below: Sonnets, #53, 1
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you, but one, can every shadow lend.
New foundations for meaning: myth uncovers metaphor as meaning's deepest roots and as the basis of thinking's openness to the past. Religion's way of conjoining presence, future and past as opennesses.
unforgettable lifeThinkers committed to transformative practice are likely to exhibit at least as peculiar 'forms of life' as found in any of the later Wittgenstein's 'language games'. Nietzsche's as well as Steiner's practices foreshadow the movement of thinking in our era to uncover Time as thinking's proper element. And because their practices bring time together in life, and because life realizes time with evidence that makes thought pale, we must interpret these two on the basis of their lives and not only what we find in the pictures they offer.
Though Nietzsche tilted at the windmill of the future, his knightly armour sparkled and creaked with his own time's apparatus of the sciences, even while a great deal of his challenge unfurled to pointedly mock the history of 'civilized institutions'.
Rudolf Steiner, by contrast, was nothing like a lone knight; he put his life together more in responsible relation to friends and followers than on the basis of Nietzsche's self-conscious intention to make it difficult for the future to lose him once they had found him.
The Anti-Christ
titles one of Nietzsche's later works.

Because Nietzsche was more 'the Anti-Kant' than The Anti-Christ, he felt obliged to sum himself up and brand himself upon what he took to be the German people with more of their own medicine.
Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891)

Madame Blavatsky
and Anne Besant were chief Theosophists, the movement in which Steiner found followers and from which he broke away.
Anne Besant (1847-1933)
Steiner never admitted that suicidal narrowing into national identity as his land's fate accompli; he found sufficient diversity and aptitude for what he tried to teach as 'supersensible perception' among the people who sought him out, to dedicate his life to them. Steiner made use of the cultural potencies at hand to give his practice social effect. So unless we can begin to recognize the scope of Steiner's intentions, the means he brought to bear might make his work seem nearly antithetical to the advance of thinking, might even suggest that he was involved in a confused (and confusing) conglomeration of atavisms.
Steiner's The Education of the Child is one place to learn more. Also the beautiful Education Toward Freedom, text: Frans Carlgren. layout: Arne Klingborg, Lanthorn Press. And recently, the delightful Natural Childhood, John Thomson, ed., Simon and Schuster
As a 'renegade', a thinker involved in transformative practice, Steiner leaves us no culminating type of synthesis which can picture us the order and value of his thought, though anyone who observes a healthy Waldorf school might have from Steiner something better than such a picture. Here is one way Steiner has sent himself toward the future - through the children as a favor to them. One wonders what it says about our time that such a result of thinking could remain so little acknowledged for so long.
The amorphousness of Steiner's legacy is compounded not only by the instrumentalities of its dissemination in his time and additionally its mediations in our own, but also by the nature of the direction in which he was fundamentally turned. Steiner surely stood at the other end of the boat from Whitehead and Nietzsche as it crossed into the twentieth century, looking not toward the unknown land looming in advance but into the homeland vanishing aft.

Steiner's work, like Dilthey's and Husserl's in its prodigiality, embodies a response to the Romantic position that Mind's foundations and its capacity for truth belong first to Mind's productivity - to use Goethe's word in Faust, its deeds.

Rudolf Steiner

Steiner's six-thousand-odd transcribed lectures are mostly staged on the basis of what most thinkers would take as mythological content, and within those lectures Steiner works to call forth apprehensions whose meanings employ such 'mythic' frames of reference. Even by late nineteenth century standards, when the study of myth seemed to be of preeminent importance for coming to terms with the origins and destiny of humanity, Steiner's approach constituted the breaking of taboos for many of the thinkers of his time. Not just because he could be seen as the focus of a 'cult', but even more because instead of using myth as a subject for conceptual analysis, he asked for a kind of participation in typically mythic distinctions which could not be reduced to objectifying relations: Steiner said that he meant to teach Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. These words signified faculties offering insights and relations in reality which were not susceptible to capture in externalizable ideas. Their truth was characterized as a function of the concrete reality whose gathering together constituted their occasion. Such truths belong to their moments as incarnations for awareness and can not be well used as building blocks for systems of concepts.
But how is it this lives in thy mind?
What seest thou else in the dark
backward and abyss of time?
Steiner's choice of the lexicon of myth for teaching such faculties WAS in accord with the general sense of the relevance of myth in the later half of the Nineteenth century: in different ways both scholars and seekers reached toward the spiritual forms of Odilon Redon's 'Chariot of Apollo' (1910) the past as holding things decisively missing from their own time. Most came to concur that mythical awareness was the earliest and most fertile ground of human meaning. The scholars felt obliged at least to show how their own 'more advanced' ways of thinking had developed from these origins, and some even maintained that without characterizing the seminal status of mythic awareness, more developed kinds of thought were doomed to crucial self-misunderstandings. Ernst Cassirer emerged as the most eloquent of these thinkers. The seekers of that time went farther: What had been left behind in mythic awareness for them either contained more truth than what had replaced it, or its seminality needed to be recaptured in the context of modern thinking. As I see it, Rudolf Steiner assigned himself to this latter task.

