The developmental signs of advancement in an alchemical soul practice usually involve some sort of healing crisis brought on by a discharge in the soul of accumulated assumptions and belief structures. Most often these assumptions are not perceived by the student in a conscious way. They arise like dream fragments in the daily life and invade the serenity of the soul with impulses that are definitely not in line with progressive development.
It is usually only after an event or situation has wreaked havoc in our lives that we can dimly divine the deeper meanings and assumptions behind our moments of suffering. We could even say that esoteric development is really the cultivation of the capacity to consciously experience the arising of dysfunctional patterns based on faulty assumptions before take over our lives. At bottom the capacity to do this recognizing of patterns is really what is known as metanoia or changing the thinking.
Normally when we are under stress our own will comes forward and we use an instinctual force to fight against the intrusion. In this way we act aggressively as warriors towards the threats and stress. In each of the following situations the solution to the dilemma will be approached as a warrior who uses prayer instead of threats and aggression. The idea is that the will force in prayer is what is of importance just as will is the most important force to the conventional warrior. The difference is that in the prayerful warrior there has been some degree of metanoia that allows the will to be employed in a much more whole and creative way.
Turning the soul is the initiating process for any attempt at developing the inner life.
The alchemical approach to metanoia is known as turning the soul. Turning the soul is the initiating process for any attempt at developing the inner life. There are a few different stages of inner development that can be good signposts to determining how much capacity we have to turn our souls. These signposts are indicators of the direction and intensity of blaming which goes on in our inner dialogue when we are under stressful or threatening situations.
In the first stage, the roots of blaming lie in the firm belief that another person is the source of our misfortune or dissatisfaction. This is known technically in psychology as projection. We project our dissatisfaction on another and then that is the only way we can see the situation. In projection we leave ourselves with no options. The belief structures and the inner dialogues in the projection stage of blaming completely fill the soul with pictures of anger and resentment. While the thinking processes flow into thoughts of justification an retaliation. Some personalities spend whole lifetimes in the first stage of projection. The newspapers are full of stories based upon the belief that someone else is to blame. The whole culture is devoted to finding blame.
As a healing for this first level of soul work there can be attention given to address the Creator in a mood of thanks. Imagine that you have given someone something that has helped them to advance in their lives. Imagine that the person took what you gave and went away without expressing some form of thanks to you. How would you feel? Then imagine that you are the Creator of the World and the beings to whom you have given life and livelihood do not thank you for their gifts but instead spend their days moaning that they have not been met in their needs. Imagine how you would feel. Then give thanks and send prayers of sincere thanks that the Creator is not a vindictive God. This does not have to be long winded but the mood must be sincere. If the affection for the benevolence of the Creator is genuine this is a healing of the tendency to project blame on others. The returning prodigal has little time for resentment or casting blame on others.
Rudolf Steiner suggests that we imagine that the person whom we are blaming was denied an opportunity that was given to us instead. It was that denied opportunity that was the source of their downfall into the state for which we are blaming them. Imagine this and then give a prayer of thanks to the Creator for the blessings that have been given to you in your life. Then send a prayer of humility to the angel of the other person for judging them, in your ignorance, to be so bad.
Using prayers like this over time it may be that our soul comes to realize that the others are not really to blame for our misfortunes. We see that there are patterns in our lives that have to do with inabilities on our own part. This is a healing but it often leads to the second stage of blaming.
In the second level of blaming we have a sudden realization that we are to blame for most of our dysfunctional experiences. This is a tough one since when this level is realized we become doubly mortified; once for truly being to blame, and once for having, up to the present moment, blamed everyone else. This level of blaming is a burning process with very intense flames of shame and blame. Working in this stage for extended periods can be a dangerous and unbalancing activity for the soul. Sooner or later however the self blaming will become bothersome and boring even to ourselves. When any form of blaming is no longer a reasonable option then that is the sign that the capacity of Moral Imagination is unfolding in the soul. It is then that we are truly on the threshold of turning the soul towards Inspiration.
The life of prayer in this stage can be focused on the use of what could be called creative suffering. No one develops their soul forces without owning their own projections, this is a fierce suffering which is often self inflicted. In the alchemical language this stage is called cooking and eating the shadow. It can lead to deep characterological problems such as depression. In our suffering we can no longer blame others that is clear. But someone must be to blame. Around and around we go getting ever more tightly wound. In these dark hours it is useful to dedicate our suffering to another whom we deem is suffering a bit more than we are. It could be a sick person or a more severely depressed person. We picture that person and we ask our angel or the Christ Being to please take the will forces that we are learning to develop in our trials and apply them to the account of the other person who is more needy than ourselves.
