As Ointment Poured Forth

“Doubt grows with knowledge,” says Goethe. And the only cure for it, he might well have added – since doubt cripples – is cooperation: cooperation between heart and head, between the spontaneous wisdom of the heart and the head’s intelligence.  

Today is Epiphany, but first we have the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight; and there is John speaking from heart to heart, preaching the baptism of repentance. Never in a million years can the head of itself repent, for as Goethe explains, “All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.” Yes, my heart is my own, and my lips are my own, and the error from my heart and that same error from my lips are all my own. It streams around me and into the world every day, every hour. Who then shall dwell in God’s holy hill? “He that walks uprightly,” says the psalmist, “and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart”:  Just such a one will need to be as one dead and buried, having given up everything, one coming from Galilee to be baptized of John in the Jordan. Straightway as he is coming up out of the water, he sees the heavens break open; he sees the Spirit like a dove descend upon Him. And there comes a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, today I have begotten Thee.

“Great thoughts and a pure heart,” says Goethe, “that is what we should ask from God.” What better repentance than that, what better way to make crooked paths straight?  The dove descends then, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom is both within us and among us. From the anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot (Letter XIX The Sun, p. 529), speaking on Gemini, we have the following thought:

One of the highest aspects of the principle of Gemini, the principle of cooperation, is that which is present in intuition: that of cooperation between spontaneous wisdom and intelligence. Here it is a matter of a state of consciousness where intelligence advances from formal knowledge to material knowledge, i.e., from knowledge of the relationships of things to knowledge of the things themselves. Now, the “knowledge of things themselves” entails two functions: on the one hand what Henri Bergson happily designates as “sympathy”, and the other hand a sustained and profound deepening in that which the sympathetic relationship is established. In other words, one has to enter into a contact of essential sympathy (i.e., from essence to essence) first of all, and then not to glide off to other contacts of the kind, but to dwell in this sympathy so as to result in sufficient intensity and clarity in order to be able to say, in all honesty, that in fact an act of material knowledge has taken place.

Not what is generally known, not what someone tells me, however true it may be, but what do I, within the forum of my own consciousness, really know? Or, as Angelus Silesius pictures it, proposing it as a simple matter of life or death: “If Christ were born in Bethlehem a thousand times and not in thee thyself, then art thou lost eternally.” Regarding this, our anonymous author himself gives a concrete example of what he is talking about:

You venerate (i.e., you love and respect) a non-incarnated being – departed person, a saint, or a hierarchical being – in a disinterested manner. Your veneration – which includes love, respect, gratitude, the desire to conform, etc. – cannot fail to create an invisible link of sympathy with its object. It may be in a subtle and dramatic way, or rather in a slow, gradual and almost imperceptible way – this does not matter – the day will come when you will experience the presence . . . not a fluidic, semi-electrical presence close to you in space – as in the apparition of a phantom or ghost – but a breath of radiant serenity, of which you know with certain knowledge that the source from which it emanates is not at all in you. It influences you and fills you but it does not take its origin in you; it comes from outside of you. Just as you know, in drawing near to a fireplace, that the warmth that you feel does not arise from you, but rather from the fireplace, so also do you feel that the breath of serenity in question is due to an objective presence. Here, therefore, a relationship of sympathy is established. After this it is up to you to remain silently concentrated so that the relationship established is subsequently developed, i.e., that it gains in intensity and clarity – that it becomes a meeting in full consciousness. (Ibid. pp.529-30)

To feel the breath of serenity, an objective presence, in a relationship of complete sympathy – who has the imagination for such a reality? And yet, as Walt Whitman says, “whoever walks a furlong without sympathy, walks to his own funeral dressed in his shroud.” Is there a point of view beyond any shadow of doubt that is never fixed yet even so is forever face to face ? Is there a point of view that is insight pure and simple? Can there be a meeting in which virtually nothing about that meeting is lacking in significance? In which absolutely everything about that meeting is meaning – pure meaning only? As there no reason in this case for speculating about what it is that I encounter, any doubt I might experience can be only of myself as myself in myself, exclusively.