Cassirer's last paper was in fact on the possible relevance of mathematical Group Theory for Physics - decades before quarks called for its use. For discussion of his relation to Kant and Hegel, see the volume on Cassirer in the Paul Schlipp (ed.) Living Philosophers series.

Ernst Cassirer

Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), like Whitehead, was also known as - among other things - a mathematician. Likewise too, he is inclined to express himself systematically - though it would be incorrect to say he offered a system. But if Whitehead gives us what may be a map directed toward thought's future Cassirer provides instead a map of its past: It is hard to name an area of western thought which he had not mastered. Cassirer excelled in close description of intellectual history - it is sometimes challenging to discern his own orientation for the clarity of treatment he accords others' thought. He called his work The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, and brought the entire complex of western cultural activity into view as facets of an underlying human imperative to establish and differentiate terms for meaning and symbolic coherence in its enterprises. His descriptive method might even be considered an early 'neoclassical' composition of the phenomenological and hermeneutical trends described above. But while the more modern composition of these elaborated by Paul Ricoeur develops an inclusive concern with the nature of narrative, Cassirer's account emphasizes meaning's architecture and its development.
The philosophical literature surrounding Cassirer remains divided on whether he derives more in this regard from Kant or Hegel: whether for Cassirer each facet of human meaning in culture - each symbolic form - owes more to how it sums itself up (Kant), or to how it branches off from other kinds of meaning through progressively discriminating and reintegrating its priorities (Hegel). The symbolic forms belonging to developed culture - mathematics, music, the arts and sciences, and even politics - emerge for Cassirer as more or less individualized and internally consistent planes of meaning. Civilization unfolds as coherent overlapping of ever more of these distinct forms of symbolic meaning.
Interestingly, Cassirer's dual origins of human awareness identify originary intensities of public and private meaning as potentially at odds, posing human culture as their emergent mediation.

The very opener and intelligencer
between the grace, the sanctities
of heaven, and our dull workings.
But crucial to Cassirer's 'architectural' image of meaning in civilization is a story which has its point of departure in 'primitive' forms of meaning given as much more intuitively inclusive. Cassirer describes myth and language as the co-emergent, cross-fertilizing, and twinned streams at the very origins of human awareness. These arise from experiencings of metaphor which astonish early humans concering nature, mind and each other, as well as more practical objectives, and so take on at first predominantly sacred meanings. It is characteristic of 'mythic' awareness that its originating metaphors draw into their moments of experience ranges of identification which stand for experience as individualized intensities and concentrations of meaning.
Because Cassirer himself remained under the spell of the 'architectural' Kantian type of syntheses, he seems limited in his interpretation of such moments of primal metaphor to how they abridge the kinds of logical relations required for experiencing true conceptual generality. Thus he encountered the same kind of difficulties that plague today's scientists when they look toward the foundations in time of current biological and physical orders. Paraphrasing later Wittgenstein, instead of distinctions which were meaningfully constitutive in more 'primitive' times, they can derive only more primitive meanings for the distinctions constitutive in our own times.

