• Awakening Soul

Thinking, Memory, and Time (Part III)

“Living and dead are the same and so are waking and sleeping, youth and age. For the one in changing becomes the other, and the other, changing, again becomes the one.”

- Heraclitus, Fragment 78

Thinking, Memory, and Time - these three are the secrets of our eternal story. Time, Memory, and Thinking - the story works both ways as the palindrome of any true knowledge. The beginning, the middle, and the end; life, death, and afterlife; childhood, adolescence, and adulthood; sleeping, dreaming, and awaking; daytime, twilight, and dusk. These threefold experiences are eternally unified with each other yet also remain in constant flux. We are not speaking of mere metaphors here, rather we are speaking of every literal moment of our existence. That was what Heidegger explored in his lectures on "What is Called Thinking?" (see Part I and Part II of T-M-T).

Much ground will now be traversed in few strides. What follows is not going to be a linear path of premises, arguments and evidence to philosophical-spiritual conclusions. The reader may experience it as a "strange" progression for a philosophical argument and that is how it is intended. We should feel it pushing, pressing, and pulling on us at the same time in this strange manner. I have reviewed and edited the text many times before publishing it, but I was also careful not to remove any parts with this tension simply because it felt odd to my restrictive linear thought. I hope most readers will also attempt to dwell within this strangeness rather than abandoning it.

On the previous leg of our journey through Heidegger's lectures on Thinking, we explored the linguistic metamorphoses of ancient Greek words - specifically the λεγειυ (the "telling", more precisely "laying out") and the λογος ("[receptive-and-active] perception"). With those translations, Parmenides spoke to us: "Useful is: the laying, letting-lie and perceiving, too: that being is." This translation provided access to a deeper layer of meaning; one which presents a more open vista from which to view the beginning of Western Thinking; the beginning which also conceals its Origin (Heidegger asked us to take special note of this distinction between the "beginning" and the "Origin").

Now we 'zoom-out' through an ever-expanding sphere of integral relations to the fullest possible extent our abstract intellect allows. Yet, in doing so, and although we may not sense it at first, we are truly venturing beyond mere intellect into the imaginative and intuitive Thinking of our 'right brain'. At the same time, our 'left brain' abstractions of those ideal relations can remain intact as long as they remain in service to the integral perspective. In Part II of T-M-T, we observed from Heidegger's analysis that Memory (the Goddess Mnemosyne), in her essence, reveals a meaning of "devotional prayer", the "all-comprehensive concentration upon the holy and the gracious".

The numinous intensity of this devotional prayer is now only a dull specter of what it once was for our spiritual ancestors. So, it is at this time we will feel the most powerful urge to simply give up. We will find many reasons to think that what is spoken of by Heidegger is merely intellectual word play with little connection to practical experience. Although it has an undeniable poetic quality, we say to ourselves "this quality must only exist in our individual personality who imposes it on the world". That is what we repeat to ourselves over and over, hoping we will make it true because it relieves us of responsibility for any further contemplation. When we encounter the exact same undeniable quality in another book, poem, painting or musical piece, we will start the process of forgetting what it means to us and for us all over again.

"When I was a little child, and dwelling in my kingdom, in my father's house, and was content with the wealth and the luxuries of my nourishers, from the East, our home, my parents equipped me (and) sent me forth; ... And they made a compact with me, and wrote it in my heart, that it might not be forgotten: "If thou goest down into Egypt, and bringest the one pearl, which is in the midst of the sea around the loud-breathing serpent, ... I went down into Egypt, and my companions parted from me. I went straight to the serpent, I dwelt in his abode, (waiting) till he should lumber and sleep, and I could take my pearl from him. ... But in some way other or another they found out that I was not their countryman, and they dealt with me treacherously, and gave their food to eat. I forget that I was a son of kings, and I served their king; and I forgot the pearl, for which my parents had sent me, and because of the burden of their oppressions I lay in a deep sleep." - Gospel of Thomas, Hymn of the Pearl

