Saturday, December 14, 2019

Final Participation vs the Social Order

According to a materialistic understanding of the evolution of consciousness, development towards what Owen Barfield calls "final participation" is imagined as being brought about by outer arrangements such as culture, religious and spiritual practices, government policy, education, scientific research, etc. Those who see the evolution of consciousness in this way feel it is of utmost importance to maintain these outer structures. For without these structures it is felt that consciousness will not develop at all.

The overriding assumption behind this view is that it is down to these external activities and institutions to bring about the desired development of consciousness.

This is not to deny that these outer structures are important. They are. Just as we need a physical body in order to be an individual in this world, so too we need civil society with its many structures and institutions in order to provide the "body" for the development of individual freedom and responsibility.

However, placing the primary driving force for the evolution of consciousness on such outer arrangements necessarily leads to a fatal contradiction where final participation is concerned. 

This is because, according to the definition of the term itself, final participation cannot be the result of outer influences, it must be freely and authentically taken up by the individual him/herself. If an individual's participation in society is that of obedience, or coercion, then it isn't free, and in the strictest sense, cannot really be called "participation" at all.

This has consequences for society. Society always wants to make the individual fit into a predefined box. The Church makes moral commands that individuals are supposed to obediently follow. In secular societies the State is the authority, setting moral and ethical standards through its proliferation of bureaucratic legislation into every corner of human conduct. In both cases, the assumption is that individuals must be directed and coerced by outer rules and codes in order to act ethically and responsibly; that is, without these outer authorities, it is assumed that society would collapse and human beings would degenerate into savages.
From the other side, science sets out to define the nature of the individual in terms of biological and psychological theories. This leads to a "Scientism" where science is made the only criterion by which we can know who and what we are - and therefor how to act. 

Both scientism and bureaucratic authoritarianism make a similar and fatal error.

Science, when it professes to define once and for all what human beings are, forgets that it has as its picture of human nature, only the end result of a long process - which, with its source in the spirit, has not yet reached its full expression yet. Science, by ignoring this spiritual aspect of the human being, makes the added error of regarding only the biological and material processes as holding the key to the ultimate understanding of human nature.This leads to an authoritarianism in the form of "scientism", where the truth about the human individual is decided without the individual's own participation.

Similarly, bureaucratic authoritarianism, when it undermines individual responsibility and initiative, forgets that it first has to obtain its moral and ethical commands from human individuals. It assumes that the end product - moral and ethical commands - are a given, a first cause, not realising that the origin of these commands is the human spirit. Therefore, a society that represses individual freedom will lose its ability to provide moral and ethical responses to situations, and by implication, will end up becoming more and more immoral and unethical.

Both Scientism and  bureaucratic authoritarianism stand in conflict to the life-blood of moral and ethical progress when they forget that they are not the source but only the end result of ethical and moral striving....

...the source of all ethical and moral striving being the individual itself.

To Conclude...

The shift to final participation was always going to be messy and chaotic, akin to the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This shift places an enormous responsibility, both upon the individual to take up the challenge of self realisation and transformation - and upon society to recognise what is working its way to the surface.

This means that attention should indeed be payed towards outer social structures such as culture and education - but not for the reasons that the materialist pays attention to them.

For as was pointed out in a previous post, the spirit is its own cause, and final participation will realise itself. What is in question however, is how painful the process will be - and that depends on the degree to which society at large is aware of the shift in consciousness that is taking place.

This post was revised on 30 December 2019
This post takes its lead from Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom - as well as drawing on Owen Barfield's insights into the Evolution of Consciousness.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Evolution of Consciousness and Unresolved Materialism

There is a saying that runs; "the best trick the devil ever played on us was to convince us he doesn't exist"

Materialism is the world-view that assumes behind every occurrence there are material causes. Many argue against materialism in the hope to form a more spiritual understanding of reality. 

Yet all too often materialism is there in the background of our minds, in an unconscious form and as strong as ever - and when it really comes down to it, this materialism informs our thinking without us really being aware of it. Owen Barfield termed this phenomenon "unresolved positivism", or U.P for short. 

An area where unresolved positivism, or unresolved materialism, is rife is in the study of the evolution of consciousness itself.

Outer material things such as new forms of religious ceremonies, the development of writing, the printing press, the scientific revolution, the dawn of the modern secular state - these are all too easily interpreted as being the driving forces, facilitating and guiding the evolution of consciousness.

Then there is the rather obviously reductive theory of the evolution of consciousness in purely neurological terms. The theory of the divided brain is a shining example of unresolved positivism in the work of both Iain McGilchrist and Julian Jaynes - where the evolution of consciousness is seen as a shift in balance from the dominance of the right brain to the dominance of the left brain. (Barfield's critique of Jaynes' book can be read here)

In all of this, the habit of reducing everything to processes that can be positively verified by outer events assumes that without these outer events acting like auxiliary nudges, consciousness would have remained unchanged indefinitely. 

From this perspective, evolution is something that happens to consciousness; it isn't something that develops from within consciousness itself. 

But if outer arrangements did not shape the evolution of consciousness, then what did?

The challenge here is to begin to recognise that the spirit is its own cause, and that the world of appearance - which includes the evolution of consciousness - is an expression of spiritual causes, and not outer material causes.

This is to say that the evolution of consciousness towards self-consciousness is brought forth by powers that are inherent to the Self and not alien to it...

In fact precisely by recognising the active spirit in oneself leads to the recognition of the active spirit in nature, and visa versa. This is the spirit which is its own cause, and not the product of something external to it.

In the next post I will explore what this means for the relationship between the individual and society.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Materialism has Won, Ahriman is Victorious

Materialism has won. All of ethics and morality can now be reduced to a quantifiable number.

The final judgement is no longer God or a set of ideal moral principals that must be interpreted by each individual.

Whether you are a good person or a bad person, whether your contribution to the world is of value or not - all this is ultimately judged in terms of a single, quantifiable number.

Any institution or culture, no matter what its inherent goodness is, will from now on be judged in terms of this number. If this number is high, you, the institution or culture are deemed "bad". If this number is low, you, the institution or culture are deemed "good".

This number is the parts-per-million of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere as a result of you, your institution, or your culture. There is no longer any gauge of morality that is higher than this.This number is the final judgement.

And so the ultimate and final goal of materialism has been achieved. Morality is reduced to something that can be accurately and definitively quantified. Materialism has won. Ahriman is victorious.


Unless we remember that the value of life is to be found elsewhere, in the spirit, and not in matter.

The Archetype of all Ideas

  Our capacity to think about nature objectively is at the same time natures capacity to express itself as IDEA. Our capacity to then think...