Cassirer, in failing to find in 'primitive' metaphors a qualitative dimension richer than 'intensity' or 'concentration' comes up against the same kind of limit we have found with Whitehead: insofar as a synthesis is framed around relations of unifying form and so becomes intelligible on the basis of 'spacelike' extension, the best efforts to find qualities will turn up only quantities. Bergson's postulate that qualities belong to durational existence and do not fit in 'spacelike' existence here seems true enough. Cassirer saw the need for thinking to encompass its own development, but the 'time' he brought to thinking was more accurately a picture of time. Moreover, Susanne Langer in our own period demonstrates that an account of mind's development within the bounds of synthesizing form must regard not myth but life itself as its point of departure. From her perspective, myth is not rudimentary mind, but mind in a developmental phase of separation from exclusive embodiment in organic process.
William Blake's 'Body of Abel Found By Adam and Eve' (1794?) In contrast to Cassirer's 'mainstream' approach to giving status to the role of myth in human awareness, Rudolf Steiner taught practices working to draw directly on mind's vital roots in mythic awareness. His teachings suggest that thinking without its mythic foundations is like mind without body - a fiction suitable mostly for testing the limits of partial premises. Steiner's attempt to rejoin thinking to its foundations antedates both Cassirer's picture of mind's past and our time's emphasis on what is called 'unconscious mind'. Unlike the latter, Steiner's teachings were not framed by intentions of intellectual leverage to pry into mind's underlying strata: More often than not he rather ended up telling stories meant to subtly evoke participation in the vast reservoirs of mythic meaning. It is hard to elsewhere find plausible parallels with these stories - though the potent role of stories in the education of children, for example in potentiating thresholds of learning between waking and dreaming, perhaps suggests something of how Steiner expected HIS stories to function for adults.

Thou shalt never get
such a secret from me
but by a parable

Modern thinkers should be prepared to recognize that insofar as Steiner resolutely worked to 'mind in time', logical relations cannot adequately characterize most of the distinctions he employed. Further, as James and Whitehead point out, where entitites are conceptualized as including duration in their boundaries they must be understood not only as nested (as in the logical relation of class membership) but also as overlapping. Nevertheless, when Steiner repopulates the 'spiritual world' with waxing and waning mythologically recognizable beings and so evicts many of philosophy's 'timeless ideas', it may come as something of a shock - even if it can be seen that these terms conform not only to an interpretation of previously characterized historical and formal philosophical requirements, but also to the world we observe where indeed beings are made of other beings, stories of other stories, in ways that defy the strictures of class hierarchies.

Franz Brentano (1838-1917), responsible for the early notion of intentionality, is regarded as the grandfather of Phenomenology. He worked to regenerate the relevance of Aristotle, approaching 'mental acts' after the fashion of Aristotle's kind of 'Natural Science'.
Even allowing, however, that Steiner's recapture of mythic awareness offers contemporary thinking a more concrete and inclusive kind of mind, it remains crucial to point out that the stories by which Steiner predominantly works to bring us toward such capacity are at pains to avoid inviting atavistic involvements in mythic awareness. For Steiner the modern sense of self-experience is an advance not to be relinquished or even suspended; his turn toward the foundations of human awareness calls on subtle courses of discrimination based on processes of observation inclusive of one's own apprehending activity. These to some extent parallel the methods characterized within the Husserlian phenomenology, and perhaps reflect his studies with Franz Brentano.
The Riddler
Riddles / contradictions: Steiner's later philosophical writings were titled Riddles of Philosophy and Riddles of the Soul
Steiner's turn toward the past, like Cassirer's, was from a modern perspective, an effort to assure we do not lose the breadth and latency of our human inheritance and so imperil our human future. Both were driven to exhibit the wholeness of the universe of human meaning even through its roots in earlier modes of experience.

Both carried into their work Kant's questions and the way Kant had revised philosophy's basic distinctions, even while looking to Goethe as an exemplar of wisdom in description and observation. Most of all perhaps, their respective intensive studies of Hegel shaped their narrative dynamics and their explanatory use of Reason, though for Steiner the spells cast by riddles substitute for the demands made by contradictions. And while a sense for the past dominates the content of their works, both labored to clear space for what the future was bringing.

William Blake's 'Pity' (1825)
Steiner's thinking, though, unlike Cassirer's, is committed to transformative practice. As did Nietzsche, whose work Steiner characterized as fraternally linked with his own, Steiner brought thinking into time through his life's challenges and retrospectively gave voice as best he could to the organic connections, found through living presence, of past and future. And so, while Nietzsche's glossolalia of transvaluations continues to awaken us to what is actually and just now still coming to us, Steiner's tales of worlds past hold a door ajar to where mind sleeps in dreaming the world it wakes to think within.