Devotional prayer, then, is intense and concentrated thought in service of re-cognizing and re-membrance; it is a means of weaving back together all those fragmented experiences which reside within our eternal Memory but typically remain obscured from view. This prayer is 'ready-at-hand' for us to employ in our quest; to call forth an alignment of our Soul's willing and feeling activities with our Spirit's thinking activity. The latter then illuminates those realities which eternally lie before us yet also withdraw from us into the dark corners of our psyche. As long as we remain in the realm of mere intellectual concepts, we are doing very little to confront this problematic of Thinking. Only when our thought dwells within the Mneomsyne of the entire world's soul-content, the λογος, can we begin to see the hymn above as the essential story of our own existence.

Approaching the tail end of his lectures, Heidegger refers our attention to the ancient Greek philosophers, even "including Aristotle", to consider their insistence "on taking the road into what is problematical". With these earliest of systematic thinkers, "evolving thinking is not yet confined within limits that limit it by setting bounds to the evolving of its essential nature". Aristotle presents his problematical questioning to us with his long-forgotten statement, "and so it remains something to be looked for, from of old and now and forever, and thus something that offers no way out: what is being...?" He speaks of Being as That which first and unceasingly provokes us to Think within its unfolding essence.

Before proceeding further, we should remain clear - Heidegger does not exclude the "imagination", "inspiration", or "intuition" from Thinking. Spiritual contemplative personalities often partition abstract intellect from all these other modes of contemplation and consider only the former "thinking". That is a fundamental mistake and one that Heidegger, even with his mature exploration of Eastern mysticism, did not make. He recognized that all of these contemplative activities belong to and only belong to the domain of Thinking. We belong to that place where we must find our essential role. My heart belongs to my circulatory system and my lungs belong to my respiratory system, while both are essential to and therefore inseparable from my 'physical' existence.

My heart cannot claim for itself my in-breathing and out-breathing and my lungs cannot claim for themselves the circulation of my blood. So it is that my willing, feeling, and thinking activities belong to distinct and asymmetrical domains of my spiritual existence. The same applies for the Willing, Feeling, and Thinking of humanity writ large, because my personal activities are microcosms of the macrocosm. The soul-activities of Willing and Feeling fulfill their essential roles in the differentiated perspectives of human beings. They are what imbue us with unique personalities as our lives unfold in the integral flow of Time. Without these living beings constantly impelling our conscious experience into new thought-states, we would never experience any flow of Time.

We will pause to reflect on this statement about "living beings", because it is so critical to what we are discussing and it will naturally feel very strange to the mere intellect. That is especially true if we fantasize them as existing in a direct 1:1 correspondence with individual humans in separate 'physical' bodies. Our thought must take recourse to its imaginative and intuitive modes for this strangeness to begin feeling more natural. The intellect can only offer a few crude observations - everything we describe as 'natural processes' on Earth can be traced to the activity of living agency. Furthermore, all that we know of those processes comes from the activity of spiritual beings. That is easy enough to perceive in the context of humans who communicate ideas to each other.

Even the mere intellect, as long as it views the underlying principle of a natural process rather than any specific manifestation of it, will recognize that some living organism, usually a whole constellation of varied living organisms, is essential to its unfolding. That is philosophical realism in the sense of the medieval Scholastics - the archetypal principles which underlie all particular manifestations are the noumenal Reality, and those archetypes are, in Reality, living beings. That is the view Carl Jung took along with Heidegger and Steiner. In this context, it should become more clear how Thinking and only Thinking weaves our experience into that of the noumenal relations.

Human spirits, for example, present to us as a book - we read their gestures, expressions, eye movements, speech, etc. and are thereby drawn closer into their inner experience. If we were to ignore that reality of shared experience, then we would perceive human spirits as lifeless corpses moving around mechanically. In fact, there is a real danger of that occurring in the modern world with modern technology. We may soon be unable to tell any difference between interacting with a human spirit or an AI algorithm pretending to be such a spirit. Yet that same technology, when treated as nothing more than a symbol of an underlying spiritual reality, also reminds us that 'invisible' spiritual forces form all of our social interactions in a highly specified manner.

