The recent earthquake, tsunami and ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan are truly events that warrant sympathy and compassion for the Japanese people who lost family, livelihood and property to catastrophe.
The death of so many people in such a short time gives cause for reflection on the tenuous nature of human life. Due to the ability of contemporary media to allow a remote viewer to be eyewitness to these spectacles, a strange blend of helplessness and curiosity can give rise to an existential anxiety and feelings of guilt that can be quite paralyzing. Sensitive souls will feel the conflicting emotions of terror in witnessing a catastrophe while simultaneously feeling some degree of guilt at having been a dispassionate and detached, we could almost say voyeuristic, observer to death and destruction. The blend of detached remoteness and terrorizing immediacy in the imagination of the viewer is a potent source of anxiety.
Esoterically an unusual aspect of the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan is why is there a return of nuclear catastrophe to a people already visited with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where estimates of how many people perished in an instant vary from 200,000 to 300,000? A spiritually oriented person could ask many questions about the world karma of these events. Is human error and inflation to blame for the suffering caused by these events? What are the global implications of the power of natural catastrophes combined with human lack of foresight regarding energy policies? A deeper question would be why does the spiritual world allow such things to happen?
A spiritually oriented person could ask many questions about the world karma of these events.
Whether it was the onset of personal illness or national catastrophe such as war, Rudolf Steiner consistently took the broadest view possible in describing the mysterious windings of human karma in the context of cosmic evolution. Most often it was not the ancient Mosaic eye for an eye law of karma that he presented to his audiences. His view was that Christ was the new Lord of Karma. As such it was not retribution or guilt that was the key to understanding the unthinkable as regards human suffering and tribulation. The Christ centered karmic impulse comes from a higher place of sacrifice of self for a common good. This can apply to nations even in the context of catastrophic natural events. Going further in this instance in Fukushima, we could say that the natural catastrophic events are highlighting the dire implications of the hubris of human technology. In that context we could say that not just the Japanese people but also the world soul is filled with anxiety over current events.
In Steiner's worldview illness and suffering can actually be a hidden blessing for the development of consciousness in an individual. Expanded to a national level what is to be said of suffering of a people that is tied to the technological dilemma now being faced in Fukushima? Is this event natural or un-natural? Is this an act of God or a human drama akin to the sorcerer's apprentice? Are the Japanese people who will have to be moved from a nuclear exclusion zone around the runaway reactors to be considered as victims, martyrs or prophets? In the large scale flow of karmic forces in the cosmos are the events taking place in Japan paying a debt or enacting a deed of sacrifice for the purpose of awakening a global consciousness?
Today, lacking truth, humans satisfy the fundamental urge to name the un-named by forming an opinion.
In other areas of the world stage today the Middle Eastern firestorm of conflicts and upheavals was instigated by the self immolation of a single individual. That single deed proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back politically for a large body of human souls who have been oppressed under totalitarian rule. The firestorm of reaction was fanned by contemporary media that gives the world access to the cell-phone-on-the-street viewpoint of such events. This level of reportage has little journalistic scruple since it is spread over the world on the internet. Enhancing the inflammatory nature of this kind of news programming, the constant flow of conflicting accounts out of independent sources merge in an unsettling confusion of opinions. In biblical times, the role of Adam in Paradise was to give names to the un-named. Today, lacking truth, humans satisfy the fundamental urge to name the un-named by forming an opinion. The oscillation of public opinion and the sensationalism of the on- the- spot imagery are twin forces that are counter to what could be reasoned action in the face of catastrophe. The social chaos that ensues from this combination blocks the development of true compassion for the plight of others. From this perspective, the plethora of unedited images and unfounded opinions is the true source of widespread anxiety.
However, through those same media channels, the Japanese people are revealing to the world media remarkable self restraint, co-operation, resilience and self sacrifice in the face of their trials. Their actions show that even in the unthinkable; human ideals can be manifested. Human history reveals that when populations are faced with such trials what generally emerges is the brightness of the human spirit that arises when dealing with insurmountable challenges. Emotion in these instances gives strength to the will. Emotionally, the challenges of those who are mere spectators of the struggle are of a different nature. The lack of immediacy in the face of the absorption of relentless imagery of the sufferings of others can lead to a deep sense of helplessness and futility. We take in the terror of the imagery but are powerless to do anything constructive about the reality of the situation. This is destabilizing and dangerous. Is there anything that can be done to help this situation?
Rudolf Steiner has brought several approaches to the inner life that can be of use to souls stressed by the implications of these contemporary challenges. I would like to address these approaches by reference to three spiritual beings, Michael, the Black Madonna and the Etheric Christ.
