Author, adult educator and complementary health practitioner Lisa Romero comments on the material reflections of the spiritual world that proliferate our fast-paced lives and how to navigate and meet them with moral understanding and spiritual perspective.
Recently, my colleagues and I who work together in various communities under the ‹Developing the Self, Developing the World› organisation held a conference titled ‹Spirit-led Education for a Spirit-led Life.› During this conference, I asked this question: What inner capacity, if I had it, would protect me from screen technologies having any negative effects that I do not want them to have? In my yearlong course that is facilitated by Educaredo, many participants reported that screen time is negatively affecting their overall well-being or is interfering with what they intend to do; therefore today we need to ask the question: What would I need to have in place so that this would not affect me in ways that I do not want it to? We ask this not just for ourselves but for the children because there is now much evidence around the new technologies that we are creating that are confronting us.
Massive changes in the ‹human-created› world
There appears to be a major shift in our co-creative capacity as human beings, because clearly when we look around the world that exists, we are aware that it is not just a spirit-created world; much that fills our day is created through our own work, our own connection with the world. This interrelationship with the ‹human-created› world which is taking up our time, energy, and attention is in a momentous transition and has been for the last 15 years, where we have seen and are seeing leaps and bounds of change.
With certain things of the world, we see that they come and go. They are like fads and do not have any traction because they don’t have a spiritual counterpart. They are in a sense co-created with far more human invention and human desire than they are with a co-creative spiritual counterforce. The things that have a spiritual counterpart do have traction. But just because they have a spiritual counterpart does not mean that we are bringing them in a way that is always healthy or even in the ways they are intended to come into being. As an example of that, we are given the idea from Rudolf Steiner that in this age we are working to develop imaginative consciousness or conscious picturing consciousness.
Imaginative consciousness is a way of perceiving the spiritual realities behind the appearance of things. As we develop this capacity, it will naturally bring us into a greater relationship to the spiritual world. We will not only be perceiving the purely outer sensory form of something but more of its living spiritual reality—what lives behind the things we see. This awakens something within our interior world, this picturing, this imaging so that we can have a dynamic relationship not to just a faint sensing of something being there, but an inner, colourful dynamic of recognising that there is a spiritual process in the world.
This picturing consciousness will have traction because it is something that the human being grows into. If that future becomes materialised through the materialistic lens and not as a capacity inwardly, we can imagine what will want to be created out of that. It is already being created. We see it in the adventures of virtual realities.
The virtual world
There is undoubtedly going to be a lot of effort towards the so-called ‹virtual› world. In the virtual world, the very thing that is a spiritual capacity goes through a diverted process and becomes a materialistic experience that could indeed separate us further from the spiritual world. However, it will have traction, because there is a spiritual reality behind it. But if these things arise too early they will be diverting our own capacities. We have two options in front of us. One is to develop the spiritual capacity, because the spiritual capacity will already have a ground before it is diverted, and the other is to hold it off, out of this realm, until that capacity can be developed.
Moral imagination, conscience, and children
Steiner also talks about moral imagination. Moral imagination could be explained in many ways, but I bring it here in relationship to conscience and our developing imaginative consciousness. Each one of us, when we have done something that we know is not quite right, has pangs of conscience. Some call it the voice of God within, some call it a deeper knowing of my right direction, my north, my guide, and we know this is an important part of our being. However, conscience does not stand in the child’s world or in their hands until they are around 12 years old. The child builds towards it in their unfolding virtues, as their virtues are the guiding principle that echoes what the conscience speaks towards. When conscience does not merely appear as pangs but grows as a spiritual capacity out of our own inner development, it appears as imaginative pictures where I see the consequences of my actions; I see the spiritual future consequence of the action I have done and that already lives in us all as a seed. It lives in us all in the seed of conscience that for most people unfolds in childhood, and it will grow as a new capacity in the future. How do we know this? Because it is something that already occurs for those on the initiation path, and it is produced through the development that is awoken.
When we think about that, we can get a sense of what is coming through the pictures given by Rudolf Steiner and the experiences that we have as we develop ourselves inwardly, spiritually. We know that there are certain spiritual activities that are coming into being as a part of our evolution and that if they are made manifest, early or materialistically if they are diverted from what they are meant to be in our development, they will have a completely different influence on life. Anthroposophy working through our lives allows us to play our part in building a future ‹willed by the gods›, a future that allows a connection to the spiritual world to be part of a co-creating.
Good or bad?