In what way besides Thinking could we approach such an invisible yet highly specified Reality? Thinking fulfills its essential role, then, through the integration of varied human souls - "I have not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them." It takes what presents to us as differentiated appearances of willing and feeling and weaves back together the ideal constellations which make sense of those appearances as a living whole. We often refer to this process when speaking of the "spirit" of a text, especially in common law traditions. The highly differentiated rules of court decisions and statutes can only be effective when they are born of the principle (spirit) underlying them. Old rules must continuously be reborn in that spirit to remain relevant and useful.

Such realities can be spoken of so casually in conversation that we look entirely past their essential meaning, so let us dwell on it some more. Our thinking, through its rebirth, takes the most varied notes and tones of the human soul provided by willing-feeling and synthesizes them into a harmony which sounds exceptionally pleasant to the eternal Spirit. We cannot understand these distinct essential roles of W-F-T in complete isolation from one other, because all experience always consists of all three qualities in Tri-Unity. And it is only that living Trinity which provides food for our thought; which provokes the most thought within us; which eternally calls upon us to Think.

Wise Master wrote: Principles, laws and facts: the structure of the universe is summarized in these three words. Facts exist in incalculable number, and they are governed by a lesser number of laws. These laws are themselves governed by a few principles, which are really but one: God himself. The world of facts is the world of multiplicity, of dispersion, while the divine world is the world of unity. Here you have a key of great simplicity which can give you the solution to all problems. If people complain of feeling as if they live in darkness and chaos, it is quite simply because they have no knowledge of these three worlds, of their structure or how they function. As long as they remain focused on the physical world, on facts and events, they will never manage to see clearly and master their situation. In order to have a clear vision of things, and even to act correctly, they must rise by way of thought to the region of principles where the spirit and light of God reign.

We can now see clearly why Heidegger claimed, "without the λεγειυ and its λογος, Christianity would not have the doctrine of the Trinity, nor the theological interpretation of the concept of the second Person of the Trinity." Humans only began reflecting this essential fact of their existence to themselves through language, which reached a sort of harmonized peak within the "beginning of [Western] thinking" of the pre-Socratics. This beginning of Thinking then serves to "conceal its Origin". It conceals the Origin by adding an abstract layer of concepts which must be penetrated by the Spirit to be transfigured so that it unleashes the power of their true living essence.

If we continue to dwell within this problematic, then it will dawn on us why the λογος has always presented itself to ancient thought as the Sun-Being. Only through that Being's living activity is the whole phenomenal world we observe illuminated. This occurrence happened only once in human history through the Passion of Christ incarnate, yet it is not a one-time event any more than the day arising from the twilight and the dusk is a one-time event. The echoes of the Cross continue to reverberate in every human soul and can find their fulfillment in every human's Thinking. They now find their fulfillment in every moment of our existence while also seeking their fulfillment in our collective human destiny.

Heidegger's fundamental mission in his lectures, then, was to help us remember "that our modern way of representational ideas, as long as it stubbornly holds to its way, blocks its own access to the beginning and thus to the fundamental character of Western thinking." He reminds us of Parmenides' advice, "Useful is: the letting-lie-before-us so (the) taking-to-heart, too... that being is". The Greek word translated as "that being is" is ειναι, which is more appropriately translated "being: to be." Then we have, "Useful is: the letting-lie-before-us so (the) taking-to-heart, too: being: to be." That is, the most useful activity we can possibly contemplate and engage, through our Thinking, in is the bridging of past and future into the present - the bridging of Love (Willing-Feeling) and Memory (Thinking) through every moment in Time.

