Animal Instinct Transformed

If animals are seen as rational (in a Darwinian sense) in contrast to man’s irrationality, it is because they have adapted perfectly to their surroundings, therefore aiding in their survival.  But in ancient Egypt, animals were seen as rational because their forms were perfect representations of their cosmic functions.  An animal’s joy was made complete in fulfilling its instinct; a cow chewing its cud, a cat toying with it’s prey, a horse galloping freely across the plain. 

In her few but penetrating works, the French Egyptologist Isha Schwaller de Lubicz has noted the role animals represented in Pharaonic theology as Neters.  Pharaonic theology was Imageconcerned with man becoming a “king,” one who assumes complete control over his lower nature.  The animals represented specific functions and instincts incarnate within mankind.  In her “Journey Into the Light” she states:

The forces of instinct are the expression of essential functions (cosmic functions).  Incarnated in animals they are neither good nor bad, but inherent to their nature.  Within each species they operate accordingly.  Only man has the power – and therefore the responsibility – to control the extent to which he comes under their influence.

In her novel, “Her-Bak,” Schwaller de Lubicz explains how the process of transformation of animal instincts within the human being takes place:

The animal in which (it’s) characteristics are incarnate to such perfection is therefore more than an image: it is the living symbol of the Neter (function)…. As for the cult of veneration which we pay the sacred animals, it is rendered to them as to earthly expressions of a cosmic functional property…. (An aspect of animal worship) serves to educate man toward becoming conscious of the universal functions incarnated through each of those “species…”

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I am reminded here of why it was given to Adam to name the animals.  This was a process of personal inventory of the functions he observed within himself.  He was able to “name” the animals because they represented instincts that dwelt within his very nature.  Schwaller de Lubicz continues…

You will still have to acquire knowledge of the structure of the human being before you can really interpret the… object of the animal cults; for this object is the development in man of the ideas, and later the consciousness of natural functions, so as to teach him the path of their total Consciousness, of which he will finally have to become aware within himself.

The more a man is still an animal, the more useful it is to him to relate himself to the ‘functional type’ corresponding to his own nature.  As his superior Consciousness progresses, it makes him more and more independent of the inferior states and their influences, and finally he will have to acquire complete domination over them.  The human elite (those who would endure suffering in the pursuit of wisdom) discerns this progress in the transformation of animal cults, when man seeks to replace them by human images until he at last arrives at the idea of the Spirit without images or formulas.

There was one who spoke openly about worshiping without images or formulas:

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” –John 4:24

Until next time, peace…

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In Spite of Rationality

The existence of mankind, when looked upon from a Darwinian viewpoint, makes no rational sense.  Preston Harold ruminates that

Darwin considered natural selection to be the most important factor in organic evolution.  This is a natural process that tends to cause the survival of the fittest, of those forms of animals and plants best Imageadjusted to the conditions under which they live, and the extinction of poorly adapted forms…. If this be true, one is likely to assume offhand that rational interventions led man to the pinnacle of animal life.  But to the contrary, irrationality marks the course of his triumphant evolutionary trek. 

“How so?” you ask. “That isn’t a very rational statement to make because, hey, we’re rational and, well, here we are!”  Not so fast…

A rational evolutionary path led to creatures that grow clothing upon their bodies; only an irrational course could lead to nakedness and a body that cannot increase the density of hair covering according to climactic requirements.  A rational course would not lead to retention of certain embryonic features into adult life; only an irrational course would lead to such imbalance between the development of body versus brain as man displays… These and many other irrational turns mark the evolutionary course in man.

On the other hand, animal life is where we find rationality making its mark.  Harold observes:

All other animal life behaves rationally and thus animals are predictable, will serve to confirm elegant theories.  Man will not.  He bedamns his irrationality – and yet the power, the freedom, to behave irrationally for no good reason may be the secret of his dominion over the animal world.  Man’s irrationality may free him from bondage to conditioned responses; it may prevent his automatically reacting to immediate needs and obvious force, thus preventing in him the limiting biological overspecialization seen in all other species.  Aberration marks the turning points along his course.

