Another way of saying that the free fully individuated Steinerian individual is intuiting the thought pool, or Logos, is to say that the individual is thought incarnated, or even reincarnated? Has the exemplar of such a free individual ever walked the earth? ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.’ (John 1:1-4). It is universally accepted that ‘Word’ in these opening lines from John’s Gospel is coterminous with ‘Logos’, and that the ‘Word’ or ‘Logos’ is a reference to Jesus Christ.
It was on the point of Logos that Gentile was beginning to penetrate through to the truth, but fell short. Steiner seemed to offer me a way forward. By being the cosmic mediator, Logos incarnated, man is the manifestation of cosmic fulness, i.e. the Logos, that which was in the beginning. But more than being merely a cosmic mediator, I am, to use Steiner’s own words, ‘the unified world of ideas which reveals itself through this organism’.
Is this not enough? To be a cosmic mediator? Is this not finally the answer to the great grail question - ‘what am I?’ I could never have dreamt of such a response when I first asked the question. And yet - the question remains - does something emerge from intuition that was not there before? Is man free to create?
If the Logos was there ‘in the beginning’, then the answer to this question is surely no. What was taken to be the creative activity of the mind and imagination, particularly by artists and poets, and one thinks of Ezra Pound’s dictate to ‘make it new’ here, was in reality an intuited manifestation of the Logos, i.e. that which was there from the beginning. What we see in the ‘creative’ imagination of the fully human individual is the full flowering of what existed from the beginning, but as thought incarnated, or even reincarnated. Steiner found a meaning to life here, or, rather, a purpose to life, i.e. to make the world spirit manifest.
Let us take stock here. Has Steiner answered the grail question? What am I? I am a cosmic mediator according to Steiner, Logos incarnated, the manifestation of cosmic fulness, the Logos, that which was in the beginning. Found! The meaning to life! Answered! The grail question! Is this not enough? We keep coming back to this - the Divine status of man, a creator in the image of God - the incarnation of the second coming resonates in the work of Dante, Fichte, Coleridge, Gentile and now in Steiner.
But if manifestation of the spirit is not a creative act, but rather a revelatory act, are we not confronted with a severe curtailment of man’s freedom, even if I do not think of the entity I as coterminous with the body that it occupies?
The world spirit, or cosmic fulness, is being presented by Steiner as a presupposition to which we, as fully human individuals, must ultimately return. We can make as much effort as we like into achieving individuation, shunning ‘all the welter of customs, legal codes, religious observances, etc.’, as Steiner describes it, only to find that we must remain true to what was there all along, that which was there ‘in the beginning’. Are there not echos of Spinozism here? Are we not back to the great presupposition - the Substance - with that which was there ‘in the beginning’?
Steiner masks this return by elevating man to co-partner status with the divine. In Steiner’s schema, humanity co-partners with the divine so as to complete the creative act of God’s Incarnation. Instead of the Incarnation being through one man, in our current day it is taking place through all of humanity. The modern-day coming of the Messiah is through the transformed and awakened consciousness of humanity as a whole. In a very real sense, we are the very Messiah we have been waiting for. ‘By a strange paradox,’ according to Steiner, it is ‘through the forces of evil’ that ‘mankind is led to a renewed experience of the Mystery of Golgotha'.
On the one hand Steiner offers us a Spinosist interpretation of man, who is utilised for a purpose, which is to make manifest the thought pool of the cosmos. This would make man a mode of existence of that which was there ‘in the beginning’ - the Substance.
On the other hand, Steiner offers us the ultimate divination of man. The mystery and drama of the Christ event is now located and consummated in humanity, which becomes its living carrier. It is as though man has been accepted as one third part of the Trinity.
Let us deal with this new uncertainty by thinking back to the socio-political and economic purposes behind Spinoza’s philosophy, which was a Counter-Renaissance strategy to restore the economic fortunes of the exiled Marranos. The world of the free-trading Iberian Jews was shattered by the expulsion, a state of ongoing fragmentation that culminated in the establishing of distinct nation sates following the Peace of Westphalia. The post-expulsion distortion of Kabbalah by Isaac Luria was taken up by Spinoza and Sabbatai Zevi as fitting to the exilic condition of Jews after 1492 in Amsterdam and the Ottoman Empire. The metaphors of shattering, and the necessity of repair and return in Luria’s rendition of Kabbalah are there for all to see. Spinozism, founded as it was upon a kabbalistic worldview that was specifically Lurianic, denied the separation of the human I from the presupposed Substance. Spinoza did not consider human reason to be an autonomous capacity. In his schema, human beings are but individual modes of the one Substance. Accordingly, resistance to this view was tantamount in Spinoza’s eyes to a rebellious state within a state.
In denial of free will and individual creative endeavour, Spinoza drew down a veil between man and [his self-realisation as] Logos. The Spinozist concept of freedom as the recognition of necessity is a revised Jehovianism, or Demiurgic compulsion, a generated physicality that comes between man and spiritual truth or the Logos, in short, the materialism of the modern world. From Spinoza’s secularisation of Lurianic Kabbalah emerged the foundations of modern Judaism and, via theEnlightenment, the philosophical underpinning of Western thought as a whole, which Marx acknowledged as essentially Jewish, and against which Fichte and the Romantics kicked.
Consciously of not, Steiner incorporated Lurianic and Spinozist concepts of return to the original Substance into his cosmography, most likely through the influence of Hegel, who was similarly infected. Steiner’s concept of freedom ultimately denied the individually creative I. Like Spinoza, freedom for Steiner meant the recognition of necessity, except that he presented that necessity as cosmic in scale.
And yet - in the elevation of man to the Trinity, might not Steiner have identified an aspect of existent man, in the here and now, that was there from the beginning? This surely is the redemptive aspect of Steiner’s insights. Was there something of me there in the beginning?
© John Dunn.