Heidegger has brought us very far in this journey through Thinking, but we cannot rely on him to take us any further. He intends that we strike out on our own into direct receptive-and-active perception of the spiritual realm which nearly all Western philosophy, and certainly that of the last 500 years, has only so far spoken of in abstract intellectual concepts. As a path forward, we refocus our gaze with the help of art. Even mediocre art will impel our Will to move forward some, tempt our soul to Feel forward some, and call upon our Thoughts to perceive the experience as a whole. Great art will do the same to an even higher degree. And brilliant art will find so deep a harmony within us that our souls and spirits cannot help but immediately rejoice in ecstasy.

In this dynamic spiritual symphony, we see the two keys which truly unlock the doors of Time for us. As the Soul impels the individual into the future, the Spirit gathers all thoughts within Memory of the past. The Soul belongs to Love and the Spirit belongs to Memory. It is through Love and Memory that our past and our future converge into the present, and this convergence occurs every single moment. Now let us remember Heraclitus' saying quoted at the beginning and hear it again, but this time by way of the Spirit's illumination: “Living and dead are the same and so are waking and sleeping, youth and age. For the one in changing becomes the other, and the other, changing, again becomes the one.”

We should find it easier to resist the common urge to take this saying as a mere metaphor for "psychological" processes within each individual. Rather, this saying speaks to where we truly dwell in the daytime, in the twilight, and at dusk; to the beginning, middle, and end of our own personal stories and, at the same Time, the story of humanity as a whole. It speaks to the Time when we go to sleep at night, when we dream, and when we wake up in the morning. The person in wakefulness moves forward through Time by the force of Love and the person in deep slumber recounts the day in reverse through Time by the power of Memory. That is why, in the twilight of our dreaming, we experience first what was perceived last.

"And they wove a plan on my behalf, that I might not be left in Egypt; ... Call to mind that thou art a son of kings! See the slavery,--whom thou servest! Remember the pearl, for which thou was sent to Egypt! ... and thy brother, our viceroy, thou shalt be in our kingdom." My letter is a letter, which the king sealed with his own right hand, ... It flew in the likeness of an eagle, the king of all birds; it flew and alight beside me, and became all speech. At its voice and the sound of its rustling, I started and arose from my sleep. ... I remembered that I was a son of royal parents, and my noble birth asserted itself. I remembered the pearl, for which I had been sent to Egypt, and I began to charm him, the terrible loud breathing serpent. ... And I snatched away the pearl, and turned to go back to my father's house. ... It, that dwelt in the palace, gave light before me with its form, and with its voice and its guidance it also encouraged me to speed, and with its love it drew me on."

Only through the continual interplay of living beings and their creative activity, corresponding to Willing-Feeling (Love) and Thinking (Memory), we are able to consciously experience the world. In somewhat higher resolution, we can perceive that Love is what bridges the domains of Willing-Feeling and Thinking. The rhythmic convergence between Love and Memory occurs over every human lifetime; in every day and night; in every waking and sleeping moment. Yet it also occurred once in human history, with the Incarnation of Christ - which was the reversal from involution to evolution of Spirit. We must not intellectualize this rhythm of experience as a vague and uniform process. The rhythm carries specific experiential perspectives on its waves just as the musical harmony carries specific notes and tones.

We have zoomed out very far on 'left brain' abstractions of the integral structure, so we now embrace the rhythmic tension and refocus our 'right brain' resolution once again. Where do these ideal relations find expression in our everyday experience? We answer this question by first noticing that everything we normally perceive in the 'natural world' is merely the surface contours of deeply integrated spiritual relations. We ordinarily perceive these contours and then fill in the 'horizontal spaces' between them with intellectual concepts. We should imagine the living forces of the spiritual realm working in the vertical direction. They begin with constellating a foundation of ideal content by their deeds which then naturally grows into the contours of ordinary perception. A good analogy for this process is Cymatics:

