Letters to the Editor
Re: Evolution and the Struggle for Human consciousness by Keith Francis
I don't really see the point of such a lecture. It seems like it's always the same story, always going on about the school of Harun al Rashid, and everything [Rudolf] Steiner said about this and that and the other thing. But it's always second hand knowledge. It's the same story as the one Steiner told, but intellectualised to smitherines. One little quote of Emerson who deserves a little bit more space than just being the person that said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” And goes on to say that Unfortunately, the Sage of Concord forgot to tell us how to identify foolishness, so we must rely on our own resources in deciding whether consistency is desirable in any particular case… Thank God that this is the case, since self reliance is the principal message that Emerson carried throughout his life as a lecturer and as a human being. I see the point he is trying to make. I am not really attacking what he has put forward. I am just having a very strong reaction to it. And I am trying to share with you the impression that the reading of this conference has stimulated and aroused in me.
When I read this kind of lecture, I always get the feeling of some kind of heavenly pronouncements being handed down to me. With Steiner, it's fine, because he is communicating the results of his own research. Where are the fruits of the research of Keith Francis? Something personal, please...
This is an extract from the first chapter of Steiner's book 'Nietzsche : a fighter for freedom'
In the words in which he expressed his relationship to Schopenhauer, I would like to describe my relationship to Nietzsche: “I belong to those readers of Nietzsche who, after they have read the first page, know with certainty that they will read all pages, and listen to every word he has said. My confidence in him was there immediately ... I understood him as if he had written just for me, in order to express all that I would say intelligibly but immediately and foolishly.”
One can speak thus and yet be far from acknowledging oneself as a “believer” in Nietzsche's world conception. But Nietzsche himself could not be further from wishing to have such “believers.”
Did he not put into Zarathustra's mouth these words: “You say you believe in Zarathustra, but of what account is Zarathustra? You are my believer, but of what account are all believers? You have not searched for yourselves as yet; there you found me. Thus do all believers, but, for that reason, there is so little in all believing. Now I advise you to forsake me and to find yourselves; and only when all of you have denied me will I return to you...”
Steiner goes on to say that : "Nietzsche is no Messianic founder of a religion; therefore he can wish for friends who support his opinion, but he cannot wish for confessors to his teaching, who give up their own selves to find his."
And I would add: "Steiner is no Messianic founder of a religion; therefore he can wish for friends who support his opinion, but he cannot wish for confessors to his teaching, who give up their own selves to find his."
Let's never forget that Steiner was a proponent of Radical Individualism. We tend to spend too much time being confessors to his teaching, instead of being actors of our own spiritual life. He would have never wanted that. To truly honor him is to try to become an individual.
I think that there is a not so well known Steiner that can appear between the lines in this little book he wrote on Nietzsche (after having written the Philosophy of Freedom). He was a man of his times. He contextualized the ideas that he had put forward philosophically in the Philosophy of Freedom in his reading of the spiritual life of Nietzsche, and his attempt to give it the small corrections he felt necessary.
"Now I advise you to forsake me, and to find yourselves; and only when all of you have denied me will I return to you...”
"Man, Summon up the courage to make something of yourself! (Almost anything will do if you have your head screwed on right...)"
Keith Francis replies:
If I understand Mr. Bourbon’s letter correctly I believe that he agrees with me on several points, one of which is covered by the italicized part of the following quotation from Lecture I of my series.
“The ancient plan for human evolution has been subverted and a big part of history has been the constant effort to transform evil into good so that we can return freely to the spirit instead of becoming stuck in materialism or drifting in a warm and pleasant sea of easy spirituality. That is why Christ is with us and St. Michael is his right-hand archangel. Before getting down to some ordinary, exoteric history I’ll add that Steiner didn’t want to be believed merely on his say-so. The question is, does what he says make sense in the light of our own experience and knowledge? The history we’ll be going into gives a pretty good read on that question.”
Owen Barfield said it more succinctly: “Steiner didn’t want to be believed; he wanted to be understood.”
If we decide to accept Steiner as a teacher we do so freely out of our own perceptions and insights, in the spirit of self-reliance that Emerson considered so important. In referring Emerson’s remark about “foolish consistency”, which is often misrepresented by being quoted without the word “foolish”, I was pointing out that events in the spiritual world are not necessarily subject to the same kind of sequencing that we find in the physical world, and specifically that reincarnation and karma may help us to understand things that seem meaningless in relation to a single incarnation.
I gather that Mr. Bourbon also agrees that in giving a talk based on Steiner’s insights it is not a good idea simply to regurgitate the contents of one or two lectures. People can read the lectures for themselves and join study groups if they feel like it. As I made clear in the first lecture, my object was to link esoteric knowledge with exoteric history. I think that in the course of the five lectures I was able to show that the two studies illuminate each other in many remarkable ways. Something rather similar happens when one brings together insights from apparently disparate sources within Steiner’s oeuvre, which is what I tried to do with The Boundaries of natural Science, The Work of the Angels in Man’s Astral Body, and The Karma of the Anthroposophical Society.
