by Juan Antonio Revilla
It is intriguing the fact that a mother with her little child in arms has similar qualities or "colors" than a person praying to the Virgin. We know nothing yet about what this "Virgin" is, but we already know that it represents "the common denominator" of these two unrelated events: praying to the Virgin has qualities similar to those of motherhood, and motherhood has qualities similar to those of praying to the Virgin; the difference being that these qualities appear to be working in opposite directions in each case. We were able to know this because we concentrated our attention on what seemed to be the essential aspect of the two events: the feelings, and this was possible because we enhanced our observation by means of our feeling response to it.
Now I would like to find more events like these that share the same or very similar qualities, and learn more from the comparison. Since we are talking of feelings, it is very easy to find many other events with the same colors or when the same type of feelings are present, but if we limit ourselves to this we would always be returning in circles to the nature of humans, and we would be tempted to conclude that the Virgin is a human creation -- this is in fact is what is ordinarily done. So instead of looking for these events in the human world, we will try to look for them in the natural world, and compare them.
In the animal world it is easy to find striking examples of motherhood, but the question arises: do animals pray? when can it be considered that an animal is praying? Is the mantis (the insect) praying? Or (categorically) animals never pray?... And when we look at the plant world, it is easy to discover imaginatively how some flowers --for their shape and colors-- can be compared to the human act of praying, but where do we find "motherhood" in the plant world? And what about the mineral world, is there praying and motherhood in a mountain or a stream, or in rocks?
These questions may sound absurd, but if instead of concentrating on the pictorial content of what comes through our eyes we concentrate on the quality of the movement that is inherent in these pictures, if we can connect to the inner life and movement of its colors, concentrate on the gesture or attitude that this movement suggests to us through feeling, if we concentrate on the dance that they are dancing, if we concentrate on the movements of our soul in response to the breeze that comes from these pictures when we are in a state of humble and respectful observation, we then would start to be "in sympathy" with the formative forces themselves, and they would start working on us in the full light of our consciousness.
> Do we really know all that? It sounds like a pseudo intellectual theory, not an observation based on empathy.
J: The observation is not "based on empathy", empathy is part of what we have to observe. It's not theory but a simple observation. If it "sounds like a pseudo intellectual theory" to you it is because you did not follow my explanation or because you are not seeing the same thing, but how would you know if you were not there? You are missing the point which is to illustrate an organic method of thinking applied to a common experience (in this case "the Virgin"). That you agree or disagree with what I personally see is irrelevant. What is relevant is the procedure that is being followed.
> How can we be sure that our feeling observation are true?
J: That depends on what you mean by "feeling observation". Feelings are neither true nor false. Without an observer, there is no object and no knowledge, so we must pay attention to the relationship between the object and the observer, and for this we observe the object as well as ourselves. If we cannot recognize or observe any feeling-gesture or soul-gesture in the object, it means that we are doing it wrongly and we have to enhance or enrich the observation by cultivating the right kind of attitude in us, which includes approaching the object with wonder, reverence, empathy, surrender, etc., and enhancing our powers of attention and concentration; then the object starts to become more eloquent and we can look deeper into it. Once we are able to see those feelings in the object, we must observe the way in which they "hit us", how they affect us, what feeling response they provoke. This feeling response in us comes in the form of pictures or movements, as when we try to draw the music with our hands, or it can be an arresting feeling (inspiration), or a desire to do something specific (pictures). When this happens and we are observing it consciously, instead if being carried away by the feeling we can transform with our thinking this movement or gesture that the object is producing in us into knowledge of the object and of ourselves.
> You should try to start from the heavenly Virgin instead of starting from the mudball of Earth.
J: We should start from what we all see and experience, and drop prejudices and abstractions like "heavenly" vs "mudball Earth" to the trash can. Your prejudices against the mediation of feeling in the thinking process make you react to what I say before understanding it, and the result is that you criticize what in essence is identical to what Steiner repeats over and over in his lectures.
The sharpening of our thinking forces is necessary and present at every step in the form of observation and self-knowledge, from beginning to end, and is greatly amplified and unrelenting later when dealing with the imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions, but instead of seeing this, the tendency so far has been to react with strong prejudice against the role played by feelings in the process, distorting everything I'm saying.
> In Cleargreen pages there at least used to be a photo of a praying prairie dog, they do it in groups for half an hour in the morning and again in the evening. They pray to the sun. The researcher says he does not want to anthropomorphize, but that he certainly thinks it looks like praying, they hold paws together, that's all. And turn toward the sun. And sit quietly.
