The Pandemic of Fear
Text: Benjamin Cherry | Photo: 烧不酥在上海 老的 @geraltyichen
The real pandemic today is fear. And the specific force – or ‘virus’ – which most of all impels it, is fear of illness and death. This is a modern problem, which has its roots in our compulsion to see the whole of existence – including the human being – from a completely materialistic point of view. Alongside the truly dazzling light of modern scientific achievement over the past few centuries, we are staring now directly into its shadow.
The great 19th-century German professor, philosopher, composer and artist of the word, Friedrich Nietzsche, is one of the few thinkers who has had the cognitive acumen and courage to follow this materialistic mind-frame right through to its logical conclusion – a world with neither meaning nor morality – and it brought him to a complete mental breakdown. Few people have the courage to do that today, but that does not stop this paradigm from deeply influencing our mental, emotional, social, and physical health.
Another great soul, from the 20th century, Dr. Viktor Frankl – one of the very few who not only survived Auschwitz but emerged from it inwardly stronger than he was before – wrote about the power of discovering meaning in life, in a book which has sold over twelve million copies. Within that situation of uttermost degradation of life’s meaning, created out of hatred, illness, and death, what was Frankl astonishingly able to do, which Nietzsche, in his more ‘normal’ life, was not? He made a change inside himself out of his own free will! Within that terrifying existential void, created by modern materialism at its lowest depths, he created a meaningful existence, moment by moment, detail by tiniest detail.
Waldorf education has come into this world – and I say this humbly, knowing well how hard it is – to change fear into love, thereby helping children, later in life, have resilience against all kinds of weakening impulses in our modern times. The power which enables teachers to bring this medicine is the picture of the human being in body, soul, and spirit, given by anthroposophical spiritual science, inaugurated by Rudolf Steiner, whose life overlapped both Nietzsche and Frankl. But it has to be authentic to each teacher and enlivened daily through reflecting on one’s experiences, both terrible and wonderful.4
In the English language, the words ‘wholesome’ and ‘healthy’ are similar in meaning. Healing is a process of becoming ‘whole’ again, of re-integrating what has become separated off and dysfunctional. And of uniting the more earthly levels of one’s being with those higher faculties which are ever-capable of further development.
The anthroposophical picture of what a human being is and can become connects us with the whole of evolution and the whole cosmos, as a microcosm within the macrocosm. One can find in it a natural resonance with many ancient cultures, which placed the human being on the middle ground between heaven and earth. But it includes far greater depth and detail because it was born out of the fully conscious methodology of modern scientific practice – without restricting itself, however, only to materialistic interpretations. Like every other aspect of science, it needs to be continuously elaborated, as humanity evolves.
This living, scientific, artistic, human-centered picture of reality has the power to bring healing, by enabling us to recognize our wholeness. It also highlights the challenge of self- initiated moral development, and, as Frankl eloquently demonstrated, the healing power of the meaning we bring into our lives, especially in the face of suffering, loss, and death. History is rich in stories of people’s courage in such times and my experience is that children and young people breathe them in deeply, thereby strengthening their own health and inner commitment to life. Within this context, illness takes on a different appearance. As the grit in the oyster becomes a pearl, so can adversity awaken new forces within. Read the whole article here.
The Medicine of Love
Text: Benjamin Cherry | Photo: Vincent Ghilione @lamoune
Our Existential Question
So we come to the existential question: What kind of world do I intend to create with others? And how can I summon up the courage to turn this into an unshakeable decision of the will? It can begin in a thousand ways, but even the tiniest inner change creates a force that can resonate with changes in others. As scientists and artists of life, we can discover for ourselves the mysterious interweaving of souls, within the ‘world soul’.
Just as a typhoon has its origins in small movements of pressure, warmth, air, and water, so too do small inner movements become a sea-change in human consciousness. As people wiser than myself have realized, every true resolve calls up forces of support which otherwise remain dormant. Such is the world-changing power of the human spirit, which so much of our proud modern erudition denies.
How was it that the Berlin Wall could be taken down in 1989, ‘when the time was right’, without armed insurrection or bloodshed? How, too, could one man from South Africa and another from India be imprisoned for years with hard labor and yet be able to forgive and, through this act of unconditional love, inspire millions of people around the world to new possibilities of societal development, even if it has been so hard to sustain them?
How, again, could a simple lady from Albania and the women who worked with her have the strength to live in one of the hottest, poorest, most polluted, and illness-riddled cities on earth (at that time), giving desolate people the gift of being loved as they died? They wore no hermetically-sealed space-suits. With their own hands, they washed and embraced bodies eaten up by starvation and disease, and yet retained their own health.
Are these not symptoms of a warm, peaceful, active spirit-light shining into human hearts through the cracks in our armor of prejudices and fears? Are we not, right now, at a pivotal moment in the human story, when the World Spirit holds its breath, waiting to see what individual human beings will do with the power that has been given to us? Perhaps the following words, from a man who devoted his entire life and his extraordinary capacities to the renewal of world culture and human potential in our time, can help us find our way towards an answer:
Love is for the world what the sun is for outer life. No soul could live if love departed from the world. Love is the moral sun of our world. To spread love over the earth to the greatest degree possible, to promote love, that alone is wisdom. Read the rest of the article here.