O learn to read what
ilent love hath writ,
to hear with eyes
belongs to love's fine wit.
Like Cassirer, Steiner recognized that meanings drawn from the foundations of the life of the mind were immanent in their occurence and not transportable into conceptual systems. Moments of such meaning - fully engaged with their embedding contemporary world-process - Steiner called supersensible perceptions. For Steiner, unlike Cassirer, the qualities of such occasions are not summary intensities of concentration and identification, but occur in a modality resembling but not to be confused with remembrance; on a ground more kin to duration and absence than one of extension and presence. Here Steiner anticipates not only Bergson's previously cited distinctions, but also Heidegger's methodological immersion of thinking in temporality. Moreover, Steiner's accounts of supersensible perception example a kind of movement of transcendence distinct from those identified above. While the insistence of experience's conceptual elements offer a transcendence whose temporality is futural, and the submission to mind's constitutive activities brings transcendence into presence, it is held here that on the basis of experiencing metaphor transcendence opens toward the past. Though Paul Ricoeur in our own period does explore metaphor's centrality for mind, and Steiner has left extensive records of his travels in such regions, the type of transcendence which opens for experience through metaphor on its own terms remains terra incognita for most secular thinkers.
Tibetan Vajrayogini figure
But metaphor is the single door that opens onto everything AND nothing. Its function relies on the past's essential equivocation between what is and what is not. While concepts give form, and perceptual activity sense, it is metaphor - as Cassirer saw - that is the wellspring of meaning. And it is meaning that we feel as mind's embodiment. Much remains undone for illuminating such transcendence, Steiner's breakthroughs notwithstanding. We will largely limit our subsequent treatment of this area to symbols, but these, by holding worldly form, leave us outside of much of metaphor's significance. Had we here world enough and time, Buddhism's emptiness, bypassing nothingness's role as a whipping-boy for the nihilistic outcomes of the western philosophies of Will, could likely yield us much help in relating the 'is' and 'is not' of metaphor and its temporality.

In the course of the three divisions of this section we have attempted to make clear that as time becomes a central issue for thinking, it is also increasingly evident that transcendence is given for experience as movements of mind differentiated in respect of their temporality. Before, transcendence had been seen as governed by aims which could somehow be named. A few philosophers had recognized the problems with giving names to transcendent realities, but only as thinking became more aware of its own involvement in time and process could transcendence be identified instead as belonging to kinds of movement of mind, and hence be differentiated on the basis of direction rather than aim.

It is a familiar historical reflection that the far reaches of human imagination, inspiration, and intuition, once they are brought into the world, become harnessed to tasks where the conditions of their birth become almost obscured. Cassirer's (and Langer's) position that language itself has roots in visionary intoxications is only one of the more difficult to document among such reflections. Expecting a similar historical effacement of origins, there would be only cryptic traces of the far-reaching movements of mind by whose light the forms and functions of most any human institution first was nurtured. Still, inheritances all along the line, from myth and religion, to philosophy and mathematics, to science, to technology, and to business, seem in many cases almost too obvious to mention.
Raphael's 'Transfiguration' (1520)
It is in religion, however, that transcendence as such is intended to be durably institutionalized. If transcendence has indeed the different directions of movement whereof we have spoken, or if such directions can justly be named in common as transcendence, it should be possible to read traces of their conjuncture in the organization of religious life
. Only briefly here will we illustrate the possibility of such a reading. Our example employs a familiar configuration in the history of religion. Hence a 'Church' whose believers are: (1) Above all enjoined toward unlimited submission to an unlimited God; (2 ) expected to insistently engage in stringently formalized and repetitive practices, attesting to doctrinal solidarity in, and singularity of its One true faith - perhaps even extending to insistent proselytiztion in order to extend its Oneness to include All; and (3) given mystical reverence and 'communion' in meanings communicated as a complex of historically referred metaphors.

Steiner emphasized temporality in the context of meaning by working to re-establish a relevance
for ritual in the spiritual life of communities.

Time is a very bankrupt,
and owes more than he's worth to season.
As the above example works to bring our discussion of the differentiations of transcendence down to earth, it prompts further reflections both on the kind of transcendence we find through metaphor, and on the entanglements and divisions obtaining between the different kinds of transcendence as we find them in the world.

Metaphor is so much the media of language and language's service of worldly objectives, and metaphor so much by its own nature closes itself up and even hides itself in its uses, that the notion of specific practices, apart from artistic creation, by which we can maintain metaphor's movement as open to transcendence; by which we can acquire 'spiritual faculties' rather than spiritual beliefs, may seem more eccentric or sectarian than obvious or developmental. Indeed, such practices are not uncommon in religious orientations that are often considered esoteric. But the generic dependence in the conduct of human affairs on a wisdom given through age may be construed as the terms of a quite natural human capacity for transcendence toward the past. Surely if learning alone were sufficient to bring such wisdom, we would be more supplied with literary prodigies than we find to be the case.