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In our next post we will reflect on the differences in animal and man in light of the understanding of ancient Egypt.  Until then, peace…

Death: It’s all Volvox’s Fault!

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Do you know what Volvox is?  According to the Princeton University website “Volvox is a genus of chlorophytes, a type of green algae. It forms spherical colonies of up to 50,000 cells. They live in a variety of freshwater habitats, and were first reported by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in 1700. Volvox developed its colonial lifestyle 200 million years ago.”  And According to Harold, Volvox is the key to understanding death and the role it plays in life:

The chain of life moves from unsexed, potentially immortal amoeba to multicelled creatures engaging in sexual reproduction and subject to death – so, too, does the Eden legend.  In their beginning, Adam-Eve may be seen as symbol of a multicelled individual which, like Volvox, cannot be decisively placed in the plant kingdom or in the animal kingdom.  In Volvox’s beginning it is more plantlike, but Leeuwenhoek, who first described it, “did not know that after a few generations have been vegetatively reproduced by the process he observed there comes a generation that will produce eggs which must be fertilized by sperm before they can develop.”  Volvox, like Adam-Eve, brought natural death as well as sex into the world.  Apparently, death is the price life must pay to become sexed.

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One might ask why this is so.  The great American naturalist, Joseph Wood Krutch, approached this question.  With keen insight he tells us, “Off hand most of us would…say that sex is necessary to reproduction…. But as every biologist knows…it isn’t.   Its biological function is the mixing of heredities, not reproduction.  Indeed, we might say that what it actually does is not permit but prevent ‘reproduction’ – if by that you mean complete duplication.”

 Harold seizes on this quote and goes on to explore what Krutch has to say concerning Volvox:

 Krutch says, “Once you had invented the differentiation of the sexes you had started on the way to poetry as Imagewell as to rich variability…” for only mortal creatures evolved; and “if there had never been any such thing as sexuality evolution would have had so little variation to work with that today we all might still be protozoa – or at least some sort of very simple animal.”  Krutch says he assumes that the biologists are right “when they tell me that Volvox, having got as far as it did, seems to have got no farther.  Perhaps some other creature independently paralleled his inventions – which would make the whole thing at least twice as remarkable.”  One senses that he feels a kindredship between this bit of life and man.  His words, “we might all still be protozoa,” show that man thinks of his ancestral forms in human terms – and in these terms legend tells the story.

Adam is the Genesis legend “code name” for amoeba.  Adam-Eve is the  “code name” for Volvox.  This is how sacred scriptures begged to be approached; poetically and allegorically.  Looking beyond the letter for the spirit. Until next time, peace…

Eating Our Way Out of Innocence

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Preston Harold continues describing the amoeba and why its course is humanity’s course…

There is no apparent reason why amoeba should ever die.  In the course of its division a new one is not produced: there are “only fragments of the original individuals, whose life has thus been continuous back to the time when life itself was first created…” Like an amoeba, Adam self-divided, and there is no immediately apparent reason why Adam and Eve should ever die.  But when amoebic animal life comes into the picture, innocence goes – as it does in Eden – and this is connected directly with eating.  Joseph Wood Krutch explains:

…all animals must eat something which is or was alive. …No animal, therefore, can be innocent as a plant may be. …And that, perhaps, is the deepest meaning of Original Sin.

The Eden drama relates that loss of innocence is directly related with eating.

And eating leads to death, which we will explore in our next post.  Until then, peace…

The Adam-Cell

Let’s jump train!  But in order to make sure we have a safe landing, let’s be reminded that “Harold believed that the laws and findings of the sciences are simply developments in the expression of truth that has been intuitively grasped and poetically stated in the great religions.  He believed that as Jesus studied the Scriptures he saw in them the same thing that he, Harold, saw in them and also in the records of Jesus’ drama: these writings embody a symbolical representation of the underlying laws functioning throughout nature.” (Winifred Babcock)

With this firmly under our belts we let Harold begin:

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin postulates that consciousness is the force Imagethat raised up life from matter, and that consciousness is life’s goal.  The Adam-Eve drama depicts life’s seeking an enlarged consciousness… The legend presents them first in what might be called “plant life” or “garden-being” – other legends and symbols dealing with “Cosmic Man” also indicate that he, or life, must be seen first as plant…  To examine man in his original form, one must examine animal life in its first form, in the form of a one-cell creature.  Thus, in his beginning, man must be seen as a one-cell creature, and one fold of the Eden legend tells of the Adam-cell – which is to say, Adam may be seen as a symbol of the simplest form of life, amoeba, for he follows amoeba’s path.