I think it’s fair to say that most people’s lives are too full to allow them to devote the enormous amount of time that such studies take and it's not unreasonable for people who do have the time to make their work available. It must be added that my lectures were open to the public, so it is very likely that there were people present who had never read anything by Steiner, and that even among anthroposophists the content of the three cycles mentioned above are not particularly well known. When pointing out connections between esoteric history and Steiner’s anthroposophical knowledge, it’s really a good idea to make sure that the people in the audience have some idea of what Steiner actually said.
I hope that if Mr. Bourbon can find time to read all five lectures, he will get beyond his initial reaction and see that we are really not very far apart.
Your opening thoughts on evolution, and Keith Francis’s lecture were both very welcome. As you may recall my wife Eve and I live right on the bank of the Battle River in central Alberta. With Fall approaching we are getting ready to host a professional video crew for a new project.
Like Keith I am getting on in years now (75) and have recently been growing my beard longer so as to play the part of Darwin in a four part semi-humorous video in which Darwin is in Hell and takes on the Devil. The script for the first three parts is here attached, the fourth part will be a critical round-table discussion for which Paul Carline will be flying over here from Scotland. The video crew will be here in early September, and by Michaelmas the project should be well underway.
I would appreciate it if you would pass this information on to Keith, and tell him that we are still open to suggestions where the script is concerned. The same is true for you of course, and any suggestions will be much appreciated.
Keep up the good work.
It no longer surprises me when I read an essay about evolution, that the author always presupposes that some mystical deity has created human beings either out of clay or out of time itself. The question of evolution lends itself to predispose that a human being, in present form, is an end to itself. There is a far better chance that human beings are an accident, an imperfect form of life, born from some misstep of cosmic dust and germ cells married in muck a few million years ago.
However, I must admit that my little toe is much smaller than Daniel Boon’s little toe. Who had a much smaller toe than Constantine, who was well short of measuring up to Job. At this pace evolution left to itself, would probably make a perfect being in about 300 trillion years! Or a few trillion years after the Sun blew itself up. <
But, if we use intellect as the measurement, then technology is the equation. Somehow man will find a way to rule the universe, because this is his manifest destiny, but he will not resemble what we would call human beings of today, who use barely a third of their brainpower, and most of that usage is for some lot of destruction. Part mechanical, part computer, part tissue? Perhaps. But knowing the limits and imperfections of the human form implies that we, as a species, must be as primordial to the finished product as the amoeba is to Shakespeare.
I found these lectures very informative. Keith Francis has an easy-going and seductive style. In particular, he has the ability to make quite difficult and complex issues and concepts accessible to the everyday reader. I think these lectures could be used very usefully as a general introduction to the works of Rudolf Steiner. I was hoping that you could provide me with a short bio and outline of Keith Francis' academic/professional background for that would also be useful if these lectures were to be used in such a manner.
Sunshine Coast, Australia
Keith Francis was educated at the Crypt School, Gloucester, England and at the University of Cambridge. He worked as an engineer at the Bristol Aircraft Company before returning to the Crypt School as a teacher of physics and mathematics. In 1964-65 he studied at the Waldorf Institute of Adelphi University, Garden City, New York and later joined the faculty of the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. Since then he has written several novels, a memoir of his experience as a Waldorf teacher, a somewhat controversial assessment of the work of Francis Bacon and a history of atomic science. He is also the founder and director of the Fifteenth Street Singers, a group attached to the New York City Branch of the Anthroposophical Society. He has been a member of the Anthroposophical Society since 1962. [Ed.]
Re.: Paternostro's PromiseFrank: Best reading I've done in some time...and "Paternostro's Promise" has more "juice" then any of the other articles including Rudolf Steiner's lectures and the other well-written pieces...I'd guess your readership would have similar sentiments...I am a very critical reader and think most novels I've read are trivial, implausible, and soulless...quite appropriate for the mass media but of themselves crapazito...I'm thinking there's a germ of an excellent novel in your story...you could easily write that story, skip four lines, and write another vignette about those people or introduce other characters and circumstances...it's been my experience that coherency comes of its own accord, the story has life of its own and gets expressed through you...e.g. Miguel feels obligated to fulfill his promise and goes off surreptitiously, kneels and begin to pray for the healer...just then his cynical, Mephistophelian amigo, Jose, walks in and catches him at it..can you imagine the crackling conversation that might ensue?...and who better than Ould Doc Sardonicus would have the insight to write it? :-)...it also could be scene III of a play...scene 1, the Paternostros at home, scene II, the shanty of the healer...you're awfully good at dialogue.
Re: Saint Death
I have to defend Mireya: the guy knew she had the power of bringing San La Muerte to her ex-lovers and even so (or because so) went to look for her: she just gave him what he asked for! Anyway, it's better a quick job by Saint Death than dying slowly from headaches.
P.S. That' s Argentinean black magic, people in Brazil don't know how to do it or the country would be uninhabited; I, for one, wouldn't be here to tell the story.