The meeting is thus the realization of the relationship when it is borne to the limit of the intensity of clarity. According to the case, it can take either the character of a “conversation through forces” or that of a “conversation through words.” In the former case it is not precise and articulated thoughts or images which are communicated to you, but rather “forces” or impulses – spiritual and psychic seeds impregnated germinally with moral ideas and judgments. In the case of the “conversation through words” a revelation of articulated thoughts and representations take place. The revelation to the shepherds at Bethlehem can be considered as prototype of the meeting whose character is “conversation through words” and the experience of the mages of the Orient – who saw the star of the “king of the Jews . . . in the East”, but who had to ask at Jerusalem, “where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) – is an example of the meeting whose character is “conversation through forces”. The “star” of the king of the Jews gave them certainty concerning the coming of Christ and gave them the impulse to go and search where he was awaited, but it did not give them information with respect to the place and parents, whilst to the shepherds of Bethlehem it was revealed that “to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12), i.e., precise and complete information was given to them with respect to time, place and external circumstance. (Ibid.)

In other words, as we hear in the last verse of Rudolf Steiner’s Foundation Stone Meditation : O Light Divine, of Sun of Christ, warm Thou our hearts, enlighten Thou our heads, that good may become what from our hearts we found and from our heads direct with single purpose. There really is nothing insignificant in the world. It all really does depend, as Goethe maintains, on the point of view. Only, the point of view that is needful and right has to do with the cooperation of head and heart, the cooperation of the intelligence of the head with the spontaneous wisdom of the heart, the difference in experiences of which our anonymous author makes the following characterization:

Now, the meeting whose character is “conversation through forces” always resembles the experience of the “star” of the mages from the East, and that whose character is “conversation through words” always resembles the experience of the shepherds of Bethlehem. The “star” does not speak, it moves; and it leaves to the subject of its revelation the work of research in the domain of intelligence and facts. The meeting whose character is “conversation through words”, in contrast, moves and teaches – it bears also on the domain of intelligence and facts. It guides. (Ibid.)

A star moves. There is a meeting. What does its light mean in the domain of intelligence and facts?  Research after all is a journey, a journey of intelligence in a world of facts. “If we knew what we were doing,” remarks Einstein, “it wouldn’t be research would it?” Yes, but there is revelatory wisdom. There is intuition. There is, we must not forget, a place of arrival.

I am not in a position to say which of the two forms of revelatory meeting is more frequent or which is objectively preferable, although subjectively that of the shepherds seems to me preferable to the of the mages of the Orient. Be that as it may, intuition – understood as the alliance of active wisdom and active intelligence, which is he theme of the nineteenth Arcanum of the Tarot and which not only underlies Hermeticism but is its very reason for existence – presupposes the cooperation of two principles and therefore falls in the category of the revelation whose character is “conversation through forces”. Just as the mages from the Orient made a long journey and brought presents to the Child, in following the “star”, so also Hermeticism is on the way from century to century to arrive at the manger – not to arrive there with empty hands, but to place there the presents which are the fruit of the millennial-old effort of human intelligence which follows the “star”. (Ibid.)

And so it is at the manger where the magi from the Orient and the shepherds of Bethlehem converge, where from either side they “enter into a contact of essential sympathy”. Here, at the manger, is where an act of material knowledge takes place. Cooperation between spontaneous wisdom and intelligence, cooperation between heart and head, is none other than a conversation. It is, as the author of Meditations says (as we quoted him in the last post) together-versing – flowing together:

. . . It is through the fusion of opinions that truth lights up. Con-versation – the process of “together-versing” (flowing together) – is the very opposite of controversy, the process of “contra-versing” (flowing against). Conversation is the operation of the fusion of opinions; it is a work of synthesis. True conversation always has in principle the underlying statement in the Gospel: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). For all true conversation calls upon the transcendent Center, who is the way, the truth and the life. (Meditations, p. 276)

All through the Thirteen Holy Nights the manger is transcendent Centre, the Center wherein the way, the truth and the life shines warmly into the wondering faces around it. This is what in essence the Holy Nights are all about: the conversation at the manger between heart and head, the “together-versing” of spontaneous wisdom and intelligence. The Shepherd and the Mage within us come for a time into harmony, just as the Archangels – guardians and guides of peoples on earth – circle in harmony above, singing peace, “together-versing” peace, bestowing peace on hearts below, hearts whose will is good. Through these Holy Nights, these blessed nights, for seeking hearts whose will is good, it is truly as Silesius Angelus says it is:

The name of Jesus is as ointment poured forth; it nourishes, and illumines, and stills the anguish of the soul.

Pax et Bonum,
Randall Scott

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