In 1967 Hans Jenny, a follower of the anthroposophical doctrine of Rudolf Steiner, published two volumes entitled Kymatic (1967 and 1972), in which, repeating Chladni's experiments, he claimed the existence of a subtle power based on the normal, symmetrical images made by sound waves. Jenny put sand, dust and fluids on a metal plate connected to an oscillator which could produce a broad spectrum of frequencies. The sand or other substances were organized into different structures characterized by geometric shapes typical of the frequency of the vibration emitted by the oscillator. According to Jenny, these structures, reminiscent of the mandala and other forms recurring in nature, would be a manifestation of an invisible force field of the vibrational energy that generated it. He was particularly impressed by an observation that imposing a vocalization in ancient Sanskrit of Om (regarded by Hindus and Buddhists as the sound of creation) the lycopodium powder formed a circle with a centre point, one of the ways in which Om had been represented.

With finer resolution, we can see how the shapes, lines, and forms of many natural perceptions appear as a result of the living interpenetration of color. That is why the colors we perceive have a very powerful effect on us - they reflect very specific soul-content to our organ of Thinking. In remembering this reality, we allow art to take its true place as a pedagogical tool; a tool for expanding spiritual cognition. As we see through dawn and sunset, the colored soul-content of the world is appreciated most in the experience of transitioning from one set to another. When we perceive the light through the blackness of space, as we do at those times the Sun is appearing from or disappearing into the horizon, we sense redness. Our imaginative Thinking is now stimulated to begin perceiving the ideal relations of color forces.

And when we sense the blueness of the sky, we are perceiving the deep blackness of space through the illumination of Earth's atmosphere by the light. This topic of color and essence could be explored indefinitely, but for our purposes here we will simply ask of the Spirit, "what are we truly perceiving in these colors manifested by the interpenetration of Light and Darkness as we behold it?". We are perceiving the World's soul-content. In any other age of humanity's existence, we would not require Heidegger or Steiner to philosophize the path for us to begin recovering that meaning. Yet that is where we have now arrived and there is no use in complaining. Rather, we should be thankful by thinking that the Spirit has, in fact, worked through these exceptional minds for the benefit of our remembrance.

Steiner wrote: Now we must consider further the whole matter in relation to our eye and to the whole of human life altogether. You see, you all know that there is a being which is especially excited through red — that is, where light works through darkness — and that is the bull. The bull is well known to be frightfully enraged by red. That you know. And so man too has a little of the bull-nature. He is not of course directly excited through red, but if man lived continually in a red light, you would at once perceive that he gets a little stimulation from it. He gets a little bull-like. I have even known poets who could not write poetry if they were in their ordinary frame of mind, so then they always went to a room where they put a red lampshade over the light. They were then stimulated and were able to write poetry. The bull becomes savage: man by exposing himself to the red becomes poetic! The stimulation to poetry is only a matter of whether it comes from inside or from outside. This is one side of the case. On the other hand you will also be aware that when people who understand such things want to be thoroughly meek and humble, they use blue, or black — deep black. That is so beautiful to see in Catholicism: when Advent comes and people are supposed to become humble, the Church is made blue; above all the vestments are blue. People get quietened, humble; they feel themselves inwardly connected with the subdued mood — especially if a man has previously exhausted his fury, like a bull, as for instance at Shrove Tuesday's carnival. Then one has the proper time of fasting afterwards, not only dark raiment, black raiment. Then men become tamed down after their violence is over. Only, where one has two carnivals, two carnival Sundays, one should let the time of fasting be twice as long! I do not know if that is done. But you see from this that it has quite a different effect on man whether he sees light through dark that is red, or darkness through light, that is blue.
- Rudolf Steiner, The Nature of Color (Lecture)

Goethe's color theory, in opposition to Newton's, in this manner arrived at the following foundational principle - light through darkness is red; darkness through light is blue. The person who deals only in mere intellectual abstractions has little use for Goethe's principle and will naturally align with Newton. The painter, in stark contrast, must recognize Goethe's principle at some level to mix the living essence of colors in the manner which brings forth the intended color-effects. So for the painter it is the exact opposite than it is for the mere intellectual academic - Newton's color theory is of zero use and Goethe's of infinite value. Such things are only understood by the imaginative Thinking which does not reduce itself to mere intellect.