Simply imagine that your prayers are like a good home cooked meal that you place before the other by means of your angel.
By the incredible action of the spirit every force that is so designated for another has a healing force on the giver and the recipient. It is like a two-for-one deal with the Christ. Of course we cannot pray in this way with the idea that we will also be the recipient and do not be tempted into imagining that the other person will be made well by your prayers. That is called petitionary prayer. It is an inflation and will nullify any will force which you can contribute to the other. Simply imagine that your prayers are like a good home cooked meal that you place before the other by means of your angel. Simply paying attention to the other person in their suffering is a good prayer. Dedicating your own suffering as a help towards the other is a doubly effective prayer. While immersed in this type of prayer activity we do not sit and suffer and be tempted back into blaming. The other person benefits with help they get in the spirit through your purified will. In this type of prayer your imagination is made into a moral force. Your inner picturing can then be called Moral Imagination.
In Moral Imagination we work with the force of the realization that blaming itself is a useless waste of human life. No one wins in a blaming situation, neither the blamer nor the blamee. We see blame as the work of the adversarial spiritual beings who deceive humans into inflation and projection, activities that always result in blaming. The deceptions of the adversaries are the ways in which they cover up their own hidden roles in the ongoing fantasy lives of humans.
When a human fully realizes that there is actually no blame this is usually simultaneous with the counter realization that there really must be an accounting of our actions. This is the realization of the cosmic nature of karma. This is a deep puzzle to a soul that is habitually used to blaming others. The challenge of accounting with no blame brings to the fore the Moral Imaginative forces in the human soul. It is with these forces that the human develops the capacity and will to make atonement for being a willing yet unconscious accomplice to transgressions against the progressive Will of the Creator. With Moral Imaginative forces the human being hungers and thirsts after righteousness without a thought of revenge. At the level of Moral Imagination the soul comes into contact with the higher spiritual members of its own being. This is a foundation for metanoia. The actual willed deed that brings about metanoia is the turning of the soul. While turning the soul the student must encounter the laws of karma.
In concept there can be no teaching about turning the soul since each person must find their own way into the threshold between the worlds out of the unique qualities of their own soul constitution. In practice all a teacher can and must do is to point to certain problem solving techniques which if practiced allow a student to stand the experiences at the threshold without losing a grip on reality. Keeping a grip on oneself is most important since the membrane between the worlds becomes very thin just where Imagination begins to yield to Inspiration.
We are receiving inspirations from beyond the threshold all of the time.
We are receiving inspirations from beyond the threshold all of the time. However it is only the esotericist who takes the time to develop a practice in which the Inspirations can be experienced cognitively and objectively. The essential problem for the esoteric student is that Inspiration cannot be cognized during the experience of living into the silence but the Inspirations can only be recognized and understood after the inspiring experience. Further, post recognition is only possible if the mind is prepared in a particular way. The foundation of this method of preparation is found in the whole nexus of qualities involved in the process of metanoia. Now in Inspiration the will to turn the soul away from its’ habitual instinctual emotions is the door to higher wisdom.
At this turn in the road the prayerful warrior usually finds what in other traditions is called the petty tyrant. This is a person who is in control of a situation in which the student is engaged. The student who is crossing into Inspiration needs to find a way to enter gracefully into the petty tyrant so that the karma that is keeping them bound to each other can be understood. This can only be done in an Inspirative consciousness since any attempt to do this work in Imagination is sure to lead to further difficulties. The higher level of Moral imagination is called Moral Technique in the language of Rudolf Steiner. Moral Technique cannot simply be imagined it must be worked out between two people; usually two people with some karma thatneeds to be adjusted.
It is often the case that a student meeting a petty tyrant will imagine that this person is a petty tyrant for everyone. This is not actually the case. The petty tyrant is petty because they are actually really just another human but the blame and shame patterns around them work a strange alchemy on the forces of the student so that old memories that are not really conscious arise in the soul of the student when in the presence of the petty tyrant. It is here that the Moral Technique of turning the soul is necessary. This is very effective when the student decides to pray in a hygienic way for the petty tyrant.