Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 10

Last time we looked at the relationship between the home and cultural life. Today we will see how the homemaker can set out on a path of self-development.

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In fostering the home as a locus for cultural renewal, the homemaker must work to strengthen his or her inner life in order to work toward the ideals of this renewal. It may seem like we have no time for such an undertaking, but even in very short bits of time we can do significant work.

The path described here has two parts: meditation and exercises.

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For the meditative work we can find a sentence that holds meaning for us that we can ponder. Rudolf Steiner gave us many such sentences, or one could find rich sources in the Bible or other spiritual books. Focusing on a meditative sentence each day for even a short time will strengthen one’s heart forces. To balance these forces, we also must develop our will forces.

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Rudolf Steiner described what are often called the “six supplemental exercises,” about which I have written in more detail in relation to parenting here. In brief, the exercises are:

concentration, in which we focus our attention on a common, otherwise uninteresting object for five minutes each day,

initiative, in which we do an otherwise unnecessary action each day at a predetermined time,

equanimity, in which we hold back the expression of our feelings (though not suppressing the feelings themselves) for a short time at an appropriate moment,

positivity, in which we try to find something positive in every situation or thing,

open-heartedness, in which we attempt to look at every new thing without prejudice,

and persistence, in which we create harmony by willfully repeating the previous five exercises.

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Next time: The Sacrament of the Home

Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996.

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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 9

After discussing how rhythm can be a tremendous source of strength for the homemaker, we will now look at the interaction between the home and cultural life.

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Where do we find a basis for human relationships in our current culture? This clearly is the household.

Culture used to be carried by one’s city or country — being a Parisian or from Mexico clearly described one’s culture. Now societies are much more pluralistic, and large communities no longer represent a single cultural impulse. This is a new development in humanity, distinctive to the modern era — with the previous exception of the Jews in diaspora. Since the Jewish culture was no longer identified with a geographical area, the household necessarily took up the continuance and preservation of Jewish culture.

This experience of the Jews mirrors what is now true for all people: culture is no longer “ordered from above” by the state. Only individuals and small groups of people can now create and maintain culture.

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Culture can be defined as human activity in the areas of art, science, and religious-social life. (Rudolf Steiner tied closely together the concepts of religion and social life.) The elements of art and science are easily seen in families with children, where books, art activities, and explorations of matter and the laws of nature are part and parcel of the life of the child. Most homes, with or without children, have some element of culture even if only a few pictures hung on the walls or the radio playing each afternoon.

The religious-social element comes into play quite naturally with children as well, though in a truthful way only if the parents participate freely as well. Children always perceive when something is being forced on them or parents are hypocritical! And then imposing on a household an artificial sort of religious experience, one without a true foundation of self-understanding, is truly anti-social.

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We can see that truth is a critical factor in the cultural life of the home. External imposition of cultural mores does not satisfy the modern need for inner freedom and individual consciousness. So, “the important thing is that the homemaker look at the facts freely without prejudice” and decide what is best for their household. Civilization will thrive if individuals can take what is provided by society freely and from it create a life of culture.

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Culture has always had two sides. For example in religion, the external force of cultural duties was fulfilled in such things as sacred buildings, artwork, and music. Since the end of the Middle Ages, an opposite internal force arose, that of an egoistic satisfaction through entertainment. The homemaker must find a middle path between these impulses.

What is the middle way here? Friedrich Schiller gave some indication in his work On the Aesthetic Education of Man. On the one hand we have the cosmic world of ideals; on the other, the world of matter. (In anthroposophy, these would correspond to Lucifer and Ahriman, respectively.) Balance comes when human beings can “play” freely — play in terms of the free play of forces, not compelled or frozen by an imbalanced focus on either abstraction or materialism.

The homemaker will bring health and life into the home if he or she can imbue the cultural life of the home with neither compulsion or egoistic pleasure, but rather freedom.

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Next time: The Path of Development of the Homemaker

Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996.

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Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 6

And now, the astral realm!

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The astral realm relates to the soul life, that of emotions and basic consciousness. In a household, often the “aura” of the space reflects the activities and soul processes of the residents. Don’t some homes radiate welcome and joy, while others are clearly sheltering unhappy people?

Artistic activities are an obvious example of an astral influence, but more important is the sense of humor displayed in the home. Now, by “humor” we mean something fairly specific:

Only someone who can laugh about himself has humour. Laughing at others only is not true humour, but to have humour means to lift oneself above the dichotomies of the world.

When I read this last sentence, I was struck by the word dichotomies. In anthroposophy, the primary dichotomy is that of what we call the “adversarial forces.”

Steiner spoke of Ahriman and Lucifer: the being who wants us to rebuke the spirit and focus solely on the physical world, and the opposite being who wants us to renounce the material and focus solely on the spirit. Steiner places Jesus as the representative of the human being in balance between these forces.

Perhaps we can link these esoteric ideas to humor in this way: if we always laugh at others, we are probably avoiding some sort of realistic picture of our own selves. Perhaps these adversaries are nudging us into superiority or lack of compassion through excessive self-regard, whereas true, healthy humor brings cheerfulness.