Imagine your life determined by someone else’s decisions about what is good or bad behaviour. We have been doing this for a long time. The financial credit system and credit scores already determine whether you can have a mortgage or buy a piece of furniture. Now, these systems are building at a rapid rate, and with all the data collection being commodified we will see various new passport-like ways of determining choices. Behind this outer iteration of worthiness is the true spiritual counterpart — the important foundation of bringing out the virtues of every child, allowing them to shine and develop within the community, and the need to guard the child’s growing conscience.
Conscience is the foundation of morality that is linked to our growing capacity for freedom. We are not allowed to live this out when we are made to do something in order to participate in a society structured by governments and corporations that are not based on morality. It is a dynamic time in the world because our co-creative power has just increased exponentially; and yet, our morality appears not to have increased to meet the responsibility.
When we look at what Steiner gave as pictures of the future, and particularly when we consider them as spiritual capacities that are ours to develop, we can also see its potential counterforce in its materialistic, deadened, and de-spiritualised presentation — for example, we can find in the social credit system the most deadened picture of the living lawfulness of karma. It is in our hands to awaken to that more deeply through the path of conscience and moral imagination. Yet, with the speed of which this other system is taking place, we may not get there. We certainly did not get there with moral technology before it arose.
Social understanding and social credit
It is time to work with the spiritual soul, the consciousness soul, the part of the soul that can build a relationship to the spiritual world out of itself, out of that living knowledge. It is not necessarily because we already have direct spiritual experience, but that we can contemplate the world through the light of the spirit. We can work towards social understanding, and even understand why hundreds of thousands, millions of people are going to say yes to some form of a social credit system. And not only that, the social credit system will be organised outside of ourselves and we will even take it upon ourselves to score each other. Think about what it means to determine whether somebody is good or bad based on someone else’s ideas, and then to influence their life because of someone else’s ideas. With social understanding, we also begin to recognise why that might feel truthful for some people because it has a spiritual reality based in the law of karma. We have become so materialistic and so bound to this sensory world, to rules and regulations that have nothing to do with spiritual lawfulness, that we can allow it to fall and become the deadened form. But it has not entirely fallen yet.
The spiritual counterpart to quickly expanding ideas
So many things that are spread around the world have a spiritual counterpart. Because they have a spiritual counterpart, they have traction in the soul of people and expand quickly in the wider world. But when they are brought in too early or brought to divert or brought in materialistically — brought in without us being able to benefit from them as a society — then the possibility is that they take something away. We can see individuals working to hold back things from progressing too quickly and those who are trying to go forward and bring in the new in the conservatives and the progressives of our political parties. Though this is never clear-cut, because all parties do both. Those impulses will consistently have traction in our society, because they have a spiritual picture behind them. We need to identify what is materialism and the error in them, where they are used for selfish gain and find where they can shine again as a beacon towards the spiritual world. For example, there is so much positive change occurring around gender equality and many have a deep knowing that freedom is essential for individual choice, which shouldn’t be based on socially constructed conditions. But there are also explorations in this field that are unlikely to have world impact. This is not to diminish anyone’s experience, but the idea that there are 140 genders will not gain traction in the wider world. So what then is happening in the realm of gender that will have traction and will be integrated into the future? What is the spiritual counterpart that is true, and what is the part that is going through the grappling human psyche and being worked out in that process?
Bringing spirit back
If we look out into this world and only experience it as material and nothing else, it is dead; the only way it comes back to life is through those that can bring the spirit back to it. We have to consider how we bring the spirit back to screen time. How do we use it morally? How do we enliven it in a way so that it does not kill off capacities or, as it is primarily doing, devour time, energy, and attention?
«Nothing but the will to lead life in a spiritual way to allow spiritual decisions and spiritual motivations to play a part in what we do in the physical world can make humanity truly healthy again.»Rudolf Steiner, How to Listen to the Spirit, lecture, Heidenheim, 6/12/19, in: The Meaning of Life and Other Fundamental Issues (CW, 193, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999)
What is behind an education where you educate out of the wholeness and out of the relatedness? What is behind biodynamic agriculture that brings the cosmos and the beings of the land together in harmony? What is behind anthroposophical medicine that sees the person as a whole and not as parts? It is not simply because it is an alternative. It is because it maintains and sustains and builds towards the future where the spirit still finds a home in us, where we look under the night sky, and we look at this extraordinary world, this extraordinary existence, and feel the resonance with spiritual beings, and we know because of this journey, it has changed us. We will be changing it with everything that we can give to it as we co-create the future.