The Michaelic impulse centers on the capacity of humans to realize that blaming, retribution, exclusion and prejudice are hindrances that humanity needs to transform by acting as the liason between humanity and the spirit of the Human Individuality that Rudolf Steiner recognized as Christ in the Etheric realm. The Archangel Michael is, among high spiritual beings, an advocate for the collective struggles of human beings who are learning to deal with the issues of freedom and love. The ideal is to eventually have a collective humanity that is dedicated to the total freedom of each individual. We are in the first initial steps in this direction and the path forward is a torturous one since the realization of the new humanity would jeopardize the dark future envisioned by the cosmic adversaries of humans. To approach Michael it is necessary for each individual human being to strive to become master of the inner pictures that arise unconsciously in the soul with each sense impression that is experienced. This is admittedly a goal for the far future but human beings are just at the beginning of the work and so Michael is resolute and reserved but has great patience with our failings if we but begin to make the effort.
A Michaelic exercise related to world events would be to form as clear a picture of an event as possible in the mind's eye. Then form another picture of the same event along with its developments a few hours later. Then repeat those two images again but add the developments that arose a few hours later. The whole exercise would be to form three consecutive inner images of a sequence of events as clearly as possible without allowing emotional content such as anxiety, fear or anger to color the images. This is a Michaelic deed on the inner planes. In this deed of self control we are making the astral body conform to objective reality. This draws our soul closer to world phenomena that are free of prejudice and anxiety. This is a first step and Michael is our advocate in this work.
The Black Madonna watches over humans that are facing the darkness and terror of the unknown.
The second step is to enlist the attention of the great source of inspiration for the alchemical adepts of the past, the Black Madonna. This is done by thinking the sequence of images of the Michaelic objectivity exercise backwards into a state of silence. If there is a strong emotional content in the images used in the exercise it generally takes several attempts of thinking them backwards in order to dissolve the emotions connected with them and attain a state of inner silence and equanimity. Once silence is achieved the being of the Black Madonna can be experienced in the astral planes as the capacity to accept circumstances that are clearly out of one's control and yet clearly are part of the karma of the situation to be faced. The Black Madonna watches over humans that are facing the darkness and terror of the unknown. She is an intercessor to the wisdom of the cosmos. A wisdom that allows a human soul to realize that an individual life is lived for the totality of all other human beings. We could say that the Black Madonna allows an anxious human to realize that forces are at work in world events that are beyond human understanding and that the integrity of the inner life of images in the human soul is the pearl of great price in the battle between the progressive and retarding forces in the spiritual world. The Black Madonna teaches patience in unknowing. These two exercises bring together a wealth of support for an anxious humanity. It is most effective to do the Michaelic concentration exercise and the Black Madonna silence exercise just before sleep.
Between sleep and another awakening these two great beings guide the individual human soul to interact with the souls of the “so-called-dead” who dwell in the dream dimension that is the source of world events. This dimension formerly known as the realm of the ancestors can be the source of much healing force to those whose souls are fraught with anxiety over world events. Humans benefit from having Michael and the Black Madonna as benefactors and guides in these domains.
In the morning a period of silence is useful to gather the dewdrops of any insights that have come out of the sleep/dream realms. This is best developed by attention devoted to listening into silence to see if the mood of dreaming has left any feeling impressions in the soul. Other exercises are useful at this time but a few minutes of concentration on stilling the mind into a state of silence are beneficial for absorbing moods from across the threshold. The esoteric techniques needed for an understanding of the karma of these large events require that humans return again and again in their imaginations to the conscious inner representation of symptoms of world karma as inner images that are controlled by the individual. These images are placed in a context of moving pictures that are given over in sleep to the silence of the spiritual world and retrieved again in the morning in periods of silence. The rhythmic flow of the forming and dissolving of the inner pictures of world events allows for deeper insights to arise in the soul regarding the true karmic implications of world events.
To find my True Self I must enter consciously into the becoming of the world and to understand the world I must enter consciously into the becoming of my True Self.
The use of the evening and the morning as a rhythmic counterpoint in the inner planes puts us into contact with the Christ impulse in the life body of the Earth. A key symptom that the life body of the Earth is being penetrated by our consciousness is the arising of an interest in understanding planetary rhythms and cycles both in natural phenomena and in the life of the soul. Esotericists understand that the background to human evolution can be explored through a higher perception of the rhythmic nature of world phenomena seen against a backdrop of planetary events. To find my True Self I must enter consciously into the becoming of the world and to understand the world I must enter consciously into the becoming of my True Self. The rhythms through which these polarities are related can be found as the symbolic script written in the motions of the planets before the backdrop of the fixed stars of the Zodiac.
According to Rudolf Steiner the Christ being works particularly through the morning and evening forces to rhythmically regulate the chaotic astral realms that threaten human souls when they obsess about pictures that present to the soul scenes in which the individual feels powerless to act. When such pictures are accompanied with information that oscillates wildly between truth and half-truth the stage is set for psychic aberrations on a mass scale. From an esoteric point of view, these kinds of mass feelings enter the life body of the Earth and further irritate or reverberate anomalous natural events. To prevent this, Christ as the Spirit of the Earth uses human attention that is free of anxiety and prejudice to harmoniously link the destiny of the Earth to the great demands of cosmic evolution.
By enlisting the help of these three great beings, humans gain powerful advocates in the struggle against the dark forces that threaten to engulf human souls in paralyzing anxiety during times of crisis and uncertainty.