Anthroposophy NYC Meditation Blog

Saturday, April 25, 2009

 

Moving Forward

To new viewers and bloggers - please scroll down to see the introductory posts.

In the invitation, I stated that part of the rationale for this meditation blog was that some interested individuals might not be able to or want to go in person to the meditation sessions. In light of that, it makes good sense to allow those individuals to keep pace with the meditation themes being taken up in the on-site sessions, should they so desire.

Last week, we took up the theme "and the Word became flesh, and made his tent within us (GK's translation of the St.John Prologue)." Georg pointed out that this signifies that the Word has taken up residence in the weak, vulnerable, unfinished part of the soul.

In the ensuing Barfield Group session, where we were concluding our time with Georg Kuhlewind's The Light of the "I," it was decided that from among Georg's list of phrases for meditation at the back of the book we would work with "In the light, there is nothing." This seemingly contradictory phrase calls to mind quantum physics professor Arthur Zajonc's demonstration (in his book Catching the Light ) that a window opening into a container with a high intensity light source shining towards completely black walls reveals only darkness.

Walter

Thursday, April 16, 2009

 

Getting Started

What would be a most basic and essential approach to a meditation on the Prologue of the St. John Gospel?

To start with, meditate on in. Georg often pointed out that relationship words (i.e., prepositions) or interrupters like however or although are excellent subjects because they cannot be further defined. While prepositions may suggest polarities (in-out; to-from; before-after), the individual terms can be considered singly. Words like although defy definition. They must be intuited. Because they offer little to invite distracting, tangential explanations, the movement of attention from the sign although to the gesture of its moving meaning may be experienced more easily than with complex abstractions such as—organization or democracy.

That movement, from the signs or individual words of a meditative text, to the signs’ and sentence’s underlying and not-fixed meaning source is our goal (even the apparent contradiction between movement and goal is intriguing). What is central here is that it is our attention and intention that provide the heat. What color the flame will be is up for discovery.

After you’ve gone a stretch with in, you might then graduate to In beginning. Beginning has three basic components: be-ginn-ing. The last is simply ing which indicates the noun form of an activity or state. Be – is a primary meaning. Exist is a synonym for be, but only substitutes without really modifying (some might consider be as more active). And ginn can be traced to ginnan (to cut open, or open up in older English and Germanic sources). Of course, the suggestion of a connection to generareto produce in Latin—or the Greek genos meaning race or offspring is hard to avoid.

Georg Kühlewind often called the ability to begin the essential human faculty. What else can we do? Please tell us about your experiments!

Walter Alexander

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

 

A point of beginning...


Here is an initial point of reference, from Georg Kühlewind: Becoming Aware of the Logos, pp. 31-32, copyright 1985 and published by Lindisfarne Books/SteinerBooks.

THE WORD IN THE BEGINNING

...At this point, the word is born in man: the principle, the primal beginning of healing. For all suffering is caused by forgetting the word, by our failure to become aware of it. This failure is cognitive naiveté; that worldview which allows no reality to cognition, to the Logos, even though all reality is recognized through cognition. As far as this goes, materialism and traditional spiritualism are in agreement with each other. They are only apparently contradictory. Basically, they represent the same disease of the human spirit, while healing lies in the primal beginning, in the intuition of the Logos. The Logos teaching is a cognitive teaching, the only possible one, since the primal reality is cognition. Therefore John, in his first sentences, immediately indicates the source which makes possible the healing of the most bitter human sickness: blindness and deafness to the Logos, to God’s voice—from whom, after the fall, the first couple wanted to hide, and which thereafter disappeared from men into its concealment. St. John’s text points the way to what it announces; and along this way our common blindness is healed. Man can turn back to the primal beginning. With the Gospel’s first sentences, what was hidden to man for aeons comes into the open, into alétheia, into truth:

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

 

Invitation to a Meditation Blog: Working with the St. John Gospel

We began our meditation group under Georg Kühlewind’s tutelage at the New York Branch as an offshoot of the Owen Barfield group in the mid 1990s. For about the first six months we worked exclusively and rigorously out of the first few verses of the St. John Gospel. We were impressed to learn that Georg had been meditating on that prologue daily for 30 years.