J: So the "praying" analogy comes (presumably according to this) from holding paws together, looking at the object, and sitting quietly while looking at it.
Note that the mantis religiosa does just that, but nobody thinks it is praying. The same can be said of most predators in front of their prey: they sit quietly in front of it, looking at it... the position of the hands may be deceptive.
Maybe what the prairie dogs do can be considered close to "praying", but the explanation why we think that way that you mention here is missing the essential element: the feelings. It is these feelings what makes us associate the behavior with "praying".
In other words, the act of praying is not in the picture itself but in the feelings contained in the gesture represented in the picture, and even though we do not "see" a feeling like a physical object, all of us actually can or could "see it" present in the picture that comes to our eyes. The reason why we can "see" a feeling is because this feeling is evoking a response in our soul, we react to it with our own feelings, and it is this reaction what allows us to say: "here is a feeling that has such and such characteristics". This does not appear to our eyes in the object, it appears inside of us, but we know that it comes from the object, that we are in some way looking inside the object.
I'm using the word "feeling" here in the same way Steiner does, but have suggested that a better word would be "soul gesture": a feeling response is a gesture of the soul that is always contained in the object's "countenance". Every phenomenon in this world, every object of observation, every event of our lives, presents to us a face that expresses its mood, emotion, or character, and most of us ordinarily can recognize and see this character or mood even though it is not a physical object.
What we think we see in the countenance of a disease, an accident, or an act of praying, is a result of the feeling-response it evokes in us, and very often we can get a false impression, we "missjudge". What I'm describing is how we can discipline our observation in such a way that the thoughts we develop about an object or phenomenon can be more truthful, less prone to error and closer to the reality of the object. This is done by following Steiner's explanations of Goethe's "organic" way of thinking and the role of feelings, dreams, and imaginative language in spiritual cognition.
As a result of this method the truth of the object appears to us in the form of "meaning": to "clearsee" the object is to grasp its meaning. This meaning appears as an explosion of light in our thinking, as an intuition. But we do not keep the intuition to ourselves, this intuition is pushing to become concrete in the world, to become flesh, and this is done through the creative forces of our thinking. For some, depending on each observer's or thinker's temperament, this concretion may come in the form of words, for others in the form of painting or of music, or sculpture: they all are a human language through which the spiritual becomes concrete or uttered in the world.
> "It is not possible to operate directly on feeling, nor it is wise along the discipline, to appeal to feeling, outside of its immediate resonating for the contents of meditation and before having distinguished from it feeling and willing. (Scaligero, Yoga Meditation Magic, 97, 1971)
J: I have been talking, in my description, of 3 type of feelings: we start from those that appear in the object, e.g., the object of observation is a feeling. But we cannot "see" feelings directly with our physical senses, so before there is something to observe we must bring this feeling of the object into our consciousness, and for this we concentrate on the gesture, the movement, the life and direction of colors in the object. Then we begin to interiorize this, to intensify it by means of a second type of feelings that Scaligero (apparently) is calling here "immediate resonating for the contents of meditation".
We observe or contemplate this resonating, which appears in different forms and degrees of imagination, inspiration, or intuition; it can have the form of a feeling or the form of an impulse to do something translated into a picture. I have not paid attention before to the difference between feeling and willing in the resonating response, but have considered it a form of feeling, noting that "gesturing" is a better word. I mentioned in a recent post that it can appear in different forms to our contemplating or observing: a picture, a feeling, an impulse or desire to do something specific, to make a gesture. Instead of being carried away or controlled by our resonating response, we (the *I*) take this content and transform it --through our thinking-- into concrete or "true" knowledge about the object. This knowledge "pushes" to become concrete by means of language, but the language is conceptual only sometimes, in many other cases it is musical, or other forms of art.
The important thing at this point --I would say-- is not to distinguish between feeling and willing but between what --in our soul-- comes from us and what comes from the object. This can only be achieved through self-knowledge and self-observation. The organic method I'm describing minimizes or removes the interference or noise produced by what comes from us, from our ego. A special kind of transparency and soul disposition is therefore required, and this is achieved by cultivating during the whole process the kind of feelings or soul-gestures that Steiner describes (wonder, reverence. tuning, surrender...). Here, apparently, Steiner differs from Scaligero.