Image It is at this point, approaching the human being beginning as amoeba, that we turn aside to briefly examine one of the 20th century’s greatest inner archeologists, Rudolf Steiner.  ImageThe founder of the Waldorf Schools and Biodynamic agriculture among other movements, all of these outer initiatives were based on Steiner’s extensive inner digging.  He called his approach to spiritual investigation Anthroposophy, and defined it as “a path of knowledge to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe.”  He also called Anthroposophy “spiritual science,” and unlike the Biblical writers who sought to put volumes of information in as short a communication as possible (The shape of the legend follows the shape of the brain) and who therefore used legends, Steiner left us with volumes of books and lecture cycles filled with his spiritual scientific research findings.  In his “Cosmic Memory” and “Mystery Knowledge and Mystery Centers” he gives us page upon page of information on how man began as a single celled creature.   Cultural historian William Irwin Thompson has studied Steiner extensively and in his masterful “Coming Into Being” not only describes Steiner’s findings for us, but also clues us in to how the Biblical authors may have come across their “Divine Revelations:”

In his book Cosmic Memory, Rudolf Steiner claims to be able to take us to the edges of history in an archeological excavation that he calls “reading” the akashic record – the etheric image in the structure of space-time that holds the record of the past… the template for registering this crystalline structure is Steiner’s own imagination, and what Steiner “sees” is a negotiable instrument that brings forth a relationship between himself and the akashic record of the collective unconscious… For example, when Steiner talks about the ancient body of man swimming in the sea, we should not picture some comic book Aquaman swimming around in a submarine Atlantis, but the evolution of the cell.  Take this description from “Cosmic Memory:”

Thereby the likeness of man is in a position to attract certain substances from the environment and to combine them with itself, secreting them again later by means of the repelling forces.  These substances, of course, can only be taken from the animal realm described above, and from the realm of man.  This constitutes a beginning of nutrition.  Thus these first likenesses of man were eaters of animals and men.”

When Steiner uses the word “man” here, one should think of the German word Mensch or, even more generally, of “creature.”  Steiner is describing the cell, the chemotaxis of the amoeba.  We were the cell.  The origin of life is the origin of us.  Steiner’s vision is one in which humans are deeply embedded in the whole of natural history, of the planet and the solar system.  And he’s right… Steiner is an amazing visionary, but if one becomes a fundamentalist follower of his, an Anthroposophist constantly intoning “Der Doktor hat gesagt,” then one destroys the spirit with the letter of literalism.

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Fundamentalists everywhere!  In that last quoted paragraph, we can simply substitute “Steiner” with “the Bible” and, well, there you have it.  Thus Harold’s warning from our previous post about poetic license.

We will continue to explore Harold’s “Adam as amoeba” idea in our next post on Chapter 4.  Until then, peace…

The Legendary Chain of Life

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We now begin Chapter 4, “The Legendary Chain of Life.”  As was previously mentioned, our author will be focusing on the legends from the book of Genesis including Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the flood, the tower of Babel.  And yes, Jesus makes a major appearance as the “second Adam.”  So remembering the final quote from Arthur Toynbee from our last post, let’s dive in…

Preston Harold issues particular ground rules and a warning before we begin our Chapter 4 endeavor, focusing on the shortcomings of our ability to marry science and legend:

In this study, the works of several people have been selected to tell something of the story of evolution because their books were written for the layman.  Today, the concept of evolution itself is virtually universally accepted, but so many individual pieces of the incomplete jigsaw puzzle are questioned that the subject is a dangerous one to write about – even the experts do not agree upon a number of particulars.  Most important, it must be pointed out that because legend is poetic, only in poetic terms can the information legend offers be posed against the disputed theories and the data scientists have to work with.  Thus, at the risk of offending the specialists, poetic license must be exercised.  The reader must be warned of this, and informed at the outset that the purpose of the following discourse is not to question the concept of evolution itself, nor to present a complete and scientifically structured theory of evolution; it is to question certain aspects of prevailing theories, and to provoke a new train of thought upon the role of legends in telling human history.