Yet what is discussed above about color is only the beginning; the most surface-level freeing of our imagination. At this stage, we can still be somewhat satisfied keeping "art" such as painting and "science" such as physics apart from each other. We can still rationalize that the former deals with "subjective" truth and the latter with "objective" truth. We may give both equal value (which is rare), but we are still content to leave them in fundamentally different 'realms' of knowledge. A truly curious Spirit seeking the underlying Reality is not at all satisfied where any such chasm remains - it wants to know the implications of this simple observation on color forces for every single relation that is connected to color in any way, and then how the relations relate to any 'physical' process we can think of.

We will not discuss those relations and implications here, but anyone who is curious enough can begin these thoughtful inquiries for themselves. Now we zoom back out on the integral structure. We take notice that Time, as we experience it, is perspectival. When we move within the realm of the 'aperspectival', within the essence of Time, it makes very little sense to speak of "before-and-after" in any limiting sense. We pointed out before how our present-Self can remember what is holy from eternity past and can attract what is good, beautiful, and true from our future-Self. Yet, from the perspective of our future-Self, our present-Self is not attracting but rather is being attracted by our future-Self. What we do call that attracting and being-attracted? We spiritual types call it "salvation".

Heidegger, Steiner, and many other similar thinkers of the 20th century realized perfectly well how strangely these things sound to modern man. We can even say the entire purpose of their philosophical writings is exploring various different ways to convey these truths to us in a manner that transcend their mere strangeness; providing us the aperspectival tools to approach them from a variety of angles so we gain a more complete understanding of their essential nature. Likewise, Albert Einstein provided us with his theory of General Relativity as such a tool, Pablo Picasso provided his paintings, Thomas Kuhn provided his history of science, T.S. Eliot provided his poems, James Joyce provided his literature, and so on. We are not speaking of anyone's personal intentions here, but rather the intentions of the integral Spirit working with and through their personalities.

Our present-Self is simultaneously saving our future-Self and being saved by it. We must learn to cease thinking of these perspectival dynamics as mere conveniences and curiosities. Rather, we should trust our intuition, which is nothing other than the activity of the Spirit. What calls upon us to Think is what redeems us; what we Think in response to that call is how we redeem our-Self. The profound meanings of these concepts are only possible because of the under-lying relations - the relations which are useful to let-lie - of the Being-of-beings who makes their meanings so profound, through our own receptive-and-active perception of them. These are the living archetypal ideas who we unceasingly gather together in Memory and reflect into the world through Love. Only that is worthy of being called Thinking.

"And because I remembered not its fashion,— for in my childhood I had left it in my father's house,— on a sudden, when I received it, the garment seemed to me to become like a mirror of myself. I saw it all in all, and I to received all in it, for we were two in distinction and yet again one in likeness. And the treasurers too, who brought it to me, I saw in like manner to be two (and yet) one likeness, for one sign of the king was written on them (both), ...And I saw also that all over it the instincts of knowledge were working, and I saw too that it was preparing to speak. I heard the sound of its tones, which it uttered, (saying): "I am the active in deeds, whom they reared for him before my father; and I perceived myself, that my stature grew according to his labors." And in its kingly movements it poured itself entirely over me, and on the hand of its givers it hastened that I might take it. And love urged me too run to meet it and receive it; and I stretched forth and took it. With the beauty of its colors I adorned myself, and I wrapped myself wholly in my toga of brilliant hues. I clothed myself with it, and went up to the gate of salutation and prostration; I bowed my head and worshipped the majesty of my father who sent me,— for I had done his commandments, and he too had done what he promised,— ... for he rejoiced in me and received me, and I was with him in his kingdom."