Just as there are beings who live in the etheric processes of the household, so other beings work within the astral realm of the home. In ancient Rome, the astral beings of the home were known as penates. These beings are to the home and the family as a whole what guardian angels are to individual human beings, for anything that is formed intentionally as an organism has an angelic helper.

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Next time: the spiritual realm of the home.

Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996.

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Saturday Steiner

So, I spent the morning doing wet-on-wet painting with a roomful of other Waldorf mamas at Melisa‘s house. It was so great to meet people on this path, learning as we go. We nibbled yummy snacks, did some beautiful paintings (Sorry, I left my camera at home and left the wet paintings there! Photos next time, or check the link above.), and talked about Waldorfy stuff.

This inspired me to make good on my idea to post about one or another of the Steiner books I recently unpacked. I couldn’t find the one I really wanted, but I did find Study of Man, a series of lectures also known as the “General Education Course” that is a fundamental book for Waldorf teacher trainees.

Oh man — how can I do this? In the first five pages of the first lecture, Steiner mentions the epochs of human development, reincarnation, egoism in modern religion, and the various bodies of the human being in the transition from the spiritual world to incarnation!

Uh, yeah, let me just summarize that for ya.

Nope . . . can’t. So I’ll just revert to something we used to do during Foundation Year: find the gems. The sentences or paragraphs that just speak loud and clear, that take you by the scruff, that glimmer and sparkle with new meaning.

[A]lthough from his birth onwards we may only look upon the child with physical eyes, we will all the time be conscious of the fact–“this too is a continuation.” And we will not only look to what human existence experiences after death, i.e., to the spiritual continuation of the physical; but we will be conscious that physical existence here is a continuation of the spiritual, and that we, through education, have to carry on what has hitherto been done by higher beings without our participation.

[In reference to “pre-natal education”] If until birth the mother behaves in such a way that she brings to expression in herself what is morally and intellectually right, in the true sense of the word, then of its own accord what the mother achieves in this continuous self-education will pass over to the child. The less we think of beginning to educate the child before it sees the light of the world and the more we think of leading a right and proper life ourselves, the better will it be for the child.

So: Steiner taught that we reincarnate. We live multiple lives on earth, with (typically) long periods of time in the spiritual world in between. During the time before birth, we are in the company of higher spiritual beings (angels, archangels, etc.) as well as other human spirits, and there we learn and grow and plan for the next life.

He talked in this beginning to Study of Man about how materialism and the egoism that goes along with it have even penetrated religion in modern life. This egoism causes us to focus our attention regarding immortality only on life after death, but the life before birth deserves just as much of our attention. And if we combat this materialism and egoism, we cannot help but relate to and teach children in a new way.

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Preconceived Notions

Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter...

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In The Philosophy of Freedom, Rudolf Steiner talked about how your own thoughts can be the object of your thinking. In other words, you consciously observe your own thoughts. Buddhist practitioners will recognize this, of course.

The other morning as I was putting away some groceries, I was thinking about something or other, and then I started thinking about Mormons. I noticed this thought all of a sudden:

Mormonism is weird!

Now, we live in a community with lots of Mormons, being only a few hours’ drive from Salt Lake City. And I recently reread The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, which is set in early twentieth-century Utah. Plus, in our hotel room in Salt Lake City last month, I found the Book of Mormon in the dresser drawer right next to the Gideon Bible, and started to read it (and took it home). So it’s sort of been on my mind in general lately, as a distinctive feature of our new home.

Anyway, I suddenly became aware that this idea of the weirdness of Mormonism had crossed my mind, and I realized that this thought was quite comfortable in there. It had been there before, found its favorite comfy chair, and was a familiar denizen of my thought life.

This struck me as quite ludicrous, the minute my consciousness perceived it. What’s so weird about Mormonism?

Joseph Smith was visited repeatedly over several years by the angel Moroni. Mary was visited by Gabriel, as was Mohammad. Many ordinary people have reported seeing angels, as well.

Mormons keep lots of food in storage. Well, lots of people do that, either because they live remotely, live where the weather is bad, or just want to be prepared.

Mormons don’t drink alcohol or coffee, and don’t smoke. Sounds like lots of people I know.

Mormons believe that the New Jerusalem will be founded in America. Well, that is a little unusual.

Mormons wear sacred temple garments. Muslim women wear veils; Orthodox Jewish men wear tallit.

Well.

I could go on, but I don’t mean to write a Mormon apologia. I thought it was interesting that this thought had sprung up so suddenly, and so fully formed, without much basis in fact. Maybe it’s because many practices and ceremonies are considered too sacred to describe to non-Mormons, so there is an element of mystery. Maybe it’s because it is a church with a fairly complex history and doctrine despite being a relatively small population.

I suppose if I studied up on Seventh-Day Adventists, or Christian Scientists, or Jainists or Sikhs for that matter, I’d find lots to marvel at as well.

Maybe that’s my point. All religions or belief systems are weird in some ways. Jews and Muslims won’t eat pork. Catholics believe Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. Hindu gods can have four arms, or an elephant’s head. And anthroposophy has its elemental beings and astral bodies and reincarnation, after all.

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