Rudolf Steiner's emphasis on supersensible perception affirms faculties of transcendence in regard to metaphor and meaning as appropriate possibilities for modern experience, and also as susceptible of cultivation in modern terms. But Steiner does not restrict wisdom's basis to the personal pasts of individual lives. For Steiner wisdom lives through the ages of the world as a whole, and embodies common meaning for us all.
detail from Hieronymous Bosch's 'Temptation of St. Anthony' (1500?)
The larger issue of culture's fragmentation of transcendence belongs to how directions of transcendence are more or less separately harnessed to particular enterprises in such ways that their expressions lose the sense, idea, or meaning of transcendence, except as they contribute to disproportion and hypertrophy of those enterprises within cultural wholes. Even in religion, it seems, it is poor integration between its directions of transcendence which works to bring about conditions whereby religion obstructs rather than furthers human development. This exposition addresses such situations as reflecting the results of a thinking whose recourse is to fractionalize temporality in order to artificially support temporality's different aspects. Thus it is worth at least framing a question as to whether or to what extent experience of transcendence itself is an artifact of how thinking has canalized its openness to time. As we recognize the character of the underlying movements whose limits we have called transcendence, we perhaps can come to appreciate something of the engagement of those movements in composing the world's evolving creation.
before after
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


Ludwig Wittgenstein:   ...primitives     This distinction between a primitive idea and the idea of something primitive belongs to a loose paraphrase of #2 of Philosophical Investigations

Steiner / Nietzsche:      Steiner's empathy with Nietzche's work is attested not only in his Nietzsche book and several of his lectures, but also by his initial agreement to edit Nietzsche's collected works. In the 1890's Steiner was invited by Nietzsche's sister, on the basis of his labors as the editor of Goethe's scientific writings, to catalog Nietzsche's works. He spent some time on this project before accepting that Elisabeth (now notorious as a proto-Fascist and anti-Semite) would not allow him to work without interference, and he therefore withdrew. Steiner's 1895 Nietzsche book both hits and misses, as have most other efforts, Jaspers and Heidegger included. Gilles Deleuze, among philosophical treaments of Nietzsche, probably stays truest to his subject, though even he underplays play.

Steiner's temporalization of community:      Steiner ventures an involvement in time and its meanings more specific than found in philosophy. His intention is distinctive in reasserting concrete rhythm in the life of the mind: Many have recognized that unfoldings of awareness show cyclic components, yet the 'clocks' belonging to these rhythms were not generally identified with existing natural cycles of days, months and years. But Steiner encouraged his followers to attune to such rhythms and brought many kinds of meaning to bear in differentiating spiritual potentials for occasions of nature's cycles. At the least this marks the importance he accorded temporality, its historic role in integrating community life, and the dangers of presuming to disavow so pervasive a cultural inheritance as we feel our way toward the future. To be stressed, as I see it, is that in the immiscibility largely maintained between Steiner's work and philosophy, important questions for both concerning our relation to nature's 'clocks' and the significance humans find in them go unexamined. Perhaps Steiner's emphasis on 'literal periodicities' was part of an effort to reintroduce temporality to a thinking unavoidably dependent on representation. If so, as thinking moves toward more intrinsic temporality, the way Steiner 'marks time' may require evaluation. On the other hand, the comprehensive way our world has built itself around representation gives little confidence that initial and early shifts from such 'spatialized' thinking can adequately address Steiner's priorities in regard to living into time's concrete stream, and the potentials for wisdom it carries.

...lineup and alibi

But how is it this lives in thy mind?
What seest thou else in the dark backward and abyss of time?

- Tempest, I, ii, 49
The very opener and intelligencer
between the grace, the sanctities of heaven,
and our dull workings.

- Henry IV, part 2, IV, ii, 12
Thou shalt never get such a secret from me
but by a parable

- Two Gentlemen of Verona, II, v, 34
learn to read what silent love hath writ,
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.

- Sonnets, #23, 13
Time is a very bankrupt,
and owes more than he's worth to season.
- Comedy of Errors, IV, ii, 57

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