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Another big order from our author!  He hopes to provoke in us a “new train of thought.” Most of us aren’t so willing to “jump ship,” I mean “jump train,” when it comes to the one we’ve been traveling on so long and grown accustomed to, warts and all.  It’s easier staying where we are comfortable.  You may respond, “Speak for yourself!” but you would be a rare individual indeed. I’d like to meet you!

So if you’re ready to “jump train” I’ll see you in the next post.  Until then, peace…

 

Inner Archeology

Happy New Year!  For the new year I’ve decided to change the layout of the blog for a fresh viewing and reading experience.  The first post of 2014 will be the last post on Chapter 3, Man’s Archaic Heritage.  It also will serve as an introduction to Chapter 4. 

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Preston Harold ends Chapter 3 with a focus on humanity’s legends, those stories and myths that tell us in no simple terms who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.  In his work “The Evolution of Religion,” Samuel Miller says that in primordial myths “the experience of multitudes was strained, concentrated, and objectified in archaic figures and forms.”  Hold the pulp; just the juice, please!  Harold expounds on this thought:

Legends convey race memory, and because of their similarity they may be seen also as vehicles to convey man’s realizations of inner processes, both physical and psychic, for which no adequate words existed, so that these must be stated in poetic form…  The Genesis legend may be viewed as telling the story of man from the dawn of life, retelling it through each day.  It tells the story from every point of view and it is also a mound of truth enfolding the inner facts of life just as a “Tell” enfolds artifacts that reveal the lives of those who built and rebuilt upon the same spot.

In other words, the Biblical and other legends implore us to become inner archeologists, digging into the “mound of truth” within for the deep inner psychic and spiritual meanings to be discovered there. 

Next, in one of my favorite illustrations in the whole book, Harold compares the telling of the legend to the structure of the human brain…

In this study the chain of Biblical legends is examined because they embrace so many others.  Each of them must be viewed as a deeply and intricately furrowed unity enfolded into the smallest possible space: … “the surface of the hemispheres began to wrinkle at an early stage.  The human cortex covers the hemispheres in deep and narrow folds.  If the cortex were stretched smoothly over the hemispheres, a human brain would have to be the size of a beer-barrell.”  The “shape” of the legend follows the “shape” of the brain.

 

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I love it!

God IS, and yet is constantly BECOMING.  The clue to God’s, and therefore mankind’s, workings lies in the name of God.   Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.  I Will Be What I Will Be, or, I Am Becoming What I Am Becoming. And Harold reminds us that in the view of “The Shining Stranger,” the Biblical legends…

…are not to be viewed as an absolute dictum handed to certain men from “God on high,” from an authority apart.  They are mankind’s own best efforts to state and transmit memories of happenings and realizations that widen the boundaries of human consciousness… Evolution speaks of “change” or “becoming” — the problem is, how to convey the passage from one state into another?  Legends enfold the story.

In other words, “mankind’s own best efforts” are undertaken by those inner archeologists, those who have gone deep within to find the beginnings of the heavens and the earth in their very own selves.  The legends are how these archeologists pass on the information.

Now, as we prepare to move on to Chapter 4, Preston Harold wants us to keep the words of Arthur Toynbee in mind:

“If the Universe is a mystery, and if the key to this mystery is hidden, are not myths an indispensable means for expressing as much as we can express of the ineffable?… myths are the instruments through which these farthest flights of the Human Spirit are achieved… A primordial element is perhaps to be found in every myth that makes its mark.  Yet the stuff of which myths are fashioned is mostly local and ephemeral.”

Until next time, peace.