics, and so politics became little more than the usual scramble for patronage, and never became a life-or-death struggle to pull society this way or that. That struggle took place in the universities, and the journals, and even in painting and music, in a way scarcely comprehensible to the political animals you are in 21-century America.
In communist Russia, or Cuba?
Any society that has decided to allow no meaningful political expression thereby has decided to vent its steam into other channels. Or, if they be not vented, they continually load the boiler. Hence the need for safety valves. Hence, periodic seemingly uncaused explosions. But so long as the people believe that political expression is impossible, their psychic energy has to flow in other directions. It cannot cease to exist. It cannot cease to flow.
So what if economics is also dammed up? And what if culture is carefully blocked? And religion as well? That society will put its energies – its practical faith, so to speak – into science, or technology, or anything that is not prohibited. More will go into family relationships, and friendships, any thing that is allowed.
Now, we recognize that you cannot easily see such things as the equivalent of elections and politics, but this is because you are looking too far down the stream of consequences. Look farther upstream toward the source of things and perhaps the relationships will be clearer.
People are not in any meaningful way “individual” in the sense of existing in the absence of others. “Nasty solitary brutish and short” describes the life of a person without society well enough. Yet neither are they in any meaningful way but social digits, replaceable units in a vast machine or organism. That is the mistake that social planners tend to fall into, because it is so easy to fall into it. If man is not capable of living without society, then surely he is but a part of society and must be seen only as a part of a larger whole. This is good logic, but factually wrong. The individual is in essence both primary and secondary; neither independent nor dependent.
Just as man is neither spirit nor animal, but an unease alliance of the two, so no understanding of his nature can be complete that disregards both halves of his nature.
An individual unit in terms of his inner life; a social creature in terms of his outer life. Yet not even this conception is adequate. Inhibit a man’s activities sufficiently and you inhibit his internal life. Or inhibit his internal capabilities enough, and you inhibit his ability to function among others. It works both ways.
Mankind as you experience it is a sort of compromise, an alliance, neither this nor that – and that is how it ought to be! There’s nothing wrong in the scheme; mankind is not malfunctioning. The difficulties are inherent in the situation, but the situation was not contrived to produce ease but to produce possibilities.
It may seem that we have moved a long way from the question, but we haven’t really. Any scheme that treats human beings as units in an organism or as separate monoliths thereby distorts what it is working with, because of the inner contradictions we have just sketched. So – there can be no ultimate answers at the level of politics, although politics and progress will interact upon each other in an electorally-based society.
The answer you seek is beyond politics, of course – but it is equally beyond government, beyond society itself. And this is the basis of an entirely different lecture on spiritual growth and society.
The elections are a turning point. But from what to what? Surely you do not think we wear party labels still, and cheer our team from the sidelines. It’s all our team. In that sense we cannot lose or win, or tie. We’re not keeping score so much as we are watching with interest as the rules and style of the game changes.
Do we have preferences, even in the short run? Well – yes and no. It requires some explaining. What we prefer is a certain end-result. But there are a million ways to achieve that result, not just one. Adolf Hitler moved the game considerably more than did, say, Rudolf Steiner – but that hardly means we prefer Hitler or Hitler’s level of consciousness or Hitler’s tactics to Steiner’s. it is just a way of saying that providence uses whatever comes to hand as a result of people’s previous choices. So you must not assume that we “prefer” certain attitudes to others – love over fear, say, or higher consciousness over lower. In any short run there is no way for you to know the will of God, or the designs of providence, or the evolutionary curve, however you think of it. Those who say they know demonstrate that they confuse their preferences – or even, sometimes, their perception against their preferences – with something more impersonal, broader.
With all due respect, none of you is in a position to tell; you can tell only what you prefer. But that is a big “only”! In choosing, in preferring, you are doing what you went there to do. Choosing because you prefer it is throwing the weight onto the scales not only of you in the body but all those out of body who vibrate to the same preference. Just don’t think that what you want, what you think best, what you would do, is also the will of that which transcends humans in bodies.
So. Last week – you feel the relief from pressure – your elections took the wind out of the sails of those who would govern by fear. But that is not – note well – the same thing as saying that the victors would govern by love. Life is not so neat, nor are people so all-of-a-patch. This was not Armageddon, just another turning point. Certain things became less likely, and others became somewhat more so.
The importance for you is merely that you will be less likely to face certain obstacles personally. The use of altered-state consciousness, for instance, is less likely to be interfered with by superstition rooted in fear. (That would have been down the line in any case.) But your work and your salvation is to be found not in politics, of course, or in society at all, but in the development of what is “normal” so that what is human today is seen tomorrow as only one way of being human, and not the most desirable at that.
The obstacles, I take it, would have come from a politicized church, or rather a politicized form of religion?
It might have come that way. But do not think you were immune from attack by the rationalists.
Now that you mention it, I see it. Is this all you want to say about the elections?
Better questions elicit better answers.
Yes, I’ve heard that before. Well, maybe later I’ll have one, or more.