Some months ago, at a dozen plus years remove from that beginning and nearly three years after Georg’s passing, we received some requests from a few individuals who wished to join the meditation group. The older members saw this as an excellent opportunity to go back to the beginning, not only to give the newer members a good start, but also because of the timely posthumous publication of Georg’s The Light of the “I”—(Lindisfarne Books, 2008) a slender volume that concisely elaborates the meditation methods that had evolved out of Georg’s own personal work and out of his work with groups over the years.

That return to “In the beginning” (or more accurately translated, Georg insisted, “In beginning”) has been met with enthusiasm and a rapid expansion of the group. With an appreciation that many who can’t physically participate might wish to, and with gratitude for the authenticity and potentialities of this approach, we offer this experimental blog on meditation.

Before outlining its terms, it may be good to look at the most obvious question: What makes the John Prologue such an apt and essential subject for meditation, and in particular, the approach refined by Georg Kühlewind?

Georg Kühlewind was an anthroposophist who was born Jewish, who developed a deep respect for Zen Buddhism and later in life for Quakerism, and who like Rudolf Steiner, never was a churchgoing Christian. But the profound and even central significance of the St. John Gospel was evident to both Georg and to Rudolf Steiner. One answer to the question is suggested through a comparison of the creation stories in the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament Genesis 1:1 depiction, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth…” is a straightforward narrative that unfolds stages of creation that, while inviting us to imagine events that we have not ourselves witnessed, still amounts to a sequential relating that our ordinary thinking can follow and accompany. There was (and still is on ebay) a children’s Golden Bible, and Golden Collection of Bible Stories lending themselves to all kinds of visual depictions of the creation of “lights in the firmament of the heaven,” “grass and the herb yielding seed” and “great whales and every living creature that moveth.” Not so with the John Gospel. When we hear, “In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) our story making and picture making stumble. And when we add, “The same was in the beginning with God,” (John 1:2) we’re worse off yet. Momentous change has occurred. Whatever conventional cognitive faculties and sensibilities the Genesis narrative engaged completely fail us in John. We meet a barrier that says, “Something else is required.” That something is not any nugget of esoteric knowledge, chart of chakras, or listing of subtle bodies-- but instead an effort, a gathering of our ordinary at-hand capabilities to a kind of focus that never occurs unless we intend it. Meditation.

We invite you to participate in this blog and to work with us on the John Gospel and perhaps other such texts, texts so constructed that when they are addressed with sufficiently intensified attention, they open to the actual sources of meaning informing them.

For our part, we will invite various individuals with a depth of experience working in this manner to present meditation subjects and introductions to them. You are welcome to ask questions about, comment on or share results of your efforts. Let’s begin!

The following, from In the Light of the I, may be helpful. All selections are included through the kind permission of Lindisfarne Books.

We do not seek thinking, but not-thinking. That is to say, we seek to return to the pure power of empty thinking attention. Meditation, even when it is directed attention onto a theme, is not-thinking (p. 47).

It is best to begin our meditation by “pondering” the text or image: chewing it over with ever-deepening thinking. In a concentrated state, we think through the words and the structure of the sentence. The function of this concentrated reflection is to exhaust thinking. When our attention is focused in meditation, we should not be thinking. But thinking can help us enter meditation—as for instance, when something new arises in the light of thinking (p. 50).

Opening theme: In beginning was the Word (John 1:1)

Sample question: How long should my meditation effort sessions last?

Sample reply: At our sessions we often set the duration at ten minutes. Other times, however, we agreed to let the effort period conclude “naturally.” Working by yourself, you can, of course, extend the length. Because intensity of attention is desired, you may find that allowing the time to be open-ended is not conducive to deepening your practice.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Walter Alexander


We do not allow anonymous postings, so to join in and leave comments on the St. John Meditation Blog you will need a free Google or similar account. Simply click on the comments line below a post you want to respond to, go through the steps to publish a comment, and if you do not have an account, choose Google account and continue. You will be prompted to create an account, and then you can comment freely.

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